Freelance Salesforce Consultants work for a Salesforce customer organization on a project basis, or for a specified length of time. Salesforce freelance work, essentially, involves selling Salesforce skills and knowledge to improve their clients’ usage of the Salesforce platform.
Not only are Freelance Salesforce Consultants in demand, and well respected – the fact it’s a fulfilling and fun career path makes it a popular choice. Professionals decide to become independent Salesforce consultants for a number of reasons, usually for lifestyle flexibility, higher earning potential, or the chance to work on a variety of projects.
The Salesforce ecosystem is skyrocketing – with its unrivaled innovation and customer loyalty – it’s ripe with job opportunities for freelancers. Could 2022 be the perfect time to become an Independent Salesforce Consultant?
If you want to become a Salesforce freelance consultant, there are actions you could take, starting today, to ensure you build a strong foundation for your freelance Salesforce career. My aims for this guide are to point you towards successful freelancing, share what I wish I had known before, and what to consider further down the line.
Personally, I worked as a freelancer for a number of years in the UK and European markets. In that time, I engaged with different-sized organizations and ‘work models’ (outlined later). My motto was to “learn fast and adapt”, always preparing for each day to be different from the last. There are other resources that provide fantastic insight from the Salesforce community that I will include to give you even more ‘chew’ on.
How to Become a Salesforce Freelancer
- Define your niche: how can you use your talents and experience benefit to your clients.
- Build your offering: decide which Salesforce products you’ll work with, and how to package up project deliverables.
- Prepare the freelancing foundation: set the foundation up so that you don’t become bogged down with monotonous admin (or nasty surprises) later on!
- How to get clients: there are multiple ways that clients can find you – some involve putting effort into marketing your services, whereas other ways are less effort (and could be more to your taste).
- Sell your services: set your day rate, discover a client’s business properly, and produce a ‘statement of work’ that will set the foundation for the entire project.
- Ace Salesforce project management: ensure the project is successful – delivered on time, and within budget.
First, let’s cover what a Salesforce Freelancer does.
What Does a Salesforce Freelancer Do?
Look up the definition for ‘freelancer’. The definition I found is: “someone who is self-employed and hired to work for different companies on particular assignments”. I’m not keen on that – it’s a description that falls flat.
Being a freelance consultant is anything but flat. You become a consultant that’s in control of the whole project lifecycle, in a specialization (niche) that you want to excel in.
There are three broad types of Salesforce Freelancers:
- Salesforce Freelancers: professionals who have committed to the freelance way of life, working on a per-day or per-hour basis.
- Moonlighters: these freelancers work freelance in addition to their full-time job. They usually work in the evenings/at night, hence the phrase ‘moonlighting’. ‘Side hustle’ is another popular term.
- Salesforce contractors: I would describe contractors as a ‘different breed’ of freelancer. However, it’s worth briefly covering what Salesforce contractors do, and how they are different from freelancers.
Salesforce Freelancers usually fall into one of the roles that exist in the Salesforce ecosystem, for example: Freelance Salesforce Consultant, Freelance Salesforce Admin, Freelance Salesforce Developers, etc.
Salesforce Freelancers vs. Salesforce Contractors
When Salesforce professionals decide to become self-employed, there are two paths to explore:
- Freelancing: More commonly defined by deliverables (which is preceded by a ‘scope of work’ to accurately estimate the cost, AKA. fixed cost). The freelancer works with internal teams when necessary for short time periods in the project.
- Contracting: More commonly defined by time period (which is often extendable, that is, for a set no. months before the client re-evaluates). The contractor acts more as an employee, often integrated into internal teams.
You can find a full comparison (my interpretation) at the end of this guide.
Is Freelancing Right for Me?
Note: going freelance is a big decision, and while it sounds appealing, you should not underestimate the time and energy required from you.
Luckily, if you’re not entirely convinced that freelancing would be a good fit for you, there are ways to ‘test the waters first’. Would you just leap into a pool without ‘dipping your toe’ in first?
