As a business consultant, it will be your job to advise other business owners in how to best do their business. With such a big job on your shoulders, you’d better have your own business affairs well in hand before starting out.
Whether you aim to consult clients about legal matters, marketing, accounting, finance or any other aspects of their businesses, here’s how to get started creating a consulting business.
Develop your niche
Business consultants don’t typically start out in that role, but instead come from some other professional line of work. But even if you’ve worked in a professional capacity, you still need to decide exactly what type of consulting work you want to do. If you’ve been an accountant, for example, don’t just market yourself as an “accountant consultant.” Instead, choose a niche within the world of accounting. For example, focus on tax preparation or auditing, for example.
Get the expertise to prove it
If you don’t already have some credentials or abbreviations behind your name, it could really lend some credibility to what you’re doing. Look for associations, credentialing or other certification within your particular niche of business consulting to find out what’s out there. If you’re a security consultant, for example, you might join the International Association of Professional Security Consultants, while a management consultant might seek membership in the Association of Management Consulting Firms.
Choose your business structure
Before you go out and start marketing your services, you’ll naturally need to spend some time focusing on the details of the business. That includes registering as a corporation or sole proprietorship, if you’re doing business in the U.S., or filing for a similar status in the country in which you’re based. This portion of starting the business also requires you to think about how you’ll bill clients. It might be tempting to bill by the hour and milk each job for all its worth -- but that’s not the way to impress your clients. Instead, set a relatively high upfront fee, accompanied by a promise to deliver certain results by a certain date. When you accomplish those results, broker a new deal with the client -- since now that client knows your worth -- or move on to working with new clients.
Put on your networking face
Joining associations or clubs related to consulting and to your particular niche is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to networking. When you’re finally in the throes of this business, you’ll probably find that looking toward the next gig takes up half of your time -- or more. Joining the local chamber of commerce, setting up a booth at trade shows and being active on social media channels are just some of the ways to get started networking, along with attending any functions or business-related events particular to your area.
Get support when you need it
Whether it’s from fellow consultants or people in the industry whom you trust, working on your own can be a lonely venture -- and one that means you often have to make difficult decisions on your own. While you’re out there networking, look for the people who won’t necessarily be potential clients -- and maybe not even potential competition either -- but who can lend a hand or offer you a piece of helpful advice when you really need it. Having that type of support network can really help when you’re thinking of throwing in the towel and going back to the world of full-time work.
Last of all, be sure you have at least six months of living expenses in the bank before you set out. With the right setup and good networking, you’ll soon be on your way to a successful consulting business -- but you don’t want to run out of funds before the clients start rolling in.
Image courtesy Nappiness, Flickr