There is hardly anyone on the face of the earth who will not enjoy the idea of basking in the euphoria and joy that freedom brings. Billions of people all over the world and countless countries, not minding if small or big, are always seeking for one form of freedom or the other, be it social, economic, political, financial, religious or mental freedom.
All forms of freedoms are important, but I don’t think there is a form of freedom that is as important to mass of people all over the world as financial freedom.
It is very key to note that freedom comes with a price, hence not everyone is free and not everyone will eventually become free.
However for the purposes of this practical guide, we will be looking at financial freedom, and be narrowing our focus on starting a consulting business as a way to create a stream of income and thereby attaining financial freedom.
It was a wise man who said, “Those who pay the price will take home the prize” as to win without risk is to triumph without glory. We will therefore be providing a step by step guide on how to start a consulting business in 2021 and beyond.
We will look at what business consulting is, what it takes to start a consulting business and how to profit from a consulting business, thereby creating the financial freedom that you have always wanted.
A consultant according to the dictionary is an expert in a particular field who works as an adviser either to a company or to another individual.
Our world has changed and is changing fast every day at the speed of light, this implies that the amount of information that bombards our senses and sensibilities are to say the least, very intimidating and overwhelming. Because of this, businesses certainly understand what it means to have consultants, which according to our definition, they have expert knowledge, which they use to help businesses swim through the tide of uncertainties.
If you have the skills to start a consulting business or you are willing to learn, then there are lots of areas you can take advantage of, as providing expert knowledge in these areas, will help businesses do better, make you your own boss and also help you attain financial freedom.
Top areas you can become a consultant
Although you can be a consultant in just about any field these days, the current top consulting businesses include:
- Accounting: Every small or large business needs accounting services, you can start your business consulting service by helping them sort out their finances.
- Advertising: Advertising is the right to choose, and every business wants the right copy that can deliver. If you have what it takes to run a strategic advertising campaign, then you will never run out of clients if you become an advertising business consultant.
- Auditing: As a consultant you can provide auditing services for both small and large businesses.
- Business writing: Do you have the flair for writing? If you can write reports, memos, then you should take up the task and become a business writing consultant.
- Career counselling: People more often than not, are always on the cross-roads, with regards to their next move, when they become victims of downsizing for instance, or when they become frustrated with their present career, so if you are a career counsellor, you can guide them in these moments of decision.
- Communications: As a business consultant, you can help employees in both large and small businesses communicate better with each other, and better communication will lead to smoother operations for the business, so your services will always be highly needed.
- Computer programmer: From software to hardware, and everything in between, you will have a very big good problem in your hand, which will be not having enough time in your hands, because of the huge number of clients you will be serving.
- Executive search/headhunter firms: Every company want to hire the brightest and the most brilliant, you can become a business consultant by helping businesses head hunt for the best candidates.
- Grant writing: Many start-ups are always not getting approved for grants, because they don’t meet up with the tedious application requirements, if you are good in writing grants, then you will forever be in business as a grant writing business consultant.
- Human resources: Managing humans is one of the most difficult tasks, because of the diversity and different world views in a work place, so the peoples’ problem will always remain. So if you have peoples’ management skills, you will never run out of corporate clients. So do you have any people-problem prevention program you can use as a model to start business consulting service?
- Insurance: Life is filled with so much uncertainties, hence, everyone needs insurance cover to help them cushion the effects of life exigencies. So why not become an insurance business consultant.
- Marketing: No matter how beautiful a product or service is, without marketing it, nobody will know about them. So can you write a good business marketing plan? Do you have creative ideas on how a company can sell or promote their products and services? Then you should become a marketing business consultant.
- Payroll management: The reason why people go to work is to get paid. Imagine the frustration of someone missing out on payment, simply because of someone not properly handling the payroll system? You can use your expertise in payroll management and offer services to many companies and save many from frustrations.
- Public relations: The image in the hearts of the consumers informs their purchase decisions. If you have what it takes to create or recreate the perception in the eyes of people about a product or company, you can become a public relations consultant.
- Publishing: As a publishing consultant, you can help companies launch newspapers, newsletters, magazines, etc. so if you have the skills, you can set up store as a business consultant.
We have been able to highlight the different areas, where you can take advantage of your expertise and start a business consulting service, but it is very important to note that, what separates a good and bad consultant is passion and drive for excellence. So how will you become a consultant if you are not knowledgeable?
In order to test your knowledge and decide, if you have what it takes to become a business consultant, you should be willing to answer the following questions:
- What certifications and special licensing will I need?
No company or client will hire a consultant who does not have the requisite skills and training. Each profession have different certifications and licenses, so before you get out to become a business consultant, you must ask yourself, do I have the required certificates, permits and licenses to operate in my field? Depending on your state or country, some may require that you register your business before you start your business consulting services.
- Am I qualified to become a consultant?
Directly related to have the certifications and licenses is the question if you are qualified to be a business consultant. This goes beyond your academic qualifications and training, but more so, do you have deep knowledge of trends, how is your ability to respond to issues and do you have the willingness to keep learning daily?
- Am I organised enough to become a consultant?
Business consultancy is simply helping businesses plan every aspect of their business. But how can you help a business plan if you cannot even plan your day? So the big question that need answers is, are you a good time manager? How do you plan your day?
- Do I like to network?
Imagine someone who is shy in meeting new people? The question is, do you have what it takes to network? There is no doubt that networking is key to the success of any type of consultancy business today. So you cannot become a good business consultant, if you cannot build a network of contacts.
- Have I set long-term and short-term goals?
Starting a business consulting services requires setting up short and long term goals. So do you have the strength to match up with your short and long term goals?
