How much does an environmental consultant cost?

Blog Post by Karen Wallis 03 September 2014

Find out what determines the price you pay for an environmental consultant and how much it will cost.

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Do you find that consultancy and training providers seem reluctant to provide their pricing structures? We’ve all done it haven’t we - googled training providers or consultancy services and come up with a great list of services but no £££ signs! How often does it put you off?

Hopefully by the end of this article you’ll have a clearer idea of what factors are at play in hiring an environmental consultant and criteria you need to consider when comparing quotes so you get the best quality service you can afford.

I believe one of the reasons consultancies are reluctant to state prices is that there is a risk the conversation ends there or the website page gets shut down without them having a chance to explain what value of service they’d actually be delivering for that quoted figure. For some people price will always be the one and only criteria but it really shouldn’t be and I’d like you to think about viewing it in a different way.

Service before price

First things first, any consultant worth their salt should give you an initial consultation free of charge to find out exactly what your needs are and how they can help. They should then use that information to come up with cost-effective support tailored to those needs.

As a consultant myself, the age old question “how much do you charge?” is a genuinely difficult one to answer. There are so many variables. Yes, I can tell you my day rate but by itself, it’s pretty meaningless. So my response to that question is always “what are you looking for?” because only then can I work out how much it will cost and give you a constructive answer to your question.

A good consultant will approach their pricing with an emphasis on the value of the service delivery. They should have spent time with you identifying your problems and issues before developing a solution. Pricing should only happen when you agree that the proposed solution is what is needed – so when I’m talking to a client the answer to the price question comes after the discussion about what they need.

Do you want ‘off the shelf’ or bespoke?

I’ve just said a good consultant should deliver a service that’s tailored to you. This is the approach I like to take because it gives the client more ownership of the project and builds their competence and knowledge levels – maybe I’m doing myself out of a job! I know this approach can be perceived as more costly but with this option you should only be paying for exactly what you need and no more (if the consultant’s done their job right). You should get a fully bespoke service that meets your needs entirely.

We can’t ignore the other option though – ‘off the shelf’. There’s a plethora of ‘off the shelf’ services on offer which can be perceived to be the cheaper option. However, what you need to consider is that an ‘off the shelf’ service will never fully meet your needs - you’ll still have to spend time tailoring it to you; maybe not the easier, more cost effective option after all? ‘Off the shelf’ costs vary significantly and if you’re going to go down this route make sure you see examples of work and get references from other clients. The last thing you need is to pay for an expensive system only to find it’s no good and you have to rewrite it yourself.

Compare approaches and pricing strategies

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Different consultants take different approaches to the same problem and use different pricing strategies; this can make your life difficult in trying to compare like for like!

Pricing can be based on:

  • How many people will be required to carry out the work?
  • How urgent is the work?
  • How specialist is the service you require / what level of experience is needed?
  • How many consultants offer the service you require?
  • The less consultancies that offer it, the more money it can command.
  • Where are the consultancies you’re looking at based? Where are you based?
  • Geographical location can have a big influence on price.
  • Which consultancies are you looking at?
  • Larger consultancies based in big cities with well established reputations can command higher fees; there are bigger overheads to account for after all! However, a higher price doesn’t always equate to better customer service or quality of work delivered; don’t discount local consultancies that can offer better face-to-face support or lower costs (because equally, lower costs don’t necessarily mean poorer service).

When it comes to pricing, you’ll also need to consider what the figure you’ve been quoted actually includes so you can make a more educated comparison between quotes:

  • Does the price include expenses? If so, what is covered by expenses (travel, hotels, subsistence, materials, etc.) and how much do they anticipate this will be?
  • Do proposals cover similar amounts of work? A cheaper proposal may actually only be cheaper because they’re not providing a comparable level of support.

What happens to the money you’re paying?

Some consultancies have strong corporate social responsibility agendas and reinvest their profits into local communities. Your own CSR agenda might mean you’d prefer to work with this sort of consultancy.

So hopefully, that’s given you some food for thought when it comes to choosing an environmental consultant and understanding what those costs are based on. Like I said at the start, I can tell you my day rate if you want but isn’t it better that I find out what you actually need and make an informed quote based on that?

Oh go on then…’re still looking for a number, I can tell! In my experience of a wide variety of consultancies and services, day rates tend to start around £600 and climb to £1000+. But now you know that this tells you very little and that there’s more to it than just a number, you’re going to look at those proposal quotes a little differently, aren’t you?


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