Do you want to start your own consulting firm and are looking for the best business model to start charging your customers and making money? Or perhaps, you already have a consulting firm and are looking for new income streams to grow your business? Either way, this article is for you.

But how do consulting firms make money? Is it only by charging by the hour for a consultant’s time? Or are there other ways?

In this article, we will review 7 different ways that consulting firms can make money. We’ll also give a brief overview of each method so that you can decide which ones might be the best for your business. Let’s get started!

How Do Consulting Firms Make Money?

Consulting firms are a vital part of the business world. They provide essential services to businesses and organizations, helping them to improve their operations and achieve their goals.

Here are the 7 ways in which consulting firms can charge clients and make money:

  1. Charge for a consultant’s time
  2. Charge per project
  3. Charge a monthly retainer
  4. Charge a success fee
  5. Sell a product (+ consulting)
  6. Enter into a profit-sharing scheme
  7. Provide training

Let’s look at each of these different ways in which consulting firms generate revenues.

#1. Charge for a consultant’s time

The most common way for consulting firms to make money is by charging for a consultant’s time. This is usually done by the hour, day, or week.

Charging for time can be a simple and effective way for a consulting firm to make money. It’s also easy to track and measure how much time a consultant spends on a project so that you can invoice your client accurately.

It’s also a great way to balance revenues against expenses because a company will typically pay its employee a fixed salary for a certain amount of hours worked. If it can bill these hours to its customer, it can cover the cost of the employee’s salary and make a profit.

However, there are some drawbacks to this method. First, it can be difficult to estimate how long a project will take and how many hours a consultant will need to spend on it and many clients ask for upfront cost estimates. This can lead to billing disputes with clients. Second, charging by the hour can incentivize consultants to work more slowly so that they can bill for more hours.

So, if you decide to charge for a consultant’s time, make sure that you have a clear and concise contract with your client that outlines how you will be billing them.

#2. Charge per project

Charging per project is a billing method that is often preferred by clients. This is because it gives them a fixed price for the project, which makes it easier to budget for.

Under this billing method, the consulting firm estimates how much work is required for the project and gives the client a price quote. It then invoices the client for the agreed-upon price once the project is completed.

This method can be beneficial for both the consulting firm and the client. The firm can more accurately estimate its costs and make sure that it is making a profit on the project. And the client knows how much the project will cost them upfront, which makes budgeting easier.

However, the risk with this billing method is that the consulting firm may underestimate the amount of work required for the project and end up losing money. This is why it’s important to have a clear and detailed contract with the client that details the scope of work for the project.

Another downside of this billing method is that it can incentivize the consulting firm to finish the project quickly so that it can move on to the next one. This can lead to lower-quality work.

#3. Charge a monthly retainer

A monthly retainer is a fee that a client pays on a monthly basis in exchange for the consulting firm’s services.

This billing method is often used for clients who need ongoing support or assistance from the consulting firm. It can be a great way to generate steadier and more predictable revenue.

However, this way of generating income comes with some drawbacks.

First, it can be difficult to estimate how much work the client will need each month.

Second, the firm may find itself in a situation where it is working more hours than it is billing for, which can lead to losses. Or that it is working less than the time available, in which case it becomes a bad deal for the client.

Third, the client may decide to cancel the retainer at any time, which can cause a sudden drop in revenue for the consulting firm.

Fourth, this billing method can incentivize the consulting firm to do less work than is necessary because it is being paid a fixed amount regardless of how much work it does.

Overall, the monthly retainer billing method can be a great way to generate steadier revenue for a consulting company. However, it’s important to be aware of the potential drawbacks so that you can manage them effectively.

#4. Charge a success fees

A compromise between charging hourly and per project, success fees are only charged when the project is successfully completed.

This billing method can be beneficial for both the consulting firm and the client. The client only pays the success fee if the project is successful, which aligns the firm’s interests with the client’s. And the firm only gets paid the full amount it expects to get paid only if it achieves the desired results, so it has an incentive to do a good job.

In this method of billing, if “success” isn’t properly defined, it can lead to disagreements. This is why success is often defined in contracts in quantifiable and measurable ways.

#5. Sell a product (+ consulting)

Consulting firms can also make money by selling products. This could be a physical product, like a software program, or an online course.

This is a great way to diversify income and reduce your reliance on consulting fees. It can also be a great way to add value for clients.

Often the profit margins on products can be so high that consulting firms can discount their consulting fees in order to make the overall project more affordable for their clients and still come out ahead.

The downside of this income stream is that it can take a lot of time and effort to develop and market a product. And there’s always the risk that the product will flop.

#6. Enter into a profit-sharing scheme

Clients often like their partner companies, including consulting firms, to have skin in the game. And one of the best ways to show that you’re invested in your client’s success is to enter into a profit-sharing scheme.

Under this agreement, the consulting firm receives a percentage of the profits that the client generates as a result of the work that the company did.

This is a great way to align the firm’s interests with the client’s, but it does come with some risks. The biggest of these risks is that the consulting firm’s client does not generate a profit at all and for no fault of the consulting firm.

In such a case the consulting firm could lose money as it probably gave a good discount on its consulting fees in exchange for the profit-sharing scheme.

#7. Provide training

A classic way that consulting firms make money outside of providing consulting advice is by providing training. This could be in the form of an online course, a seminar, or even a more traditional classroom-based course.

The benefit of this income stream is that it can be recurring. That is, once a course is created, it can be delivered multiple times to different groups of people. This can provide a steadier stream of revenue than consulting alone.

Another advantage of providing training is that a training course can be an excellent marketing tool. It can help to build your brand and establish you as an expert in your field.

Many potential clients will first send their employees to one of your training courses before they ever hire you as a consultant.


So, how do consulting firms make money? In this article, we reviewed 7 ways in which they can generate revenue.

The most common of these is to charge for a consultant’s time. Then they could charge per project or a monthly retainer. Often clients will throw in a success fee into the mix to better align the consultant’s success to that of the client.

Consulting firms can also generate revenue by selling products, entering into profit-sharing schemes with clients, and providing training.