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How much should a consultant cost?

Consultants typically charge an hourly rate. You can convert an annual salary to an hourly rate by dividing it by 2080 (52 weeks * 5 days * 8 hours). However, there are several other factors that need to be included in the calculation.

The first is utilization. Consultants have to look for work in between jobs. While they are doing this, they are not getting paid. Consultants may spend only 50% of their time working. If they are busy, they may achieve 75% utilization. The first table below shows rates at 50% utilization, the second shows rates at 75% utilization.

Some consultants work as individuals, some work through agencies. If you need a single consultant you might higher an individual, but if you’ve got a large proposal and need a dozen consultants, you’re more likely to go to a company that can provide you with a total solution than work with a dozen individuals. When you use consultants provided by a company, there is overhead added to the rate. This overhead rate can be anywhere from 30% to 100%. In the tables below, we’ve provided figures for an overhead rate of 40% and 60% to give a fairly typical range.

Another factor that must be considered is benefits. Consultants do not get benefits packages in addition to their salary. If they want health insurance, they have to pay for it out-of-pocket, with no employer assistance. Payroll takes are normally split between the employee and his/her employer. Consultants pay a “Self-Employment” tax that is higher than what is deducted from employee paychecks. Even if you work with an individual consultant, it may be appropriate to factor in some overhead to cover these additional costs.

Very few consultants actually calculate these costs, and simply charge what they think they can get. Supply and demand ultimately determines the rates consultants charge. However, the tables below can help you get over the shock value when a consultant says they charge over $100/hr.

Determining how much you should pay for a consultant can be approximated by starting with what you would pay that person if they were a regular full-time employee. If you are looking for an entry-level person, $30-40k/yr would be a typical salary. An experienced proposal manager might cost $60-90k/yr, and an executive level manager even more.

The tables show how an annual salary converts to an hourly rate without overhead, with a 40% overhead, and a 60% overhead. The first table shows a consultant working at 50% utilization and the second shows 75% utilization. The purpose of these tables is not to set or compare rates, but to help you better understand what goes into the value equation.


Rates calculated with 50% utilization
Annual SalaryRate with 60% OverheadRate with 40% OverheadRate without Overhead
30,000$35$30$22
40,000$46$40$29
50,000$58$50$36
60,000$69$60$43
70,000$80$70$50
80,000$91$80$57
90,000$104$91$65
100,000$115$101$72
110,000$126$111$79
120,000138$121$86


Rates calculated with 75% utilization
Annual SalaryRate with 60% OverheadRate with 40% OverheadRate without Overhead
30,000$29$25$18
40,000$38$34$24
50,000$48$42$30
60,000$58$50$36
70,000$67$59$42
80,000$77$67$48
90,000$86$75$54
100,000$96$84$60
110,000$106$92$66
120,000$115$101$72


If you want to know how much in total it will cost to bring a consultant in to support a proposal, simply count the number of days between when they start and when the proposal is due. Some consultants off a daily rate, some count every single hour worked.

Keep in mind that the customer has a great deal of control over how well prepared they are and how smoothly reviews go. With 30-50% of total hours expended on the proposal consumed in the last couple of weeks, the customer can dramatically influence the amount of hours required to do the job.

If you routinely see 16hr days near the deadline of a proposal, you may want to use an average of 12hr days in your calculations. Thus if a consultant will have 20 days to complete a proposal, they could spend 240 hours working on it. If you are going to spend $100/hour your bill for the proposal will be $24,000. If you were only spending $30/hour that would drop to $7200, but you go from a senior manager to an entry level consultant.


By Carl Dickson, Founder of CapturePlanning.com



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