Consulting Vs. Contracting, A Recruiter’s Perspective


Over the year’s countless terms have been used to describe an interim worker (e.g. contractor, consultant, temp, seasonal worker, specialist, staff augmentation, etc) but there are two that stand out in the professional services industry: CONTRACTING AND CONSULTING.

Is there a difference between the two?

–Contractors are coming in for a specific task/project, period of time and are focused on limited scope. Contractors are filling a skillset that the client currently does not have that will accomplish an exact task.

–Consultants are coming into a client to look beyond the project, to find out where other areas need help and to be innovative with their approaches. They are aware of the initiatives of the business and are focusing on the bigger picture versus the task at hand.

–Some people believe there is no difference between the two outside of where your paycheck comes from. In my opinion, there are slight differences that lay between the two of them (it can be a thin and blurred line at times). Both add value in their own way and both have risks and benefits associated with them.

What are the benefits to each?

–Contractor roles can be easier to come by if you have an industry achievable bill rate. Contracting roles are in far more abundance than consulting roles.

–Consultants are usually hired as salaried employees, which means there can be more consistency with your paycheck.

–Both roles give you variety (in terms of type of projects, industries and technologies) and a chance to grow your resume and your experience.

What are the risks to each?

–Contractors are usually 1099 (Independent Contractors/Corp2Corp), which also means they are their own business and they pay their own business taxes, and submit invoices versus being on someone else’s payroll. There is also the risk of the client taking months to pay for hours billed.

–True consulting roles can be hard to come by. As time goes on and the professional services industry becomes more and more commoditized, the price point will drive the decisions not the value being added.

–Both roles can end at any time without notice given, whether it is because budgets were cut or the performance level was not up to bar; no matter the reason either type of professional can be cut at any time.

–Most consulting firms plan for unforeseen end dates. Forecasts and estimates can account for this to help with the transition and get the consultant on their next project with minimal gaps.

How can I, a Recruiter, tell the Difference if Someone is a Contractor or a Consultant?

–This can be tough to decipher as some people consider themselves one over the other which can also differ from my opinion. Generally, if someone tells me they are only looking for 1099 roles only, I know to align them to contracting projects. If someone tells me they only want to be in salaried roles, I generally align them to consulting role.

–There’s a catch: how you are paid is only part of the equation. Your personality can lean towards one over the other.

To find out what those personality traits are, please feel free to reach out to me to further the dialog:

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