How to Negotiate an Hourly Rate for Consulting

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Coming to the negotiation table prepared with data is the best way to get higher pay.
Coming to the negotiation table prepared with data is the best way to get higher pay. (Image: Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Consultants are professionals who have some degree of expertise in one or more fields. They provide advice to other individuals in their areas of expertise to help clients achieve personal and business goals. Some consultants are hired by companies to work for long periods of time, but many consultants direct their own employment, taking on clients as needed. In this case, consultants can negotiate with clients for higher rates that are fair given the consultant's experience and knowledge. Negotiating hourly consulting rates is not much different than negotiating a general salary.

Gather data that verifies what other consultants in similar roles and levels of expertise make. This information is available through job posting websites, major organizations such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, industry unions and your state's labor office. Print this data or get quotes in writing.

Research the client who intends to hire you. Approach their human relations department representatives or use their website to get data about their services, products, market position, typical pay and financial security. Figure out what the company needs most and compare that to the job description offered -- you are worth more to a company if you can benefit the company in more ways than suggested by the description.

Explain to the client that although you are eager to discuss a final hourly rate, you would like the opportunity to discuss the job description and make a case for what you might be worth first. Point out that it is difficult for either you or the client to make realistic, educated offers without a clear concept of exactly what the consulting expectations are. The more points you can add to the description, the more value you can argue you have.

Present your client with the information you gathered. Argue that an expanded job description justifies a higher rate. If you couldn't expand the description much, use the data to show that the original rate offer is conservative and that you believe a rate comparable to what others are receiving is within the client's budget.

Tips & Warnings

  • It is acceptable to take some time to think over information the client gives you. Likewise, give the client time to digest your arguments and accept your rate or counteroffer. You will seem more professional if you don't try to rush and bully your clients into anything.

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