There’s significant demand for external consultants in the people profession, with the type of support needed varying from one organisation to another. Organisations usually draft consultants in to help manage a specific piece of work within an organisation, whether that’s offering specialist advice or simply additional resource. Unlike people professionals who are employed by an organisation, consultants are usually self-employed or work for a professional services firm and support external clients with their specific needs.

What does an independent people consultant do?

There are two types of people consultant roles: consultants who are employed by a professional services company, and independent self-employed consultants who have their own independent consultancy business. They’re usually expected to have a generic set of skills such as project management, stakeholder management and problem solving, as well as a good understanding of the client organisation and specialist knowledge and expertise in one or two areas of the people profession.  

Here are some activities you can expect to be involved in as a consultant: 

  • Building relationships with and selling your brand/services to future and current clients 
  • Taking time to understand the client organisation and their needs 
  • Bringing your people and business expertise together to identify a range of people solutions to meet the client’s needs 
  • Presenting solutions to clients 
  • Meeting clients and key people involved in the solution (often key leaders within the organisation both in and outside of the people profession) 
  • Scoping and planning project work, and writing proposals and reports 
  • Networking with and influencing people 
  • Listening to your client and providing a support network 
  • Project managing the solution to ensure your client’s needs are met. 

How does the CIPD support self-employed consultants?

Why choose the life of an independent consultant?

Case studies

Why I chose the life of an independent consultant

Ruth Cornish FCIPD looks at the role of independent people professionals

Case studies

A day in the life of an independent consultant

A day in the life of Gary Cookson, Director of EPIC HR Ltd

Case studies

A day in the life of a self-employed director

A day in the life of Helen Buckwell, founding director of Hidden Strengths Learning

Case studies

A day in the life of an independent consultant

A day in the life of Bob Aubrey, Managing Partner at Bob Aubrey Associates PTE LTD

CEO or consultant? Find out which is right for you


Register yourself as a claims management company

If you’re working as an independent HR consultant in the UK, and advising or representing someone who’s involved in a dispute with an employer, you must seek authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to register yourself as ‘claims management company’. This applies to advice to individual claimants only - you do not need to do this if you are advising  employers on claims against them. 

Career options in the
people profession

Explore the twelve career areas within the people profession, and the typical activities you may find yourself doing

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Career guidance

Information and guidance to help you excel in your role, transition into the profession, and manage a career break

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