If you have attained a certain level of expertise and skills, it is probably time to start your own consulting firm. No matter what your area of specialization is, all consultants seeking to start a consulting business need to follow a specific structure. In this article, let us take a step-by-step look at how to start from the scratch.
1. Do a SWOT Analysis
Do you have the personality it takes to be a consultant? Consultants need to be patient, open to risks, ready to interact with all kinds of people, including unfriendly ones, and most importantly, they have to be hard-working. A SWOT analysis helps you to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, explore opportunities and be mindful of threats. When you do a SWOT analysis, begin to ask questions that may seem difficult at first.
Your skills and expertise will always be your greatest strengths. Try to find out what your weaknesses are and fill the gaps as quickly as possible. Study your market and explore what opportunities it provides, and what threats you have stacked up against you.
2. Get Your Certifications, Qualifications and Licenses in Order
Whether you are a clinical psychologist or an accountant, or another kind of consultant, you will need to ensure that you meet your local authorities’ licensing and certification requirements. Get your qualifications in order and ensure that all your credentials are up to date.
3. Business Structure and Operations
In the USA, you can register your consulting firm as a sole proprietor, a corporation or as LLPs/LLCs.
All you need to do is start offering your consulting services. However, you will be personally liable for any legal liabilities that may arise.
You could register as a professional service corporation, and this form of business will provide you with the safety of being a corporate entity. You will not be personally liable in case legal challenges arise. However, the process of registering an S-corporation is tedious.
Limited liability company/partnership (LLC/LLP)
LLCs and LLPs are similar to corporations but are much easier to register. We feel, registering as either an LLC or an LLP is the smartest way to start a consulting business. LLCs and LLPs offer tax benefits, have a simple structure, and provide similar scope for growth as corporations do.
4. Seek Tax-Related and Legal Help
Registering an LLC or LLP involves a decent amount of paperwork. You will also need assistance regarding taxes, legalities and regulations. At this stage, seek the help of an attorney and a tax specialist. This may cost you money, but this is money well spent.
5. Begin to Network, Partner, Collaborate
Even before you start your business in a full-fledged manner, start networking with individuals and businesses that are in your field, and also those who may seek your services. If you can, try to partner with a larger firm so that you will gain access to a larger pool of clients. Collaborating with peers is another idea, which might help you reduce operational costs of your consulting business.
6. Get an Office
Depending on what kind of clients you meet on a regular basis, and what your services entail, you will have to get an appropriate office. If your LLP does not employ anyone except you, and if all of your clients contact you over email or Internet, you can very well work from home, and call it your office. However, if you occasionally see clients, it helps to have a formal office, or at least rent it on a need basis. There are real estate agencies which help consulting firms to find offices that range from renting a space for a few hours to yearly agreements. If you do get a permanent office, make sure that it looks presentable.
7. Consider StaffingEven if you operate on your own, you might want to consider hiring staff. Most office functions such as taking calls, marketing, appointment-scheduling, etc can be done by a receptionist or a secretary. If you do not wish to hire a full-time employee, you can seek the services of a virtual receptionist, a service that we offer at Abby Connect. You can focus on building your business and delivering top-notch services, while our virtual receptionists take care of appointment scheduling, receiving and making calls, and taking notes.
8. Pricing StrategyMake sure that you spend a lot of time on pricing. Do not charge less than what you deserve. Keep your fees a little on the higher side as that helps to create a premium image for yourself.
9. Invest in Marketing
Marketing is probably the most important part of setting up a consulting business. Firstly, invest in branding. Get a logo, a website, business cards and print those letterheads. Next, invest in lead generation, make cold calls, spend a little on online advertising such as PPC (Pay-per-click), fix your SEO (search engine optimization), and consider sending out regular newsletters.
If you are unable to contact every prospective lead or nurture your existing clients, our virtual receptionists will make those calls and ensure that some of those leads convert to clients.
10. Invest in Technology
If you thought starting a consulting business was all about legalities, taxes, marketing and your own planning, there is more. You will probably need to invest in computers, software programs, telephones, and even a CRM. A smart way to reduce your technology spend is by hiring a virtual receptionist service such as ours, so that you do not have to spend money on either call center infrastructure or on customer care staff. What’s more, virtual receptionists can also help in your marketing exercises by making calls, and offer customer support to make sure that your clients are always happy. In fact, if you are a small consulting firm and do not have more than a handful of employees, your only technology requirements will be a few computers.
Starting a consulting business and running it can be immensely satisfying. Just make sure you have all the help you need. Today, that help comes in the form of tax specialists, attorneys, and virtual receptionists.