Consultant vs contractor

September 10, 2018

I see the terms "contractor" and "consultant" used interchangably. I think this confuses what the two do, and how they add value.

In my view, a consultant adds value through expertise, while a contractor brings project management and coordination.

Consultants show up and advise the client on what to do. A consultant's stock in trade is knowledge and experience, and how to apply them to a particular business problem, such as workforce reduction, revenue growth, or IT change management.

Contractors are experts in project management. Teams of contractors built the Hoover Dam, the pyramids, and every road, bridge, and dam in the world. Contractors know how to gather and sequence large amounts of equipment and labor, to achieve progress against a statement of work or "scope".

I have a friend who calls himself a "software consultant". He's a contractor. He thinks calling himself a "consultant" sounds more prestigious.

But the thing is, there's really no such thing as a "software consultant". Contractors are defined by what they do/build; consultants by the outcomes they achieve for their clients.

I think individual consultants are paid better, but overall, way more money flows in contracting.