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Consulting, Contracting and Freelancing Compared


Consulting, contracting and freelancing are terms that are often used interchangeably. In the end, you may receive the same payment terms, your "employer" may have to fill out Form 1099, and the contracts you sign may look the same, no matter which term you use. The differences are subtle, but they are there. You should know what these are, because what you call yourself affects the way you market yourself, and how your clients perceive you.

Consulting vs Contracting

When someone hires you for consulting work, they are hiring you to provide expert advice that will help them solve a problem. A consulting gig lasts as long as it takes to get a proposal from you, that will include the advice and information the client needs to overcome the problems that stand between them and success.  However, The contract you sign with a client or employer will have milestones and deadlines so that you don't take all the time you want. Contracting is broader in that you perform a service, and consulting is sometimes included in that. For example, you might land a contract to develop software for a company, and in the process, you may consult with clients about how to use the software to improve their business or lives.

Freelancing vs Contracting

When you throw freelancing into the mix, it gets even more confusing. Freelancing allows you to work for multiple clients and employers at the same time. You're often not required to sign a non-compete agreement when you're freelancing, so you can work with as many different employers, even if they may be competitors. For example, a freelance writer can work for more than one web content generation company, even writing on the same topic areas. You may not have that "freedom" if you are consulting or contracting. Some clients require you to sign non-compete clauses or non-disclosure agreements before hiring you for consulting and contracting work, which limits the amount of employers, and who, you can work for at the same time.

Flexible or Non-Flexible Hours

Freelancing is the most flexible option in terms of when you set your hours, and the assignments you can take on. When you're freelancing, you can get the job done when you have the time. Consulting and contracting hours may depend on your client's hours. For example, as a contractor, you may have to work during business hours when the employer can reach you by phone or email to discuss your progress, ask questions or deliver more assignments. In many ways, a contracting job can resemble a telecommuting position. A consulting job may also require that you be available for meetings or during business hours to answer questions or to provide further assistance.

Consider all three options, consulting, contracting and freelancing work, when you're looking for work-at-home jobs. Employers often confuse the terms, and therefore you have to review the job description closely to see the work requirements and restrictions.

Daphne Mallory, Esq. is the co-owner of Mallory Writing Services and has written more than 100 articles helping home based business owners and entrepreneurs start and market their business. You can learn more about her here.

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