Reasons why Business Consultants are hired
– To identify problems and proffer solutions
– To supplement staff
– To act as a catalyst.
– To provide needed objectivity.
– To teach
– To execute what may be called the “dirty job”
– To bring new life to an organisation
– To create a new business
– To act as an influence
We promised that we will provide massive value in this guide. So we have been able to tell you who a business consultant is, the top areas where you can set up shop as a business consultant, reasons why a consultant is hired and the key questions, you must answer before you become a successful business consultant.
We will have to look at the practical steps you must take to make your consulting business a success and a profitable venture.
- Set up Income and Billing system
Knowing or not knowing how to bill your clients will make or mar your business. So now that you have made up your mind to start your consulting business, you need to have a deep knowledge of how much you will bill your clients, as charging too much or too little will determine if you succeed or fail.
You must therefore endeavour to find that middle ground when it comes to billing your clients, so as to bring about fairness. As someone starting out, you can pose as a client, then call a competitor, requesting for a brochure and their rates, as this will give you an idea of what to charge.
Now that you have an idea of what to bill your clients, please make sure you capture all expenses, including miscellaneous, before arriving at the final amount, as it will not make any business sense, if after billing your clients and payment is made, you then suddenly realised that you did not factor in some expenses into the final charge.
As a guide in setting up your rates, you may decide to adopt any of the following billing methods.
- Hourly Fees
You may decide to bill your clients on an hourly basis. But when going with the route of hourly basis, you should ensure that your rate is not too high that will make your offer not to be considered or too low, that will make them see you as not been serious.
The key is to use the value you will provide to determine your hourly rate.
- Project Rates
You may decide to charge your client on project basis, which makes you charge a fixed amount for a pre-determined period of time.
- Retainer Basis
Aside the hourly or fixed rate project basis, you can also decide to set a monthly fee for an agreed number of hours you will work within the month.
You should be aware that a company, which decides to hire you on a retainer basis, may have a clause in the contract preventing you from working for their competitor during the period of the retainer ship. So make sure all terms of the contracts are clear before signing any deal.
The role of marketing in any business setup cannot be overemphasised. No matter how skilful you are, or how nicely you have set up your business consulting service, if people are not aware of what you offer, it is then as good as not setting up a business at all.
The bitter truth is, if your consulting business has no clients, then you have no business at all. Therefore selling your consulting business is not the same as selling a shoe in a high street shop. In selling a shoe for instance, the customers are already in need of a shoe and will walk into your shop to buy one, but that is not the case with consulting business.
Marketing a business consulting service is a hard nut to crack, but if you adopt the following marketing strategies, you will be able to quickly walk your way into the heart of businesses that needs your consultancy services.
- Use of Brochures
There are basic things your brochure should be able to project about your business:
– It should tell what your services are.
– State why you are the best.
– Give reasons why you should be hired.
– It should carry your biography with regards to your business.
– It should have information about your satisfied clients/testimonials.
* Cold Calling
Many will argue that cold calling no longer work, but you should be willing to do whatever it takes to make it work.
You can make cold calling work if you:
- Prepare a script ahead of time.
- Find a way to reach the decision maker and you can be creative about this. Bonus tip: Call the decision maker before the secretary gets to the job, as the decision maker may likely take their calls before the secretary resumes or when she closes from work.
- Limit your cold calls to just several days each month.
How much of advertising you do, will be directly related to how much budget is available to you. So you can speed some money on advertising using google ads, Facebook, newspapers/classifieds, etc., if you can afford it.
Depending upon the type of services you offer, you may also decide to advertise in specialised trade journals or magazines.
As a business consultant, you will probably have enough knowledge and information to produce a newsletter. Producing and distributing a newsletter will help you attract potential clients. You may decide to hire a freelancer to help you produce the newsletter if you don’t have the time. Please note that when it comes to newsletters, content is more important than design.
To generate ideas for your newsletter, you can get a collection of newsletters published in your field and review them.
Newsletters are still an effective means of communication and, by all indications, newsletter represent probably one of the best advertising medium for you to sell your services.
- Public Speaking
If you live in a town or city with a chamber of commerce, and depending on the business consulting services that you render, you can use public speaking to build a reputation and in the process attract new clients to your business.
So look for opportunities to be a speaker on luncheons, dinners or any other special occasion.
- Ask for Referrals
Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals as this is also a way you can get new clients. Once you have been able to find your first client, at that happy moment when they are happy and satisfied with the service you just delivered, use that opportunity to ask for a referral.
You can create a simple note to give to clients, asking for names of friends, associates, family or any name they can think of that might need your services.
3. Create Systems
To make your business consulting service a success, you must put a system in place, to prevent you from starting each new project from scratch.
You should create a data-gathering form, a proposal template, a set of on-boarding questions, and description of services, which you can always modify for each new client.
Creating a template for instance, will ensure that you work:
- Maintain quality
- Have a consistent approach for working with all clients
You can check out the following Associations before starting your consultancy business:
- Airport Consultants Council
- Association of Professional Consultants
- Association of Professional Communications Consultants
- Consultants Mall
- Institute of Management Consultants USA
- National Association of Business Consultants
- National Association of Computer Consultant Businesses
- Professional & Technical Consultants Association
- Public Relations Society of America
We promised from the beginning that we will deliver value that will give you the right footing to start and profit from starting a business consulting service. We are deeply convinced that in this practical guide, we have been able to deliver on this promise.
Our question to you now is, what is stopping you from starting a business consultancy service? Action is cure and until you take it everything will remain the same. Be bold and take that step today!
What are your thoughts concerning this guide and do you have a business idea, you want us to write about? Let us know in the comment section.