How To Land a Job As UX Consultant [Pros & Cons]

Akansha RukhaiyarAkansha Rukhaiyar | 7 minute read | September 19, 2022
What Does a UX Consultant Do?

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If you’re an experienced UX designer, then working as a UX consultant may sound appealing. As UX a consultant, you have flexible hours, and can take on whichever projects you please. And, like all freelance positions, your earning potential isn’t capped by salary constraints.

But there are some drawbacks to working as a UX consultant, and one of the biggest is that it can be difficult to get your foot in the door.

That’s why we’ve created this guide. Below, we’ll detail everything you need to know about landing a job as a UX consultant, so that you can decide for yourself whether or not this is the kind of career pivot you want to make.

Want to find out how to take the plunge from UX design to UX consulting? Then read on.

What Is a UX Consultant?

UX consultant
Source: Wish Deck

A UX consultant is a UX designer with a more business-oriented role. They deal with strategy and product management rather than executing UX-related tasks or being hands-on in UX projects.

What Does a UX Consultant Do?

UX consultant-what they do

A UX consultant helps clients fulfill their design goals through brainstorming sessions and milestone-building. They do this by auditing applications, websites, and other digital products to identify places where the design can be improved upon.

UX Consultant vs. UX Designer

UX consultant vs UX designer
Source: Medium

You can discern differences between a UX consultant and a UX designer based on the following:

Role

A UX consultant plays a recommendatory role by employing research methods and presenting findings or areas of improvement after evaluating a client’s digital product. A UX designer delves into task fulfillment rather than strategy. They are heavily involved in the UX design process and focus on specific user experiences rather than overall business outcomes.

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Salary

A UX consultant’s annual salary range is $84K-$161K. This range is location-dependent, with the cost of living determining the precise figure. In San Francisco, UX consultants who have worked in the industry for more than five years can easily make more than 200k per year.

UX consultant salary in USA
Source: Talent.com

Requirements

UX consultant-requirements

A UX consultant should be able to conduct usability testing, be knowledgeable of UX research methodologies, and have an understanding of user-centered design. A strong understanding of UX tools is also necessary. A UX designer should have fundamental UX research and design systems knowledge. They should be able to manage end-to-end user design for digital products.

UX Consultant: Pros and Cons

UX Consultant: Pros and Cons
Source: Environmental Conscience

Becoming a UX consultant comes with its share of advantages and challenges. You need to keep these in mind to make a well-informed decision:

Pros

Make Your Own Schedule

Since UX consultants can pick up multiple clients across various domains and need not work full-time with one company, they can set their hours. Your clients will not define your value by the hours you put in. You can set your hours as long as you can juggle client needs and provide them with high-level strategic analysis.

Set Your Own Rates

You can also set your own rates. If there’s a project that you’re on the fence about taking, then ask for more money!

Unlimited Learning

Since you have the independence to dip your toes in various assignments and industries, what you can learn is almost limitless. Each sector will come with unique needs and business goals related to user experience. Since you will be parlaying with the client as an external party, you will also learn how to manage expectations and projects. All this will contribute to unlimited learning for you.

Cons

Always Looking for Work

The career path of a UX consultant can be inconsistent. The flip side of having your client roster, hours, and rates is that you have to work towards not having a dry pipeline. You will spend considerable time pitching to clients and making connections. You can balance this aspect by building your clientele while still pursuing a stable UX design job.

Competitive To Get Started

It will take time to find your feet as a consultant since your design skills will not be enough to convince clients to hire you. You must build a reputation as a professional advisor who can guide and collaborate with product teams, research current trends, and brainstorm ideas.

Often the Person To Blame

Since it will usually be your ideas that get translated into actionable tasks, clients may trace the blame back to you if the deliverables don’t have the intended effect. They expect you to plug gaps and anticipate issues. You may still get blamed if you speak up and it’s not what the client wants (even though they should trust your expertise).

Testimonies From the Experts

If you’re curious about what it’s like to work as a UX consultant, then you might want to consider seeking out some expert testimony.

Check out the video from Ntima, who shares her experiences as a UX consultant at Deloitte. She talks about her job as a UX research consultant, how to get into user research, and how to decide between pursuing consulting or joining a design agency.

