How to Hire the Best AI & Machine Learning Consultants

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) projects are the key to the success of many of today’s businesses. In our data-driven world, AI and machine learning provide incredibly valuable insights that were previously unattainable by humans alone. Companies that do not implement AI and ML projects risk falling behind the competition.

All of the major tech companies have entire departments dedicated to AI and ML, but so do many companies of all sizes, which use AI and ML to innovate their business models.

When you do decide to undertake some AI and ML development, it’s important to build the right team, starting with AI and machine learning consultants. By finding the right specialists, you reduce your risk and effort.

What are AI / ML Consultants?

As AI and machine learning continue to take over entire industries, beginning with the power of predictive analytics and processes, AI consulting firms are becoming even more important.

AI and machine learning consultants consist of qualified and experienced AI designers, developers, and other experts that help design, implement, and integrate AI solutions into the company’s business environment. They can provide, develop, and advise on a wide range of AI capabilities like predictive analytics, data science, natural language processing (NLP), computer vision, process automation, voice-enabled technology, and much more.

These consultants can evaluate the potential of data, software infrastructure, and technology to effectively deploy AI systems and workflows.

More Than a Data Scientist

When bringing on the best AI and machine learning consultants, you should look for specialists that go beyond just data science. Most AI and machine learning projects involve far more than data science. For example, they involve engineering and aggregating data and formatting it to teach an AI system.

These types of projects also often involve hardware, wireless, and networking, meaning the consultant should be an expert in the cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT). If you want to raise your chances of success even more, look for a consultant who understands the business implications of your requirements, and one that can discuss budgeting, planning, and solution architecture.

The Various Stages of Planning and Implementation

The role of AI and machine learning consultants can be broken down into a few main stages, but they are by no means the only stages.

Strategy Formulation

Your AI / ML consultant will start by understanding how the implementation of an AI project can help achieve business goals and drive commercial growth. This stage usually involves a lot of research, where you’ll work with the consultant to identify any bottlenecks or other challenges that the AI ​​solution could help address and solve. The consultant will also deliver a proof of concept that can help demonstrate the value of the AI ​​project to stakeholders.

AI and machine learning consultants usually formulate strategy by following these steps:

  • Understanding your company’s current status: The consultant analyzes your company’s strategy to understand its current status.
  • Creating a portfolio: The next step is to identify pain points and understand how AI can contribute to the success of your business.
  • Determining a project’s value: The vast majority of AI projects fail or do not generate value. The consultant will help your company predict the value of the project so that it does not invest more than the expected outcome.

Another aspect of the strategy stage is due diligence. It is important to have a solid understanding of the AI ​​marketing to conduct effective due diligence since AI success factors differ from those in other fields.

One of the reasons for this difference is that deep-learning based AI solutions require more or better labeled data. Unlike regular software, which improves as product owners learn from usage patterns, AI requires more unique data to improve the accuracy of model predictions.


Following the strategy stage, the consultant will move on to implementation, which relies on the determination of key areas where the technology can transform your business. This stage involves a comprehensive implementation plan, and the consultant will source the skills and tools needed to bring the AI ​​strategy to life.

The previous strategy stage can result in various initiatives, and implementation is better considered as multiple activities involving planning, vendor selection, development, project management, and more.

There are a few options when it comes to implementation. All of the services, or part of them, can be carried out by the consultant. Another option is to carry out the implementation in-house, which is often the case. With that said, if your company does not have the ability to implement certain initiatives, consultants help speed up the process up.


Once your AI solution is implemented, it’s important to maintain and scale it in-house. The best consulting projects improve the culture and skills of the company, which is crucial in the field of AI since talent can be hard to find.

The best AI and machine learning consultants ensure that after the project is implemented, the company’s teams are capable and knowledgeable about the technology and solutions. This often requires well documented and organized training materials, along with a knowledge transfer process.

Questions to Ask Before Choosing AI / ML Consultants

When considering AI and machine learning consultants for your company’s project, there are a few main questions you should pose to yourself and the company:

Is it going to be a positive return?

This is the first and most important question. You need to ensure that there is a high chance of positive return in the short run. You can achieve this by asking the consultant about short-run, medium-run, and long-run projections.

Does the company have the required human capital?

Following the creation of a solution, you will have to decide if it will be carried out in-house or outsourced. This means ensuring you have the right people with the right skills, which will make it easier to evaluate the performance of the consultant.

What’s the consultant’s experience?

Another main question involves the consultant’s experience. There are many AI and machine learning consultants on the market, both big and small. You need to consider your industry and ensure you select the right one. Each industry will have its own set of requirements, and a consultant’s experience is the best indicator of future performance.

How do AI / ML Consultants Price Services

The pricing of AI / ML consultant services will vary widely depending on which company or platform you go with. Many AI consulting companies also have their own AI products and technology. When it comes to these companies, they often offer AI consulting for free to boost their own products.

Other companies base the pricing around a few key factors:

  • Time and Material: The majority of AI and machine learning consulting projects are based on the time and materials needed for the project, which is estimated by the consultant. These prices are negotiated before the project begins.
  • Success: Some consultants base their prices on success. Success-based projects are not very common since they create uncertainty and imperfect measures. This is because many metrics do not measure success accurately. There are many unreliable factors like seasonality, unexpected recessions, workforce churn, and more.

The Rise of Freelance Networks Like Toptal

There is another option when it comes to hiring an AI and machine learning consultant: freelance networks and platforms. These exclusive networks have risen in popularity over the past few years thanks to their simplicity and wide-range of offerings.

One of the best options is to utilize the platform Toptal, which is an exclusive network of top freelance talent. It relies on AI to ensure companies find the best fit for their job, and the talent provided by the platform is among the top 3% in their respective fields.

Toptal provides one of the best ways to ensure you hire the top AI and machine learning consultants and talent. Toptal has served more than 6,000 customers in various industries, and it has provided talent to some of the world’s biggest names in business, such as AirBnB, Bridgestone, Walt Disney, and JPMorgan Chase.

The platform relies on an intensive screening process to help source talent, with the entire process only taking 0-3 weeks.

By hiring AI and machine learning consultants, you will set your business up for the greatest chance of success when implementing artificial intelligence solutions.

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