How to Find a Consultant - and save $$$ too!


What you should know
About taxes
About the author
Marketing Secrets



"You CAN find a good consultant without breaking the bank!"

by Kenneth Delahoussaye

So you need a qualified consultant, but don't know where to go for help. How do you locate someone reputable and maintain your budget at the same time? Finding a qualified consultant can be a daunting task. Search Google or one of the other popular search engines and you'll come up with a list that is too large to fathom. You can relax - it's not as difficult as you might think. Let me say at the outset that there are many good consultants and agencies out there. In fact, the larger, more well-known entities have established track-records and are a good choice, but they can be very costly, putting them out of reach for many potential clients. 

Instead, consider an independent consultant. If the idea sounds a bit scary, you're not alone. There are many stories of unsuspecting clients who have been taken for thousands of dollars and delivered a sub-standard product.

So just how do you find a reputable consultant without mortgaging the farm? The answer is suprisingly simple, but you have to do your homework.

What you should know

The secret to choosing the right consultant starts with a few simple keys. The old familiar adage is true, "knowledge is power". The more you know, the better your chances of avoiding a disappointing experience. First, carefully study the consultant's credentials. In most cases, they will be presented online on the consultant's website.  This will give you an important first impression of his or her professional skills. If the presentation is unclear or badly arranged, it can be a sign of someone who is inexperienced or unorganized. Next, study the details listed including experience and capabilities. Look for something that indicates experience relevant to your job requirements. And, finally, contact several potential candidates and ask some tough questions. Email is acceptable, but voice-to-voice phone calls are preferred. Hearing the invidividual's voice will first assure you that he not only exists, but gives you a feel for his or her personality. Does his tone indicate humility or flamboyance? Confidence or insecurity? Patience or impatience? If he makes you feel as though your call is a nuisance, then you've just gotten a valuable piece of information. If the individual is too busy to listen to you, then it's even less likely that he'll consider your preferences for the project. But this scenario will likely be the exception rather than the rule as most consultants will be eager to greet new potential clients.  

Don't be shy about asking for additional information or feel as though you are imposing.  A good consultant will appreciate your diligence and attention to detail.

Be forthright in your phone conversation, remembering that the process should be a two-way dialogue of thoughts and ideas. A good consultant will be interested in knowing about your project requirements and any concerns you may have. 

Be sure to ask how the consultant about charges for his services. Most likely, the response will include one of two answers: an hourly rate or a flat fee. The more flexible consultants will offer both methods, depending on the type of job being performed and its duration. A flat fee is preferred for a short-term job where a clear objective has been defined. But there can be cases where an hourly rate makes sense. This may include projects where the requirements are expected to change or to be fine-tuned over time.  When it comes to the choice of flat fee or hourly rate, there is no hard and fast rule here. The bottom line is that you can - and should - have a say in the process.

Here are questions you should ask each willing candidate.

  • Can you provide a detailed resume?
  • How long have you been a consultant?
  • Can you provide a list of recent clients?
  • What jobs have you done which qualify you for my project?
  • When are you available for my project and how long?
  • Do you provide free price quotations?
  • Do you charge a flat fee or by the hour?

About taxes

Finally, let me take a moment to discuss an important issue regarding contractor status and the IRS. The IRS has strict rules to determine whether an individual is an independent contractor or an employee. An employee has benefits and legal entitlements whereas an independent contractor does not. In general, an individual is an independent contractor if the organization for which the services are performed has the right to control or direct only the result of the work, and not what will be done and how it will be done or the method of accomplishing the result. If an independent contractor is paid $600 or more, then he must be provided a 1099 form at the end of the year. (The 1099 form is the contractor equivalent of a W2 for employees.) 


Finding a good consultant does not have to be a impossible task. In fact, it can be as simple as 1-2-3 if you follow these simple recommendations:

  • Study the information listed on the webpage
  • Look for relevant experience and capabilities
  • Contact propsects by phone and ask tough questions

About the author

Kenneth Delahoussaye is a software consultant specializing in realtime software and embedded firmware applications. He is the owner and founder of Kadtronix, a company which provides design services. For information regarding his qualifications, click here.  To contact him by phone or e-mail, click here.