Start a Consulting Business

by John Riddle

How do you start a consulting business? What do consultants really do? Here's a good overview of consulting businesses and the steps you need to take to get started.

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Image source: BigStockPhoto.com

Looking for a business to start? One that doesn't require a lot of money to get started? If you have expertise and can help businesses solve problems, you may want to consider starting a consulting business.  According to a study published in 2012 by First Research,worldwide,  the consulting industry rakes in $300 billion annually.  While the really big bucks go to large consulting firms, there are many independent consultants who do quite well for themselves. How well - and how large a fee they command - depends on their industry, individual skill level, and how well they market themselves.

But, what does a consultant really do? And, what does it take to build a consulting business? Here are a number of facts that will help you decide if you have what it takes to start a successful consulting business

What Consultants Do

Consultants are hired on the basis of their expertise, and their ability to get the job done. Organizations hire consultants for a variety of reasons, including:

  • To identify problems -- Sometimes employees are too close to a problem to identify and deal with how to solve it. A consultant can come in and save the day.
  • To supplement the staff -- Sometimes a business discovers it can save lots of money by hiring consultants on a temporary basis, rather than hiring employees.
  • To bring new life to an organization - Often times a consultant is needed to "kick start" a company that has found themselves in a rut.
  • To teach a new skill -- Technology consultants are especially in demand, as companies are hiring them to teach their employees how to use the latest computers and other high tech gadgets.

While many people have a preconceived notion of what a consultant does, there are some common denominators that all consultants share. These include:

  • Listening skills -- When people talk, the consultant will listen. By paying careful attention to your clients' problems, you will be able to serve them well.
  • Investigative skills -- A good consultant will have the ability to investigate and uncover data necessary to meet the goals of their clients.
  • Action skills -- A good consultant will be ready to "take the bull by the horns" and do whatever it takes to get the job done.

Reasons to Become a Consultant

Although money is sometimes a key factor when someone decides to become a consultant, there are a few other reasons why more people are choosing this profession:

  • You are not living your dream -- Maybe your dream has been to work on your own, and to be your own boss. As a consultant, you are responsible for your career; not anyone else.

  • You are about to lose your job -- Job security is becoming a thing of the past, and for people who are about to get laid off, becoming a consultant is a viable way of earning a living and using their expertise.

  • You have a talent people will pay money for -- Whether you are an expert as a fundraiser, computer wizard or marketing guru, once you discover your talent, you will find an audience who will pay you to do what you do best.

  • You believe you can make a difference -- Many people become consultants because they know something in a particular field better than anyone else. And they use that knowledge to make a difference, either in the corporate or nonprofit world.

Steps to Becoming a Consultant

If the above information has you ready to say "yes" to becoming a consultant, congratulations, but take some time to create a plan before you hang out that shingle and start looking for clients. In other words, there are steps you should follow before launching your own consulting business, including:

  1. Assess your skills and talents -- People who want a career as a consultant should be aware of both their strengths and their weaknesses. Be honest when making a list; if you are not, you will end up with problems down the road.

  2. Decide on your specialty -- Do not make the mistake of deciding to become a consultant in a "hot" field just because there is a demand right now. Think carefully about where your interests lie, and how dedicated you believe you can be in serving other clients.

  3. Research your field -- If you want to become a computer consultant, carefully research everything about that field. Who uses computer consultants? How much money can they make? Will it be easy to find clients?

  4. Define your target audience -- No matter what type of consultant you have decided to become, you must define your audience. For example, will it be companies and large corporations, or individuals? Will it be nonprofit organizations or politicians?

  5. Take the plunge -- If you truly believe you are ready, then take the plunge and launch your consulting business. Be sure to obtain any local or national licenses that you might need, as well as paying careful attention to any zoning laws, especially if you will be operating your consulting business from your home.

Top Ten Consulting Businesses

According to the latest statistics, here are the top ten consulting businesses in the United States:

  1. Accounting -- Every business needs good accounting help, and many are hiring accounting consultants.

  2. Advertising -- With the price of advertising these days, it is no wonder that advertising consultants are in great demand.

  3. Career -- With more people finding themselves victims of corporate downsizing, career consultants are thriving.

  4. Computer -- From software to hardware and everything in between, if you know computers, you will have no problems finding clients.

  5. Executive search -- Despite the downsizing trend, headhunter consultants are in great demand these days.

  6. Human resources -- As long as businesses have people problems, there will always be a need for this type of consultants.

  7. Public Relations -- Getting good press coverage for any organization is a real asset for these types of consultants.

  8. Management -- If you can help a company manage their business and solve their problems, they will beat a path to your door.

  9. Insurance -- Every company needs insurance, and if this is your area of expertise, go for it.

  10. Education -- From helping a parent find scholarship and grant money to helping school districts cut costs, this field is also in great demand.

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Copyright 2013, Attard Communications, Inc.  All rights reserved. May not be reprinted in any media without permission from Attard Communications.

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