Here are some tactics used in the Salesforce ecosystem in order to gradually transition into freelance work without committing up-front:
- Moonlighting: to “have a second job, typically secretly and at night, in addition to one’s regular employment”. In plain words, moonlighting means sacrificing your evenings, weekends, or holiday allowance in order to trial being a freelancer.
- Pro bono: involves volunteering for a nonprofit organization. This will give you a taste of what it’s like to work in an unfamiliar org and have stakeholders to answer to.
- Smaller projects: this idea is best suited to smaller projects that can be completed in one time period, and could involve you taking a break from your day job.
- Work for a consultancy: while working for a Salesforce consulting partner is not feasible for everyone, I would be remiss to leave it out – a solid a stepping stone!
1. Define Your Niche
How can you use your talents and experience benefit to your clients?
I’m sure you’ve heard this advice during your research. Did you take it on board?
You need to stand out as a Salesforce Freelancer. To the average client you will be approaching, everyone appears to do the same thing. Listing your capabilities with Salesforce technology is unlikely to resonate with your prospects. Defining your niche shouldn’t involve focusing on an industry, or a Salesforce product/cloud.
Define your niche in terms of the specific types of problems that you solve for your clients. Susan Baier and Brian Shea used this example during their conversation:
2. Build Your Services Offering
Decide which Salesforce products you’ll work with, and how to package up project deliverables.
Your offering is the services that you advertise to potential clients, like a catalog of your deliverables. An offering will group together multiple deliverables in a way that makes sense, to ensure your clients are left with a functioning Salesforce org, plus to be a more enjoyable and profitable experience for you.
You know which areas of the Salesforce platform you have technical expertise for and what a successful project looks like, as a list of completed tasks. How do you want to engage with a client? The ways to structure project scopes include:
- Frequency: how many times you work with the client, and when,
- Duration: how long each engagement lasts,
- How you bill your client.
Let’s outline the options – projects (fixed cost, time and materials), managed services, ad-hoc support:
- Project – Fixed Cost: the cost is agreed upon before the work commences. For that amount, you will deliver the scope of work. The cost remains fixed for the whole duration of the project, and the client must raise a request if they want to make changes.
- Project – Time & Materials (T&M): the client agrees to pay based on an hourly, or day rate. While you should still prepare a scope of work and estimate the time (and cost) it will take to deliver, there is no fixed figure. You deliver the scope of work to the best of your ability and ‘roll with the punches’ – if something unexpected happens, you work to resolve it.
- Managed Services: an ongoing contract where you commit a certain number of hours per month to the client, over the contract term (anywhere from 3-12 months). If you’re looking to become a Salesforce contractor, this is for you!
- Ad-Hoc Support: is exactly what it says – it’s unexpected, they are small chunks of work, and they are often the result of something going wrong (which means you are taking on risk). Examples include: fixing an automation issue, adjusting user permissions, or providing some training.
3. Prepare the ‘Freelancing Foundation’
Set the foundation up so that you don’t become bogged down with monotonous admin (or nasty surprises) later on!
Salesforce consulting is what you set out to do, but what many new freelancers soon discover when reality kicks in, is that there’s more to running a consulting business than just being good at Salesforce!
Business Admin Checklist
- Setting up your company (research the options within your country)
- Set up accounting…
- …and payroll. How will you get paid? (what HR did and you took for granted!)
- Create a cash flow sheet for budgeting purposes.
- Purchase business insurance (optional but recommended): ensure it’s the correct type/indemnity amount for the types of clients you will be working with.
- Template contracts/NDAs.
- Purchase tools: project management tools (eg. Asana, Trello), accounting platforms, and more – we compiled a list of 30+ top apps for Salesforce Consultants.
4. How to Get Clients as a Salesforce Freelancer
There are multiple ways that clients can find you – some involve putting effort into marketing your services, whereas other ways are less effort (and could be more to your taste).
