Is a contractor simply a glorified laborer? Is a consultant hired for his opinion and expertise, but no deliverables, per se?

There are many dimensions to this question, but I saw none similar on SX, so I figured I would pose it here.

  • First hit on Google: techrepublic.com/article/…
    – Canadian Luke
    Dec 30, 2013 at 20:28
  • Theory: the answer is as stated by 3 folks below (and as you suggest). Reality: contractor = consultant = freelancer.
    – Martin F
    Jan 12, 2014 at 22:08

3 Answers 3


Consultants are responsible for the business value of their work.

If I am working for someone as a contractor, I build what they tell me to like a good little code monkey.

If I am working for someone as a consultant we discuss what the client's pain points are, define metrics to measure success, implement solutions, and then view the metrics to see if our approach is successful and if it can be improved.


As far as I see it.

When I am hired as a contractor, then I am expected to do the coding and deliver the project.

When I am hired as a consultant, then I usually review the project specifications and advise what technology or approach should be used to implement XY feature.

I also saw some clients using these terms interchangeably, but I have to admin I saw this a few times only. Most of them properly distinguish the roles.


From Tech Republic:

You may be wondering why what you call yourself matters. The bottom line about whether you’re a consultant or a contractor is the bottom line. Generally, a consultant is paid higher fees than a contractor. Of course, this depends on a lot of factors, such as the demand in your market, your skills, and the client’s need, but this is true more often than not.

  • A contractor generally bills based on time spent performing services. Invoices detail the number of hours worked multiplied by the set fee per hour. Contractors generally work onsite under direct supervision. They often work through agencies and don’t find their own work.
  • A consultant most often bills by project, charging for designing and implementing the solutions offered. Consultants rarely work through agencies, and they’re often responsible for drumming up their own work, either by networking or marketing.
  • A consultant sets pricing based on the quality of the solution and the demand for it, not just on time.
  • As a consultant, you can bill by project and increase your hourly rate breakdown by working faster and more efficiently. In addition, many clients like this approach because they know what they’ll end up paying for the project, and they know there’s no incentive for you to drag out the work.
  • 2
    I've noticed most clients use the terms interchangeably, and contact me for "consulting" work, when in essence they are looking for a "contractor". Dec 30, 2013 at 21:29

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