How to hire a freelance HR consultant to help your small business

As a small business owner, you’re probably used to operating in an environment where every resource is stretched thin. In this situation, the role of an HR consultant becomes pivotal. A freelance HR consultant can bring flexibility, specialised skills, and a fresh perspective to your human resources strategy. Here’s a detailed guide on how to find and hire a freelance HR consultant tailored to the unique needs of your small business.


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Understanding the need for a freelance HR consultant

Before you begin your search for an HR consultant, it’s essential to identify the specific needs of your business that can be addressed through their expertise. HR consultants can assist with a variety of tasks including:

  • Recruitment and talent acquisition
  • Employee relations and engagement
  • Compliance with employment laws
  • Performance management systems
  • Training and development
  • Succession planning
  • Strategic HR planning

Define what you need help with to determine the type of consultant you should look for.

Finding the right HR consultant


Start by tapping into your professional network. Referrals from business associates, industry contacts, and other entrepreneurs can provide trustworthy leads. LinkedIn is also a valuable resource for finding experienced consultants. Look for professionals with endorsements and a robust history of similar projects.

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Online platforms

There are several online platforms such as Upwork, Freelancer, and PeoplePerHour where you can find freelance HR consultants. These platforms allow you to review the consultants’ profiles, see their ratings, read client reviews, and understand their areas of expertise.

Professional associations

Consider consulting professional HR associations in the UK like the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). Such organisations often have directories of their members and can be a reliable source of qualified professionals.

Evaluating potential candidates

Once you have a list of potential consultants, evaluate them based on their:

  • Expertise and experience: Ensure they have experience with businesses of a similar size and industry. Their professional background should align with your HR needs.
  • Qualifications: Look for relevant qualifications such as CIPD certification.
  • References and reviews: Speak to former clients to understand their working style, reliability, and the outcomes of their engagements.
  • Proposal and strategy: Ask for a proposal that outlines how they plan to address your needs and the metrics they will use to measure success.

Interviewing candidates

Conduct thorough interviews to assess the consultant’s understanding of your business and their ability to integrate with your team. Discuss their approach to common HR issues that your business faces and evaluate their problem-solving skills. It’s important that they fit culturally and have the communication skills necessary to interact effectively with you and your staff.

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Structuring the engagement

When hiring a freelance HR consultant, clear contract terms are crucial:

  • Scope of work: Define what tasks the consultant is expected to perform.
  • Duration: Specify whether the consultancy is for a fixed-term project or on a retainer basis.
  • Fees and payment structure: Agree on how they will be compensated (e.g., hourly rate, fixed fee, performance-based payment).
  • Confidentiality and non-disclosure: Ensure there are clauses that protect your business information.

Managing the HR consultancy

Even after you hire a consultant, effective management is key to a successful partnership:

  • Regular updates and meetings: Establish a routine for updates and feedback.
  • Performance tracking: Set up KPIs to measure the consultant’s impact.
  • Flexibility: Be open to adjusting the scope as needed based on results and evolving business needs.

Understanding costs and pricing for hiring a freelance HR consultant

When planning to hire a freelance HR consultant, budgeting accurately is crucial. This section provides insight into the typical costs and pricing structures you can expect, complete with example figures to help you estimate your investment more accurately.

Factors influencing costs

Expertise and experience

More experienced consultants or those with specialised knowledge generally charge higher rates. For example, a seasoned HR consultant with over 20 years of experience might charge between £100 to £200 per hour, while those earlier in their career may ask for £50 to £100 per hour.

Market rates

Fees vary widely depending on geographic location and the current market demand. For instance, HR consultants in London or other major cities may charge at the higher end of the spectrum due to increased demand and living costs.

Scope of the project

Complex projects like a complete overhaul of HR systems or developing a comprehensive training program will be more expensive. For example, a fixed project fee for setting up a new performance management system might range from £3,000 to £10,000 depending on the size of your business and the complexity of the system.


Tailored solutions require more consultant time and effort, thus increasing the cost. A customised employee engagement strategy for a mid-sized company could cost upwards of £5,000, depending on the depth of customisation.

