Consulting may seem less stable than a full-time marketing position, but savvy individuals can easily develop a high-earning career as a marketing consultant. Moreover, marketing consultants often make a much higher hourly and annual salary than full-time employees, increasing their earning potential significantly over their in-house peers.
Though marketing consultants’ fees are higher than in-house salaries, they may be more attractive to companies searching for leaders because their contracts are short-term. Companies save money long-term by paying higher consultants’ fees for a short period rather than investing long-term in an in-house marketing leader.
How Much a Marketing Consultant Can Make
According to Glassdoor, Indeed, and Zippia, marketing consultants can expect to make a median annual salary of about $66,000 in 2022 and beyond. The lower end of their earning spectrum sits between $40,000 and $45,000, while the best-paid consultants earn $88,000 (or more) per year.
This broad spectrum of earning potential is based on a few factors, including the consultant’s education and experience, the industry they’re associated with, where they’re located, and how much they charge as an hourly rate.
Calculating How Much to Charge
Setting the right hourly rate is vital to your financial success as a marketing consultant. If you charge too much, businesses won’t be able to afford your services. If you charge too little, you risk undermining your earning potential, regardless of how many clients you attract. Additionally, some clients may pass on your services because you’re too inexpensive. They may see a lower rate as a sign of low experience or poorly developed skills.
When calculating how much to charge your clients, it’s important to know the average consultant rates for your geographic area and industry. You can then adjust that number up or down slightly depending on the level of education and experience you bring to the table.
Considerations for Pay Rate
The better your education, the more valuable you are to clients and their businesses. Graduate and post-graduate courses often go beyond the basics of marketing and advertising by focusing on specific areas of the industry, such as technology, certain demographics, and emerging trends and technologies. Your clients may not have this kind of knowledge, so the fact that you do means you can help them align their efforts to be scalable for future growth.
For instance, someone with a bachelor’s degree in marketing or communications may earn around $55,000 per year, while someone with a master’s increases their earning potential by about $16,000. Make sure you know the average salary for your degree before setting a rate.
As with any professional position, the more experience you have as a marketing consultant, the more you can expect to make. The logic is that the longer you work in a particular industry, the more knowledgeable and skilled you become. This is why a CMO with 20+ years of experience makes at least $150,000 per year on average, while an entry-level marketing professional starts between $45,000 and $50,000.
If you’re unsure where to begin calculating your consultant’s fees, start by researching what marketing professionals with your experience make per year. That number can act as a base for your final pricing model.
Marketing consultants are already one of the most sought-after and highest-paid positions in the business world. However, specific industries are considered more valuable than others, so you can reasonably raise your rates higher than the average if most of your clients are focused on technology, investing, or another in-demand service.
Hourly Rate for a Marketing Consultant
According to Zippia, the hourly rate for a marketing consultant is about $32.43. That comes to just over $67,000 per year if we assume a full workload of 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year.
However, if you have higher earning potential because of greater education, experience, or you work in a high-paying region—such as Oregon, Connecticut, Washington, Delaware, or Idaho—you can raise your hourly fee to between $70.00 and $85.00, or even higher. Just be sure you’re charging a fair and reasonable market price for your area, industry, and education.
Possible Pricing Models
Marketing consultants may charge clients using two different models: hourly rate or by project. The former of course relies on a set cost-per-hour of work completed while the latter relies on time estimates for completing a project or projects for your clients.
A simple way to calculate your hourly fee is to consider what you made at your last job. Compare it to current average salaries for the same position for someone with your education and experience. Then divide that annual salary by the number of hours you intend to work during the year, subtracting things like vacation days, holidays, and sick time.
For instance, if you want to make $90,000 per year, you simply divide $90,000 by 47 weeks and then divide that by 40. This model assumes two weeks for vacation, eight days for sick time, and 13 standard bank holidays in the United States. The equation would look like this:
$90,000 (annual salary) / 47 (weeks worked) = 1,914.89 (weekly salary) / 40 (hours worked) = $47.87 (hourly rate)
If you’d prefer to charge per project, estimate the number of hours a project should take and add an extra 20% of your desired annual income for emergencies. The final total is the estimate you can give your client.
For example, if you think a project should take 100 hours, the formula would look like this:
[$47.87 (hourly rate) x 100 (hours worked) = $4,787. 23 (minimum estimate)] + [$90,000 x 0.20 = $18,000)] = $22,787.23
If the project exceeds this initial budget, you can begin charging your client by the hour for any additional work required.
Summary of Marketing Consultant Salary
When setting your fees as a marketing consultant, whether you’re charging hourly or by project, there are numerous factors to consider. The first thing to note is the average rates for your location, industry, and level of experience or education. Next, you should use this number to determine how much you want to make per year.
From there, you can calculate your hourly fee and use that number to set project prices, if necessary. Don’t be afraid to set prices a little higher than average. Not only will this increase your bottom line, but it can also instill confidence in potential clients, who equate higher prices with better quality.
You’ll also want to reevaluate your rates yearly to adjust for inflation, cost of living, and industry fluctuations. However, once you have a pricing system, making any needed adjustments should be simple.
You may also consider becoming a fractional CMO to start or in lieu of a marketing consultant. The average annual salary of a part-time CMO is comparable or higher than a marketing consultant, so you’ll have the potential to make much more through the former.