In our current Information Age, computers have all the data companies could ever want, and then some. Advertising companies in particular know more about their markets than ever before. The question is, what to do with all that knowledge. To turn raw data into insight-driven campaigns and other creative business endeavors, the world relies on creative consultants, a mostly freelance cadre of lateral thinkers who bring human insight to digital data and infuse sterile business plans, blueprints, patterns, scripts and other projects with that particular magic that only human creativity can bring.
A creative consultant is a person brought into a project to add insights from an artistic, syncretic perspective. They are the left brain to business's right brain.
Because so many fields can benefit from creative consultants, they may find themselves working in many different industries. It's common to see creative consultants thanked in movie credits, for example, where a story consultant was brought in to punch up a script. A design consultant may design an unforgettable logo, or a scientific creative consultant might imagine what life on other planets is like or create an alien language. Television consultants are common, adding expert perspective to shows about complex issues such as hacking or international politics. It can be fun work, and you might even score a cameo.
Creative consultants also work in fashion, helping designers with specific details of outfits, and occasionally designing an entire minor line, such as accessories.
Industrial design is another field with opportunities for creative consultants. Helping design anything from high-end bathroom fixtures for studios like Splashworks San Jose to mountaineering gear for Arc'Teryx, industrial creative consultants tend to specialize in one industry, although if they're a big enough name, they can break out and work for multiple industries.
Advertising uses creativity consultants extensively as content consultants, generating ad copy, as does the field of marketing, to create reports, snazzy presentations and campaigns. You may be brought in for a particular campaign, even head it up, and then part ways at the end of the allotted project. You may work with a company on a part-time consulting contract for years, giving input on everything they do.
You can also consult with corporations directly about creativity, running creativity workshops for executives and managers, organizing creativity-focused retreats, or touching base to review programs and projects to ensure that they are keeping creativity alive in the company.
Because the field is so wide, and the opportunities so specific, there are no set educational minimums for a career as a creative consultant, although if you want to join an agency, a degree in your field, such as fashion or industrial design, is a big help.
Whether you go it alone or join an agency, you need an impressive portfolio of accomplishment in your field. The creative consultant brought into the TV show "The Blacklist" to consult on issues of hacking and security happened to be the first person in the world arrested for his work with the Anonymous hacking collective. Fashion consultant Isabella Blow had worked in fashion magazines, where she helped to discover some of the biggest names in the industry, before teaming up with Alexander McQueen.
School provides an excellent opportunity to build up your portfolio, but it is possible to break through without any academic qualifications whatsoever, provided your portfolio or track record is good enough.
The industry outlook for creative consultants depends on the industry itself, but as the world switches from a corporate model to a gig economy model, more and more jobs in any industry are going to be open to consultants. Companies are more open to working with individual consultants than they used to be and often look to them to provide creativity training on corporate retreats or an ongoing basis.
Years of Experience and Salary
The average yearly income of creative consultants is $61,280, but it can be as little as $16,000 or as much as $126,000 depending on their ability to land clients.
Consultants who are free agents aren't paid a salary. They receive consulting fees, which are usually based on a quote per project, but which can be broken down to a rough approximation of an hourly wage. Between 30 to 50 percent of your time is spent marketing your services, doing administration work and other non-revenue-generating tasks. Immediately, you see that your consulting rate should be 30 to 50 percent higher than a salary for a given job. Because you set your rate, rather than work your way up a corporate ladder, the relationship between years of experience and salary is not direct, and there may be no correlation at all.
ZipRecruiter gives the average hourly wage for a creative consultant at anywhere between $21 and $29 depending on the state. It also lists the average yearly income of a creative consultant as $61,280, indicating that there are some low earners and a significant lump of high earners making six figures a year in the field.
These factors indicate that many creative consultants are doing a lot of overtime, and because consultants don't get paid time and a half, the field is not a good choice for people who prefer to work an eight-hour day.
Job Growth Trend
Job growth as a creative consultant depends on the specific industry. Job growth as a creative consultant depends on the specific industry. If you choose to specialize in the shrinking field of passenger rail, you may have to look overseas for opportunities. For fields such as entertainment, the outlook is rosier indeed. Pick a growing industry, and you'll find your opportunities increase geometrically.