Microsoft Excel is a powerful business tool.
Organizations use spreadsheets to track, analyze, and report on data so extensively that most managers can’t imagine running a business without Excel!
Here’s the problem.
Even though many people who work in offices use Excel on a daily basis, some spreadsheet tasks require specialized skills. These projects call for someone with a deep knowledge of Excel and a proven track record of helping organizations achieve business goals.
While there are a variety of Excel training options available (both online and in-person), sometimes it’s more cost effective to hire an Excel consultant to build the templates or spreadsheets your organization needs
In this article, I’m going to answer the most common questions people have about Excel consultants. I’ll also talk about the different types of consulting organizations you can hire – so make sure you read the entire article!
What Is an Excel Consultant?
In many companies, employees will have basic Excel knowledge but they don’t spend all of their time working with complex calculations and summarizing massive amounts of data. In my experience, a typical employee doesn’t spend any time automating complex tasks with macros or VBA (Visual Basic for Applications).
Rather than hiring someone with specialized skills on a full-time basis, companies often hire a consultant.
An Excel consultant is someone with a thorough knowledge of Microsoft Excel. They’re frequently hired on a contract basis to work on a specific project. The most effective consultants have a background in accounting, business, or finance.
Think of an Excel consultant as ‘on demand’ expertise. Simply choose the best consultant for your company’s current needs then, after they finish working on your project, they move on and work for another client.
Why Do Companies Hire Excel Consultants?
Excel is undoubtedly the world’s most popular spreadsheet application.
Most people have at least a basic knowledge of Excel and, in every company, it seems like someone is the designated spreadsheet expert – whether they want the title or not!
With so many Excel users and a designated spreadsheet expert on staff, why do companies need to hire an Excel consultant?
It comes down to time and expertise. Most people who work with Excel have other responsibilities. Operations, finance, and sales tend to be full-time positions. Even if you happen to be the resident spreadsheet expert, that doesn’t mean you automatically have the skills to get Excel to query databases and manipulate huge data sets!
Companies hire consultants when existing staff don’t have the time or expertise to solve a specific problem. An Excel consultant is a good fit when it doesn’t make sense to hire a full-time employee with a specialized skillset.
While consultants may charge a high hourly rate for their services compared to full-time employees, keep in mind that companies only pay a consultant for the duration of a project.
Excel Consulting Services
Listing everything Excel consultants do is like trying to list everything Excel can do but here some common Excel consulting services.
- Automate tasks using macros and VBA
- Build templates to streamline workflow
- Check existing spreadsheets for errors
- Create charts to support data visualization
- Create dashboards for tracking key performance indicators
- Database integration
- Import data from various sources
- Provide training and support
- Recover corrupt files
- Remove duplicate records
- Summarize data using Pivot Tables and other reports
If you have a task that’s not on the list, it may be something an Excel consultant can do. A simple e-mail, online chat, or phone call is all it takes to find out!
Excel Consultant Hourly Rates
You need to build a few spreadsheets in order to make better business decisions. Your company has all of the data. You just need to summarize it in a way that will simplify your organization’s processes but no one on staff has come up with a workable solution.
It’s time to hire an Excel consultant but much should you expect to pay?
Excel consulting rates vary greatly. The location, size and scope of the project and a consultant’s skills and experience will all factor into the amount quoted for a given job. Rates start around $25 per hour for basic Excel tasks but can easily exceed $100 per hour for complex projects.
According to Shane Redlick, founder of Excel Rescue, “Excel consulting rates are all over the map. It’s not unusual to see US-based consultants charging up to $150 per hour.”
With such a wide range of rates in the marketplace, how do you choose an Excel consultant to work with? I recommend getting a minimum of 3 quotes before making a selection.
You may not end up choosing the lowest cost consultant but after talking with 3 Excel experts, you’ll have a much stronger sense of who you want to work with.
Hiring an Excel Consultant
Working with an Excel consultant can be an easy way to get a customized spreadsheet built that will meet your business needs. Even better, most consulting work can be done remotely.
You have 3 options when it comes to hiring an Excel consultant. You can hire an independent consultant, you can find a consultant through a marketplace, or you can choose a company that specializes in Excel consulting.
There are many independent Excel consultants available. A quick Google search for “Excel consultants near me” will likely return dozens of results.
There are talented and capable independent consultants working in virtually every country in the world, but you need a way to evaluate each one to determine whether a potential candidate is a good fit for your project.
That’s the disadvantage to searching for a consultant online.
It takes time to research each consultant’s abilities. Then you have to communicate your project requirements to them. If you eventually decide to engage one of the consultants from your shortlist, its always prudent to ask for references.
Searching for a consultant with a particular skillset becomes much easier on these marketplace sites because contractors’ profiles are displayed in a standardized format. Their skills are all listed and searchable.
I think the best thing about sites like Upwork or Fiverr is that you can instantly see which consultants are hired most often and they’re rated on every engagement they complete.
The disadvantage is a lack of screening. Anyone can claim to be an Excel expert and they may not be suitable for your project.
Professional Consulting Organizations
A professional consulting organization may be the best fit for your company’s requirements.
If you choose an organization where their entire business is built around working with Excel, there’s a much better chance they employ someone with the specific skills you’re looking for.
Here are 3 reasons I think a professional consulting organization provides excellent value for outsourced Excel tasks.
- Expertise. A consulting organization whose sole focus is working with Excel will have a lot of experience and they’re well positioned to attract the best talent in the industry.
- Simplicity. If a consulting firm has been around for a while, they’ll have processes in place for onboarding clients – and they’ll be easy to work with.
- Peach of mind. The best consulting organizations guarantee their services and offer support if you run into problems.
Hiring an Excel Consultant for Outsourced Excel Tasks
As with any service provider, I suggest you do your due diligence. Talk to an account manager or consultant from the company, check online reviews and client testimonials then ask for references.
Once you’re satisfied that the organization is a good fit for your project, you can move forward with confidence.