Pricing models

Consultants may offer various pricing models suited to different types of projects:

  • Hourly rate: Suitable for undefined or variable scope projects. Rates can range as mentioned, based on experience and location.
  • Fixed fee: Common for well-defined projects, this can help control costs. For instance, developing an employee handbook might cost a fixed fee of around £2,000.
  • Retainer basis: For ongoing support, consultants might charge a monthly retainer fee, typically between £500 and £2,000, depending on the services included.
  • Performance-based payment: This model aligns the consultant’s fees with the results delivered, such as improving employee retention by a certain percentage, with bonuses tied to achieving these metrics.

Budgeting tips

  • Get multiple quotes: Obtain estimates from various consultants to understand the range of fees and to ensure competitive pricing.
  • Clarify deliverables and outcomes: Ensure you understand what services and outcomes your consultant will deliver, helping you to compare quotes accurately.
  • Negotiate payment terms: Consider asking for phased payments or incorporating performance-based elements to better manage cash flow and align consultant motivation with business goals.
  • Consider long-term value: Assess the potential long-term benefits of their recommendations, such as reduced employee turnover, which can justify a higher upfront cost.

With these guidelines and example figures, you can plan your budget more effectively and make informed decisions when hiring a freelance HR consultant. This ensures that the cost aligns with your business needs and the value that a skilled consultant can bring to your organisation.


Hiring a freelance HR consultant can provide your small business with the expertise needed to navigate complex HR challenges without the commitment of a full-time hire. By carefully selecting and managing a freelance consultant, you can enhance your business’s HR capabilities, ensuring legal compliance and improving employee satisfaction and productivity. This investment in freelance expertise is often a prudent choice for small businesses aiming to grow and manage their workforce effectively.

FAQ – Hiring a freelance HR consultant for your small business

Why should I consider hiring a freelance HR consultant?

A freelance HR consultant can provide specialised expertise, help you manage HR tasks without hiring a full-time staff member, and offer strategic insights to improve employee engagement and compliance with employment laws.

How do I know if my business needs an HR consultant?

Consider hiring an HR consultant if you’re experiencing issues with employee management, compliance, recruitment, or if you need to develop HR policies or improve existing HR systems.

What does an HR consultant do?

HR consultants can handle a variety of tasks including recruitment, training and development, employee relations, compliance checks, and strategic HR planning.

How much does it cost to hire a freelance HR consultant?

Costs can vary widely, typically ranging from £50 to £200 per hour depending on their experience and your project needs. Fixed project fees and retainer agreements are also common.

What should I look for in an HR consultant?

Look for relevant qualifications, experience with similar-sized companies, strong references, and a clear understanding of your industry’s specific HR challenges.

How can I find a reputable HR consultant?

Leverage your professional network, use platforms like LinkedIn, or consult directories from professional bodies like the CIPD.

Is it better to hire a local HR consultant?

While local consultants offer the benefit of face-to-face interaction and local market knowledge, remote consultants can be equally effective and may offer more competitive rates.

How do I evaluate the effectiveness of an HR consultant?

Set clear, measurable objectives at the start of the engagement and regularly review their performance against these goals.

What qualifications should an HR consultant have?

Many consultants hold certifications from recognised bodies such as the CIPD. Additional qualifications may include degrees in human resources, business management, or related fields.

Can a freelance HR consultant handle legal compliance?

Yes, HR consultants often assist with compliance related to employment laws and regulations, ensuring that your business adheres to legal standards.

How do I negotiate with a freelance HR consultant?

Discuss your budget, project scope, and expectations upfront. Be clear about payment terms, deliverables, and timelines.

What are the common pitfalls to avoid when hiring an HR consultant?

Avoid unclear contracts, not checking references, and a lack of clear communication. Ensure both parties have a clear understanding of expectations and outcomes.

How long should I hire an HR consultant for?

The duration depends on your needs; it could be for a specific project (a few months) or on an ongoing basis (retainer). Define this based on your business requirements.

Can an HR consultant help with payroll management?

While some HR consultants may offer payroll management as part of their services, others might focus solely on strategic HR tasks. Specify your needs during the hiring process.

How should I prepare my team for working with an HR consultant?

Communicate the purpose and scope of the consultancy to your team. Encourage them to be open to changes and to collaborate actively with the consultant for the best results.

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