10 Tips on How to Start a Consulting Business -  Blog

10 Tips on Starting a Consulting Business

Considering starting your own consulting business?

I’ve been there. In fact, I left a vice president position at a market research firm to become a planning and market research consultant. After some rocky months at the beginning, I made it work.

I worked as a consultant for 12 years, between leaving Creative Strategies International and starting the product business for Palo Alto Software.

Here are 10 tips for aspiring consultants:

1. Take it seriously

Establish credibility. Have a website, business cards, and a social media presence for your consulting business. Don’t let clients doubt you.

2. Never apologize for being on your own

If you work from home or a small office, be genuine. Take meetings at your clients’ offices.

A powerful manager once told me, “I like working with individual consultants because I don’t want to pay for overhead. I want to work directly with the person who does the work.”

3. Start with a consulting contract from your previous employer

Most successful consultants begin with a reliable client, often their former employer. If that doesn’t work out, find one big client to reduce your risk.

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4. Plan for late payments

If big companies pay late, have a bank line of credit to survive. Don’t hassle your clients for prompt payment. Keep informed about payment schedules.

5. Under promise and over deliver

Repeat business is key. Deliver your best work even when it’s challenging, as it’s four times harder to find new clients than to retain existing ones.

6. Start small to demonstrate your skill

Showcase your abilities with quick, small jobs for new clients. A small commitment is easier to sell and gives you time to build trust.

7. Clearly define and document your schedule and deliverables

Expect scope creep and handle it diplomatically. If additional work arises, suggest additional fees.

8. Use a boilerplate proposal

Include pre-written text about your background and qualifications in your proposal. Provide clients with the formality of a comprehensive proposal.

9. Avoid lengthy legal contracts

Offer a simple commitment letter. Negotiate terms related to intellectual property and work product, but try to minimize contract complexities.

10. Let go of unhappy, unprofitable, or unproductive clients

If there is constant pressure and complaints, propose significantly higher fees for follow-on jobs. Handle late payments and explore the root of the problem. Write off debts and move on.

Plan for success

I hope these tips help. I enjoyed relying on consulting for my livelihood for 13 years. I liked most of my clients and the ever-changing nature of the job. I wish you the same success.

To prepare for your consulting business, write a business plan. Check out our business consulting business plan example and free template to get started.

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