Savvy Solutions: How to Get Paid as a Consultant

I presented a marketing proposal to a company where I formerly interned. We are into our third meeting, and I’ve helped them develop a number of initiatives and ideas to pursue, so far, free of charge. How do I bill consultant fees? And how much should I be compensated if they use any of my ideas?

–E. S.
Via e-mail

I’m concerned that you’ve shared information and have yet to solidify a contract for payment. It seems as if you’re offering free services, but expecting remuneration. Compensation, which should always be established up front, can be set as a single price around a plan, ideas, or strategy to reach one or more goals; or it can be set up as a retainer, with the company having face time (or phone time) with you for so many hours per month to get ideas, feedback, etc. According to business consultant Désirée H. Young of VentureWalk Business Partners L.L.C. in New Orleans.

Depending on their goals and level of detail, plans can range from $500 to $25,000. “The actual price depends on many factors, including the industry, how implementation-ready the plan is, the consultant’s level of expertise and experience in having his or her strategies bring results, and the geographical location,” says Young. At the least, develop an estimate for clients so they can budget accordingly, and always require some payment before any work starts (as a deposit or set-up fee). In the end you need to know your own worth and value in order to place a price on it. To help you with assessing your value, read The Consultant’s Quick Start Guide, by Elaine Biech (Pfeiffer; $35).

This article originally appeared in the February 2010 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.