Freelancer or consultant, freelancer or consultant?

This is a question I get pretty often, and when I am speaking with marketing professionals who work with clients I sometimes cringe when I hear someone say they are a “freelancer”.

According to Google Trends, search volume is much higher for [seo consultant] than [seo freelancer]:

And the AdWords tool (augmented with Keywords Everywhere) shows the same:

So what’s the difference, and why do I call myself a “consultant” instead of a “freelancer”?

And why should you, a business owner looking for help, hire a consultant instead of a freelancer?

It’s pretty simple.

Freelance is cheap

What comes to mind when you hear “freelancer”?

Probably something like this:

That’s what I picture at least. They’re maybe working with clients, maybe traveling, maybe working on a “side hustle”, maybe they’re a “digital nomad”.

And don’t get me wrong. I love being able to work from anywhere as well, and have done so over the last two years from seven different countries, twenty+ cities, and yes, a few beaches in there as well.

But when I hear freelancer I think of someone who dabbles in their trade. They’re doing some work on the side, maybe picking up a bit of extra cash, but they’re not really digging in and doing awesome work for clients.

These are the ones who are quoting you $25-$40 per hour to work on your site. They’re getting content from overseas for $10 for “500 words of unique content”. They’re being paid very little so they are getting work done for them for cheap as well.

I’m all about cost saving, but not out of necessity and not when you sacrifice quality as well.

Consultants are experts

When I speak with someone who self-labels as a consultant, my ears perk up.

When you hear consultant, what image or thought comes to mind?

When I hear that someone is a consultant in any field, what I immediately figure is that they are well paid, working a lot of hours, and dress very nice.

They’re a professional.

Someone who is a consultant takes themselves seriously. They’re working with big brands, getting buy-in from the C-suite and helping to manage big budgets, and they are driving awesome big results for their clients, like this:

They’re a trusted member of your team, not an outsourced solution.

Should you hire an SEO freelancer or an SEO consultant?

Remember that you get what you pay for.

Freelancers will be cheaper per hour in the short term, but they often will not get you the results that you really need to move your business forward. They take tasks and get them done, which sometimes is a value-add if you are an expert and know exactly what you need done. But they won’t think critically and suggest things that they have seen work other times. They’re not being paid enough to think!

Consultants will cost you more per hour or per month, but they’re an expert. They know their craft, they know how to get it done, and they know how to drive the results. They’re doing it full-time most likely, so they’re actively working with clients and running a business. Once again, they’re a professional.


If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.

Red Adair

Freelancer laptop/city image via Unsplash