First steps in consulting: now what?

You’ve decided you want to start your own business and become a consultant. Great! Now what? Making the decision to become a consultant is just the first step in actually becoming a consultant. Sure, anyone can hand out business cards at a party, but, to really start a consulting business, you need to do more than just call yourself a consultant. Once you’ve wrapped your mind around the idea of running your own consulting business, you’re not finished.  Your next challenge is to actually set up your consulting business – and what a job indeed! (Incidentally, read how I became a consultant.)

Assess your consulting spirit.

Are you really suited to being an independent consultant, as opposed to a consultant working in a corporate job with scheduled hours, regular pay, vacation, benefits and other perks? Go through our “should I become a consultant?” checklist. You might also want to think about whether you’d enjoy working from home — or whether you should rent a desk or office. Doing a personal inventory is a great way to assess your consulting potential — check out my Discover Your Inner Consultant guide.

Choose your consulting field.

At this stage of the game, you don’t need to know the specifics of the kind of consulting you want to do or the market you’re going to target. However, you do need to have an idea of your consulting field. You should have a vague idea of whether you’re better suited to medical consulting or business consulting, for example. Your job and work history may help point you in the right direction. And take a look at all the kinds of consultants you can become! But, if you’re not sure what kind of consulting business would suit you, consider downloading my Discover Your Inner Consultant guide. Sometimes, it just helps to go through a process of discovering your passions, skills, talents and unique opportunities.

Take an inventory of your skills and experience.

Make a list of your skills – whether they’re unique or more general. Think about your hobbies, interests, work history, talents, personality, knowledge, and expertise. This free skills inventory worksheet can help you get started. Once you’ve got an inventory of your skills, provide some examples from your job history, so that your experience and skills match up. If you haven’t done this before or you’re not sure how to assess your background, my Discover Your Inner Consultant guide is actually custom-designed to help you develop a personal inventory for consulting.

Note your opportunities.

Given your skills and experience and what’s going on in the market, do any opportunities jump out at you? Can you target an unfilled niche, by providing unique services or going after a global market? Can you improve the quality of the consulting already available? Can you add value to basic consulting services by offering extras or cross-selling other services? (My Discover Your Inner Consultant guide points out about three dozen ways to generate business ideas using these kinds of questions.)

Narrow down your consulting field.

Given your skills, experiences and opportunities, can you select a specific type of consulting? For example, in the 1990s, I harnessed my writing skills and passion for technology so that I could target the up-and-coming high tech market. I became a high tech marketing consultant. But I probably wouldn’t target those gigs in today’s climate.

Evaluate your consulting opportunity.

Once you’ve figured out what kind of consultant you want to be, you need to figure out how to turn your idea into a profit. You need to figure out the best target market, how to find clients and how to set up your business. This is the stage where you need to develop a basic plan that addresses:

    1. Business Concept: What consulting you’ll sell. (Your consulting business idea or the kind of consulting business that you’ve identified by doing a personal inventory.)
    2. Business setup. How you’ll operate the business – as a sole proprietor, partnership, corporation or other entity.
    3. Business environment. The regulatory and competitive environment.
    4. Marketing. How you’ll reach and retain clients.
    5. Operations. How you’ll run the business.
    6. Finance. How much money you’ll need to make to keep the business going.

Make a consulting business plan.

Once you’ve gone through these steps and completed some basic research, you’ll be ready to start a business plan — and start working from home or an office!

Want help in making the transition to consulting? Enroll in the official Consultant Journal course — Become a Consultant: How to Make the Leap.

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