How much should you budget for consultants / freelancers?

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In my role working with museums, historic sites, arts and heritage organisations, I sometimes hear that project budgets do not always allow an adequate amount for consultants'/freelancers' work, which may be because clients do not fully recognise the costs which consultants and freelancers incur in running their businesses.  As so many cultural heritage projects are funded by grant-making organisations, it’s important that the figures in grant budgets for consultants and freelancers are realistic, in the same way as costs for equipment, construction, etc have to be realistic.  This not only benefits the project being funded, but enables consultants and freelancers to continue to deliver high quality services to the cultural heritage sector.

So I decided to conduct a small survey, circulated to the Group for Education in Museums email list, the GEM Freelance Network and the Visitor Studies Group email list, to get an idea of the range of people's charges for various tasks.  This was not a robust survey, just a “toe in the water” to get an initial idea of what was happening “out there” in terms of range of charges and people's comments about the issues involved, and to start a wider discussion about the subject.

Of the 41 people who responded to the survey, the results showed that the most common range of fees was between £200 and £350 per day, for tasks such as developing an activity plan, community consultation, visitor research, developing learning resources and evaluation.

This was not a robust survey, as I only had the capacity to do something very short, only circulated it to a limited group of contacts, and it didn’t go into detail about the freelancers’/consultants’ length of experience, geographical location, etc. But given that many HLF projects involve consultants, I thought it might be useful all the same.

It would be good to hear from others in the Community - whether clients or consultants / freelancers - about their experiences of budgets for work carried out by consultants and freelancers. 

Looking forward to hearing what you think!


View Nicola Bell's profile Nicola Bell May 3 2016 - 9:11am
  1. Thanks Nocola fr raising this it is a source of much consternation. I work as a consultant and HLF mentor and see both sides. I would observe that the 'people' side of project planning still plays second fiddle to capital. Architects fees are rarely squeezed and seem enormous! Compared to the (typically) £8-15k for activity planning and £10 k for evaluation (which often goes over a number of years). I always Challenge this in my hlf mentor role. Something to

    flag to other hlf staff? 

  2. View Sharon Goddard's profile Sharon Goddard
    Offline | Last seen: 9 months 1 week ago
  3. Sounds about right. I'm a mid-range (10 years' experience) museum evaluation and education consultant and charge £250 per day plus travelling expenses.

  4. View Rebecca Reynolds's profile Rebecca Reynolds
    Offline | Last seen: 2 years 8 months ago
  5. Hi Nicola

    A great point to bring up and share with us in the Online Communities. 

    It is important that groups and organisations looking to freelancers are very clear about the work they hope to commission.  Having done this in previous roles, I've found it more helpful to think about the total amount of work that needs to be done and then to ask other, similar groups and organisations how they have costing something similar.  In addition, if you have relationships with freelancers already, you can ask 'does this fee/day rate' seem appropriate.

    Ultimately, its for applicants to decide how their budget is built up, but we do encourage them to consider all costs and appropriate fees at the project enquiry stage, before an application is made.

    I look forward to hearing other people's comments on this

  6. View Louise Sutherland's profile Louise Sutherland
    Offline | Last seen: 5 months 3 weeks ago
  7. Thank you very much everyone for your comments so far - good to hear from the client and HLF side as well.

  8. View Nicola Bell's profile Nicola Bell
    Offline | Last seen: 1 year 3 months ago
  9. In my experience day rates are more likely to be between £300 and £450 per day. Well-established and experienced professional should be able to charge these rates.

    I agree with Sharon that interpretation and activity planning budgets often get squeezed compared to architects' fees.

  10. View Shirley Muir's profile Shirley Muir
    Offline | Last seen: 11 months 4 weeks ago
  11. We in the Field Theatre Group estimate approx £250 per day professional fees, such as evaluation, project management, etc. That seems to be acceptable here in rural Cambs. Many of our other practitioners, artists, workshop leaders work for £150 per day.



  12. View Community User's profile Community User
    Offline | Last seen: 7 months 2 weeks ago
  13. My colleague Alice has just posted about a handy guide to working with consultants, which includes brief-writing, the selection process, and working relationships.

    You can download the guide here:…

    It would also be great if you could share any similar resources you've come across in Alice's thread.


  14. View Amy Freeborn's profile Amy Freeborn
    Offline | Last seen: 9 hours 58 min ago
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