Introducing the 3 ‘work models’, which are the ways you can get work as a freelance Salesforce Consultant:
- Get your own clients
- Subcontracting through a Salesforce consultancy
Option #1: Get Your Own Clients
‘Outbound marketing’ to get in front of potential clients, or to become discoverable (‘Inbound marketing). This includes writing articles, videos, speaking, prospecting/outreach.
|Control over your day rates.||Time consuming: upfront effort and ongoing time commitment.|
|Control over project scope.||End-to-end responsibility puts more pressure onto you.|
|Able to operate with your personal brand|| |
No escalation point for unexpected occurrences - it will all be on your head.
|Stay laser-focused on your niche||Risk of overworking to progress as fast as you can.|
“The direct model is the one that I like the most. I like the independence. I liked the ability to work with multiple clients at once” – Brian Shea
Option #2: Subcontracting Through a Salesforce Consultancy
Find a Salesforce consulting partner that has a gap your skillset can fill. This is personally my favorite model. This is more common than you may think, for two reasons:
- Consultants are expensive to employ: read our Salesforce Consultant Salary Guide to get an idea of how demand has inflated the market.
- Fluctuations in project pipeline: running a consultancy is a balancing act with resource supply and project demand, and sometimes the scale tips in the direction of too much demand, and not enough consultant resources.
|Consultancies take care of the sales process, chasing invoice payments, and other business admin inconveniences.||Extra expectation. You need to meet the client's expectations, and also you have to meet the consultancy's expectations, which can be more pressure.|
|Some consultancies will offer to sponsor certification exams.||Will take some of your profit off of your usual day rate.|
|Safety in numbers - you will have backup when the unexpected happens.||White-labelling (may bother some independent consultants)|
Option #3: Recruiters
Recruiters earn their commission by connecting organizations that need a Salesforce specialist with suitable candidates. Having an oversight on both the supply and demand side means that recruiters can match you with a high-quality opportunity – they can become your eyes and ears on the ground!
You will mostly find that these engagements are ‘full-time’ 40-hours-a-week for a period of time (usually 6 months). While common for recruiters to have contract opportunities on their books, some do come across freelancing opportunities from time to time. Staying connected with a recruiter will mean they will alert you about both.
|Quality and speed in the opportunities they can find for you, and how fast they do it.||Expensive for clients to hire you where placement fees eat into the project budget.|
|Can negotiate the day rate for you.||Find yourself up against more competition.|
|Good sources of information.||Risk you will be persuaded into an opportunity that doesn’t align with your goals.|
I covered this topic when I spoke with Brian Shea, host of the Salesforce Freelancing interview series. The 3 Work Models & Getting Your First Clients (Ep. 1), read the full show notes.
Sell Your Services
Set your day rate, discover a client’s business properly, and produce a ‘statement of work’ that will set the foundation for the entire project.
Sales is (perhaps) the most intimidating part of going freelance for most individuals. This is completely understandable if you’ve spent your career on the delivery side of a Salesforce consultancy, or working at an end-user organization (Salesforce customer).
Sales doesn’t have to be taxing, or uncomfortable. If you find the sweet spot between packaging up your offering, and engaging with the right clients for you.
Setting Your Day Rate
A day rate is simply the amount you charge to a client, for a day’s worth of work. Putting a number on a day rate can be an anxiety-inducing task for many people. Once you have the magic number, you will be able to apply that to any work, and choose the most appropriate project delivery type as part of the scoping and proposal writing stages.
To ensure you are earning enough income, you must consider that your working hours will be split into two categories:
- ‘Billable’ hours are the time that you will spend on work that directly benefits the client, to work towards your deliverables. They will compensate you for it because you will add this time to the invoice you send them.
- Non-billable hours are the time you spend at work, outside of the billable hours. There are a number of matters you will need to take care of that would fall into the ‘non-billable’ category.
