Businesses are using consultants with more and more frequency. Are you an expert in your field? Do you publish, teach or advise in a specific discipline? If you do, becoming a consultant might be a lucrative career step for you. To start a consulting business you will need documented expertise, a small amount of business capital, business organizational skills and a tenacious drive to succeed.
Decide what skills you want to offer, then focus on your area of expertise. Most consultants have years of experience, have worked as educators, or published work in their field. If there is an area of knowledge where people often seek your advice, this is a good place to start. Find out what type of license or certification you may need to consult in this field by searching online or asking similar professionals.
Make a business plan. Define your goals, business structure and financial projections. Business plans are not set in stone and may change as your business grows, but a plan will help you remain focused.
Choose a company name. Depending on your field, you may use your own name or last name as your business name. Other businesses do well with names that describe what they do. For example, J.D. Marsten Financial Consultants might be just right for the financial industry. A marketing consultant might choose a name like Market Masters, which is more indicative of what they do.
Focus on what distinguishes you. Choose a consulting niche that focus on one area, like retail sales growth or risk management consultant instead of just “business consultant.” This will help potential clients seek out your services. Travel consultants might focus on a specific country, like China or a region, such as the Middle East and seek out clients who do business in those places.
Believe in what you are doing. Enthusiasm should shine through every piece of marketing material and every conversation you have. Consult on things you feel good about, and have a genuine interest in seeing your client’s success. Business is about relationships, so build good relationships and the money will follow.
Target your niche market. Pinpoint a problem in your market, then offer a solution. Security consultants may discover that banks need software to detect online fraud. Wardrobe consultants may find that female clients need clothes that are both professional and feminine. Legal consultants may choose a market that represents the most pressing legal issues of their area, such as foreclosure, medical malpractice, or insurance claims.
Set up your office. Start with a home office to keep costs down, if possible. Consultants often work in the field, so prime office space is not required. You need things such as a business phone, computer, printer, business cards, web site and a business license to get started. You also need time to work on your business.
Organize your business. Get a calendar. Set aside time each day to work solely on your consulting business. When you are not working for clients, work on administrative tasks such as marketing, research or accounting. Create a standard contract that outlines your rates and services for clients. Update this as needed. Have a plan for daily, weekly and monthly administrative duties.
Stick with it. Most businesses take at least a year and sometimes 3 to 5 years to become profitable. Keep working toward your goals. Push forward with a positive attitude. Don’t give up too soon; your own belief in the success of your business is a key to making it work.
Publish something. Writing a book, software or teaching curriculum can help establish you as an expert in your field. It also serves as a marketing tool for your business.