What’s the difference between Consulting and Contracting? Â Good question! Â In theory there are distinct differences between these two travel jobs. Â But recently in the professional services industry, the lines have been blurring. Â Often times a Consultant will play the role of a Contractor and visa verse. Â But in general (in terms of planning out your career) there are a few key differences that you should know in order to position yourself in an ideal spot. Â And yes, both typically require a lot of travel!
In traditional consulting, the practitioner will be employed by a firm and payed a salary. Â However the firm will then bill the client hourly…and usually profit on the difference in pay. Â Because consultants almost always work over a standard 40 hour week, a lot of time ends up being “donated” to the firm. Â Engagements can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few years depending on the project. Â The role of a typical consultant is to direct the client toward the best course of action, since the consultant is playing the role of “expert” in a particular field. Â This usually takes the form of big picture strategy work which is characterized by data gathering, analysis and a recommendation (usually in the form of the all-mighty PowerPoint deck). Â People who opt for the consulting track will usually forgo a higher initial wage in hopes of long term stability and a promising career trajectory. Â Consultants who climb to the highest ranks will usually command a very substantial wage. Â Consulting is also considered the more prestigious of the two.
Contractors on the other hand, whether employed by a firm or working independently, will bill the client by the hour and get paid by the hour. Â They usually command a very high hourly wage, and as a result discourage the client from overworking them. Â Engagements can also last anywhere from a few weeks to a Â few years with the end result being a tangible product, system or software. Â Contractors are typically people who are highly skilled in a particular technology. Â People who opt for contracting will typically have limited upward mobility since they specialize in a particular technology and may not deviate from that path. Â Many times there is a limited hierarchy to climb and few ways to gain additional skills as the client doesn’t pay to teach but rather to obtain a very specific product or service.
To Sum it up:
The difference between the two business models is based on the output produced. Â A consultant will usually produce an intangible recommendation or strategy whereas the contractor is paid for producing a specific deliverable such as a working system, network or infrastructure. Â It comes down to the difference between soft and hard skills.
In my experience, people who opt for consulting are those who feel comfortable in a very structured environment and have a strong desire to climb the corporate ladder in order to achieve career goals. Â On the other hand, people who go into contracting are specialists in a particular technology that just want to work, get paid and go home. Â They tend not to care as much about politics or ladder climbing. Â But that’s just my two cents.