Another UX consultant, Matt Olpinski, had to say when he spoke about his freelancing journey:

“I started to understand design as a business investment and sell solutions rather than time or designs. I revised my proposals to be much more concise, and focus on the broad objectives rather than the hourly results. I also started charging per week instead of hourly to remove myself from the “commodity” mindset of the client.”

Finally, these three pieces of advice from Baruch Sachs, a UX designer with over a decade of UX experience, are an excellent mantra for all UX design consultants:

UX consultants testimonies
Source: UX Matters

How To Become a UX Consultant

  1. Get Some Experience First

  2. Set Your Rates Low

  3. Build Up a Portfolio and Referrals

  4. Specialize When You Can

  5. Network Whenever Possible

Becoming a UX consultant will require you to become a strong UX designer first.

This may involve joining a bootcamp. You must build a portfolio of projects you were actively engaged in. After that, once you have the technical skills down, you must do the following to become a UX consultant:

how to become a UX consultant

Get Some Experience First

When you’re starting out, focus on gaining expertise. If possible, get this experience on the side while simultaneously working a 9 to 5 UX design job to build your skills. Explore as many projects as possible to determine what interests you and what doesn’t.

Set Your Rates Low

When you’re first starting out, it’s easier to attract clients if you can offer great work for a low price. Then, once you’ve got some experience as a UX consultant, you can charge a bit more.

Build Up a Portfolio and Referrals

As you start getting projects, create a portfolio with the ones that are centered on your contributions. You do not need to include all your projects. Get referrals and testimonials too. The rapport you create with your current clients can lead to months of leads.

Specialize When You Can

Identify which industries you enjoyed working with the most or the kinds of projects you consistently see yourself doing in the future. Once you decide on your ideal client, you can specialize and command higher rates.

Network Whenever Possible

Whether you are working independently or as part of a consulting firm, the relationships you build will be critical to your career trajectory. Engage with prospects or simply share valuable advice on platforms like LinkedIn to build a community that sees you as an authority in UX strategy.

FAQs About Becoming a UX Consultant

We have the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about UX consultant jobs:

Are UX Consultants in Demand?

Yes, especially senior UX designers-turned-consultants are in high demand. Companies need UX designers who understand business opportunities and challenges and can contribute beyond product design.

Do UX Consultants Make a Lot of Money?

UX consultants can make a lot of money. Even when deciding to work as freelancers, it can take a while before that money starts coming in. So many start consulting on the side while still working their day job.

Can You Become a UX Consultant Without Any Experience?

Becoming a UX consultant without amassing some experience as a UX designer is not advisable. The more hands-on experience you have in the trenches as a UX designer, the more nuanced and layered your insights as a UX consultant will be.

Remember, you don’t need experience to become a UX designer, but no company will hire a consultant who doesn’t have practical experience for at least 3-4 years. This experience has to be diverse in nature since, as a UX Consultant, you will give input in various spheres of UX design.

Organizations look at the scope of projects you have been involved in and the diversity of UX tools you have used in the past. These will indicate the results you can bring as a consultant.

Can UX Consultants Land Full-Time Jobs?

Yes, UX consultants can either be freelancers or full-time employees, although the former is more common.

If you want the stability of a full-time job as a UX consultant (you will lose out on the pros of UX consultancy that we mentioned, though), consider looking up roles with the keywords “UX Consultant” + “full-time”.  You will find that most full-time positions are limited to big companies (the likes of Deloitte and McKinsey) or are full-time for a fixed short-term project period.

By nature, consultancy will be full-time for the short-term, conventionally full-time at a big corporation, or contractual in the long-term. This is why UX consultants usually freelance. Assess the pros and cons we highlighted earlier against your priorities to make your choice.

Since you’re here
If you want to work in design, you can. It’s that simple. With our UX Design Course, you’ll launch your career in design in 9 months or less – guaranteed. Browse our free UX salary guide to see what you could be making

Akansha Rukhaiyar

About Akansha Rukhaiyar

Akansha is a freelance writer for SaaS B2B brands, with a parallel interest in writing for mental health services and education websites. She has worked with globally diverse clients and loves to incorporate The Office references in her writing in the most accessible ways