There are multiple factors that influence your day rate, so it is not my place to give you a number. What I can do, is point you to sources of information to help you strike the right balance:
- Salesforce Contractor Day Rate Benchmarks
- Online marketplaces and job boards (Upwork, BlazeNew Trail, AppExchange)
- Salesforce consultancies
- Trailblazer community members
Consultant’s Sales Process
Selling a Salesforce project is very rarely transactional, no instant ‘pay me this and you will get this’ sale. That’s why most consultancies have a dedicated sales or business development team because it can be a gruelling process. Let’s outline the stages of the sales process plus some tips so that your sales process can be as smooth sailing as possible.
Note: you can purchase templates for discovery workshops (multiple Salesforce ‘cloud’ products), statements of work, and more.
- Initial call: you need to find out a) what their business does, b) what role the individual has within the business, and c) the reason why they want to implement or enhance their Salesforce org. The end result will be to either a) arrange a discovery session, or b) suggest they look for another consultant/consultancy.
- Discovery: here you are discovering their business, drawing back all the curtains, and taking a good look under the rugs!* This stage can also be referred to as a ‘workshop’, ‘scoping session’ or the ‘requirements gathering’.
- Proposal & pricing: the ‘Statement of Work’ (SoW) will set the foundation for the entire project. It is important to write this with attention to detail, and that everything you are promising you will do is airtight.
- Negotiation: get the deal across the finish line. Each round will require you to do some recalculations to check that the project will be profitable to you and that any changes to the statement of work requested are still feasible to deliver.
- Pre kick-off preparation: prepare the client for the Salesforce project. You want to avoid showing up on the first day of the project and being delayed days or weeks because the client is scrambling around for information.
6. Ace Salesforce Project Management as a Freelancer
Ensure the project is successful – delivered on time, and within budget.
Aside from selling Salesforce projects, project management is the most intimidating part of becoming a freelance consultant. I can’t emphasize its importance enough to ensure the project is successful – delivered on time, and within budget.
- You will need to form the project schedule that balances the clients’ schedules, skirting holidays.
- Establish accountability between yourself and the client, and visibility to your clients (by using a project management app or a Google Sheet).
- Also, record risks to the project (you can use RAID logs for this).
How do you run successful Salesforce Projects, solo?
For project management, consultancies will typically add 10% to the proposal subtotal. Perhaps you should take the same idea – remember, you will be spending your time communicating (chasing) clients.
Read more on what a Project Manager does to get a feel for the work involved.
Salesforce Freelancing: What I Wish I Had Known
There’s no better time for you to learn about the challenges that freelancing could entail. Insert cliche here: it’s not always rainbows and sunshine!
To help you avoid common downfalls, I will share my own mistakes that I made on my journey.
- Using too many lead sources: don’t aim to promote your services across every marketing channel possible. You could experiment in the first few months promoting across a wide range of platforms. Once you have started winning clients, however, take a cynical view of where you are actually getting leads from.
- Doing accounting myself (the ‘heavy lifting’): set aside time in your schedule to take care of business administration. How much does it cost to outsource the business admin tasks to a 3rd party, such as a hands-on accountant, or a virtual assistant (VA)? It will be worth the relatively small investment so you can focus on maximizing your working week.
- Underestimating non-billable hours: that what hours we think will be billable are much less in reality when we factor in the unexpected events and other duties we have in addition to work.
- Naming your price: naming your price means that you hold on tight to your rate if the client is holding on to ‘fast’ and ‘good quality’. Don’t get coaxed into keeping the project cost static if the requirements change and mean that you should be charging more. I keep this triangle in my ‘back pocket’, always:
- Branching outside of my niche: I got tempted into opportunities outside of my niche because it was easy money. I could have invested that time into my goal of establishing myself as a Pardot expert. Worst of all, these random assignments left me feeling stretched in terms of knowledge and time-poor.
