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Using Consultants in Your Business

By: Dave Howell - Updated: 31 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Freelance Consultants Business

The latest research suggests that consultants and freelance workers now make up approximately 13 per cent of the UK’s workforce. As an asset, consultants can be an ideal way for the small business in particular to buy the skills and knowledge it needs without the expense of employing those people full-time.

The consultant market is vast and incredibly diverse as it covers every conceivable business process. From marketing to environmental consultants there is an expert ready and waiting to help your business. As with all services, however, you must choose, manage and evaluate the consultant you do hire to ensure you get value for money. Use the step-by-step guide below to make the most of any consultants or freelance professionals you hire:

1: Evaluate Your Needs
Before you look for a consultant take some time to look closely at what you want the consultant to do for your business. Try and focus your requirements into a clear and concise brief. This will help your consultant understand your requirements as they have a clearly set out goal to work towards.

2: Existing Workforce
Bringing in a consultant – especially if this is in a management position – can cause friction within your existing workforce if not handled carefully. Also ensure your existing employees know what the consultant is aiming to do, and what authority they have.

3: Buying the Services
As with all the professional services you buy for your business, hiring a consultant should not be approached any differently. Take advice from colleagues or recommendations for people to place on your shortlist. Then look closely at their qualifications before making your final decision. If you are hiring a consultant for a specialised role they should hold the industries recognised qualification. If not, look elsewhere.

4: Evaluation Metrics
A consultant is providing a service to your business. It’s important that you know how you are going to evaluate the work that the consultant is carrying out. Often, this will be obvious as they are offering practical skills such as helping you develop a better health and safety regime that is easy to measure. Think about the goals that the consultant is aiming to fulfil, and develop a way of testing these at regular intervals.

5: Consultant Communication
It is vitally important that you have regular contact with your consultant. If you’re hiring a large consultancy firm, it can be frustrating if you never see the same consultant twice. Also, keeping in close contact with your consultant can ensure your project doesn’t stall or begins to cost you more in time and money than you expected. Regular communication with your consultant can help you keep your project on track, on budget and on time.

Freelance Assets

The consultant that you decide to hire for your business is providing a service that should be clearly defined in a contract. Ensure that your contract covers the key areas below to ensure you and your consultant know what is expected of them:
  1. Nature and Scope
    The brief that you write for your consultant should be as comprehensive as you can make it. Try and ensure that there is the least amount of ambiguity as this can lead to delays and inevitably, extra costs.
  2. Contract of Employment
    The contract between you and your consultant should set out the general employment terms that they should meet and also what your key responsibilities are as well. Often, a service level agreement can be a good way of ensuring you get the service you expect from your consultant.
  3. Fees and Deadlines
    The charges that your consultant will invoice you for should be clearly defined. Also, to avoid undue delays, a completion deadline and evaluation periods should also be clearly stated.
  4. Get Out Clause
    Sometimes the relationship with a consultant can breakdown. It’s important to acknowledge that this could happen and build into your contract an exit strategy that both parties can agree on.
  5. Consultants and freelance professionals are a great asset that any business can draw upon. The specialised knowledge that these services can offer mean that the smaller business in particular can complete with much larger organisations that may have these skills in-house. If handled carefully, consultants could become a regular and valued addition to your business’s workforce.

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