You’ve spent a good part of your career working and excelling in a particular field, and now you’re ready to take your skills out on your own and share them with other companies or individuals. If that’s the case, you may be looking to create your own consulting business. Starting any type of business can be a challenge, but starting a company with the goal to help others run their own can have unique challenges.
Still, work processes are becoming more complex and globalized — the need for consultants has really never been greater. Here’s how to begin if you want to start your own consulting business.
Steps to Start a Consulting Business
To identify a niche for the type of consulting you want to do, you will want to begin by assessing your strengths and skill set. Consultants are usually hired to help businesses solve issues and challenges they’re unable to solve themselves. They believe these issues and challenges can be solved once to avoid an ongoing issue, which is why they are looking specifically for a consultant (instead of hiring internally).
It’s important that as a consultant, you have deep knowledge in a specific area so you can offer value to your clients. Assessing your strengths to figure out where you can help is important, and it’s also worth taking a look at any weaknesses you may have so you can be prepared and fill in those gaps.
Once you understand your specific set of skills, there are several things to consider:
- Market Needs: Now that you’ve found your niche, do you know what kinds of questions, problems and pain points these businesses have? For example, if you specialize in software migration, you may anticipate that a company is hoping for a seamless transition with little to no downtime when switching programs. Dong the research ahead of time will also help you solidify that there is a need for the specific type of consulting you plan to do. Research online, and read blogs or thought leadership articles. Check out LinkedIn to see if there are any forums or groups around a particular issue. Don’t forget to tap into your own network, too.
- Marketing: As a consultant, you will be responsible for growing your client base, and there are many things you can to do jumpstart your marketing efforts. Try a webinar or develop a free tool like a whitepaper or checklist, which will help prospects understand the value you can provide (while building your email list). Or consider starting a blog to help direct traffic to your website. The more value you can show a prospect, the more likely they will become a lead and potential client.
- Certifications and Special Licensing: Depending on the industry you choose, you may need a specific certification or license before you can officially become a consultant. For example, if you specialize in human resources, there is a certification from the HR Certification Institute.
- Tools: If some of your clients are not local, you will need to invest in video conferencing tools as a way to connect with them. There are also many different platforms out there for project management, file sharing, accounting and more. Consider plenty of options for helping your small business function efficiently, stay organized and deliver results.
- Proposals: A necessary step in bringing on a new client is writing a proposal. Usually this happens right before a client signs on and will allow you to effectively close your sale. In a client proposal, you can outline how you will service your client and help them solve the challenges they’ve shared with you in your initial meetings. It will include a complete project scope, timeline, deliverables, pricing and budget, as well as how you will measure your results. This proposal will be your guideline for the project and service as part of your contract agreement.
- Pricing: As mentioned above, your proposal will outline the pricing for your services. For new consultants, this can sometimes be a challenge. Research your industry and what your competition looks like — you want to have competitive pricing, but you don’t want to undercut the value of your services. Be sure to include all costs associated with running your business so you know that your pricing incorporates them (otherwise you’ll risk losing more money than you would be making).
- Goals: Lastly (but most importantly), you need to establish your short- and long-term goals. What do you want your business to look like in five years? Do you envision working alone or hiring staff? Are you running your business virtually now with the thought of setting up a storefront eventually? All of these questions can be answered in a business plan, which will help you document your future and how you plan to accomplish it.
Once you’ve decided to become a consultant, don’t forget to set up your business as a legal entity. Starting your own business can be a challenge, but Incfile is here to guide you in the right direction, helping you quickly and easily form your LLC. Contact Incfile and start your business today for a little as $49 + state fees.