- Allowing ad-hoc requests
- Not establishing boundaries: just like saying ‘no’ to requests that are not properly structured (nor part of an ongoing agreement), you should also talk about when clients can contact you and how.
- Brian Shea’s Salesforce Freelance mini-series on Salesforceben.com
- Solopreneur course: Ankit Taneja guides you to become a “modern day freelancer 🚀” with his course (in video format). If you are serious about freelancing, I highly recommend making this investment.
- Secrets to Buidling a Salesforce Consultancy + Template Pack: the key here is the template pack! This is the only book ever written on founding, building and growing a Salesforce Consultancy, by SalesforceBen.com founder and former Managing Director of Empaua UK, Ben McCarthy (delivered digitally).
- What Does a Salesforce Project Manager Do?: get a feel for what project managers do to ensure their projects are delivered successfully.
- Gathering Salesforce Requirements & Running Discovery Workshops
- How to Gather Requirements (and Say ‘No’)
Contractor vs. Freelancer Comparison
The differences between Salesforce contractors versus freelancers are important to address. Here is a table comparing the two types of self-employed roles:
|Salesforce contractor||Salesforce freelancer|
|Relationship||Client and contractor - the contractor acts more as an employee, often integrated into internal teams.||Client and consultant - the freelancer remains somewhat distant, working with internal teams when necessary for short periods in the project.|
|Contract length - |
Contracts are defined by terms, such as the period of work, or the deliverables for both.
|More commonly defined by time period|
(which is often extendable, that is, for a set no. months before the client re-evaluates)
|More commonly defined by deliverables. |
(which is preceded by a ‘scope of work’ to accurately estimate the cost, AKA. fixed cost)
|No. simultaneous projects||Typical to dedicate all working hours to one client. Track time in larger increments (ie. by day).|
Sometimes left waiting on a client decision.
|Typical to work on multiple projects at once, ‘multi-tasking’. Track time in smaller increments (even by hour). |
Avoid being left waiting on a client decision.
|Payment - Paid as a services cost (not as a salary like employees)||Paid based on a day rate. How frequently depends on the agreement (usually weekly, sometimes monthly).||Paid based on a day rate or a fixed cost for the project. |
How frequently depends on the agreement. For a fixed-scope project, part upfront, part upon completion. For ‘managed services’, usually monthly.
|Scope of work||Wider scope of work, brought onboard to utilise your expertise in one particular area. |
The scope of the work will be less defined upfront. Part of your job is to define how to implement the deliverables. Other tasks may be added in the process.
|More narrow scope of work, brought onboard to deliver the ‘scope of work’. |
Other tasks added in the process counts as ‘scope creep’, which eats into the project profitability.
|Way of working - eg. location, equipment, working hours.||Client has the right to dictate how you work. You may find this is onsite, in their office. They usually do this to supervise you, especially at first when they do not know your work ethic.||Client has less right to dictate how you work. You are completely accountable for ensuring you are using the correct equipment and your own work ethic.|
|Working with internal teams - Both must report progress to stakeholders.||More integrated into internal teams, subject to regular team/SCRUM meetings.||Remains somewhat distant, working with internal teams when necessary for short periods in the project.|
|Career progression - You are not a long term investment in the eyes of the organisation.||Unlikely to see career progression with one client, as you would not be in the engagement long enough for them to invest in you. |
What you work on is dictated by their business objectives.
|More in control over your next move. |
You can be selective about which project you work on with which clients. Not in line with your career objectives? Switch it up!
|Personal brand||No visibility for your brand because you will be ‘white-labelled’ (disguised as an internal team member)||More visibility for your brand because the organisation are hiring you as an external organisation.|
|Income security||Typical contract lengths ‘lock in’ an agreement for longer.|
Termination clauses in the contract usually offer more protection, eg. a two week paid notice period.
|Typical contracts are more volatile. |
Termination clauses in the contract usually offer less protection, eg. by immediate effect.