How To Start a Consulting Business A Step-By-Step Guide
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How To Start a Consulting Business: A Step-By-Step Guide

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Helping people start or improve their businesses is important and meaningful consulting work. 

Not only are you guiding people toward their dreams and goals, but you’re also playing an integral role in stimulating the economy.

The more successful consulting businesses there are on the market — the more job opportunities there are, too.

If you’re eager to launch your business consulting business to create more impact in the world, keep reading. 

In this article, we’re walking you through eight steps to help you launch your own consulting business. We’ll help you get clear on your audience and consulting services, create a consulting business plan, and even guide you on hiring and onboarding your team. 

Ready to learn more about starting a successful consulting business? 

Let’s get started. 

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways:

  1. Identify your niche and target audience carefully, leveraging your expertise.
  2. Define your service offerings while being mindful of your strengths and limitations.
  3. Conduct thorough market research to understand your competition and set competitive rates.
  4. Develop a comprehensive business plan, considering goals, revenue projections, and legal structure.
  5. Build a tech stack tailored to your business needs, including project management and CRM tools.
  6. Hire subject-matter experts and implement strong cybersecurity measures.
  7. Establish an online presence through a website and effective marketing channels.
  8. Launch your business with targeted marketing campaigns and leverage partnerships for growth.

Step 1: Know your exact target audience and business niche

Start by being honest about who you can help and why. 

Take a hard look at your personal expertise and past experience — and niche as far down as you can. The more refined your niche is, the more “special insights” you’ll have to help businesses improve.

For instance, if you were a divorce attorney who specialized in divorce mediation proceedings for ten years, you might target law offices that struggle with divorce conflict resolution. If you choose this target audience, you’ll have a decade of wisdom under your belt to leverage. 

You’ll be able to help law firm owners:

  • Implement new mediation processes according to their unique client base
  • Reduce the stress and tension that divorce conflict brings into the office
  • Audit their current divorce mediation practices 
  • Test new mediation systems 

You can also use your expertise to help law firm owners attract and nurture potential clients. That may mean advising on marketing strategies, sales copy, and advertising campaigns. 

By understanding your unique strengths, you’ll better focus your strategy on attracting the best clients for your expertise. 

Once you’re clear on your audience and core niche, create a “Client and Niche Summary” sheet. Hold onto this sheet — we’ll use it later when creating your buyer personas.

Step 2: Get clear on your service offerings 

Pinpoint the exact services you’ll offer your clients (but leave room for custom requests — just in case).

Know your limitations and be honest about them. 

For instance, if you’re a tech stack and cybersecurity expert, you may not have enough sales expertise to help a brand boost profits. Instead, you might offer cloud security assessments to help businesses protect their data and operations from cyber threats.

Cloud security report example.

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Your offerings, in this case, might include:

  • Custom cybersecurity implementation planning
  • Cybersecurity implementation planning 
  • Cybersecurity audits and reports 
  • Cybersecurity team training

Consider declining clients that are a poor fit for your business expertise and offerings. Refer them to another relevant consultant who can help if possible. For example, a human resources consulting firm or HR consultant can help with complex hiring needs. 

Step 3: Conduct market research 

Grab the Client and Niche Summary sheet you created in step one and use it to conduct relevant market research. 

For instance, if you’re targeting divorce law firms, research firmographics related to divorce firms in the state you specialize in. For example, if your specialty is in Arizona, research Arizona law firm profiles and summarize their firmographics.

Use the data you uncover and your summary sheet to craft buyer personas. 

You can also use your own expertise to add more details to your personas. For instance, if you’re targeting tech companies who need cybersecurity support, include the most common pain points you’ve seen companies experience.

That might be:

  • Feeling confused about how to protect custom workflows from cyber attacks 
  • Feeling stressed about the lack of cybersecurity training company-wide
  • Feeling overwhelmed by too many SaaS products and integrations

Be sure to also research standard consulting industry rates according to your location, target market, and expertise. Wrap this up with a competitive intelligence report summarizing your market, competitors, and target customers.

Step 4: Create a business plan and legalize your new business 

Add your findings and notes from above to a business plan template so everything’s in one place. 

Be sure to also include specific business goals, consulting revenue projections, and an executive summary in your document.

You’ll also need a financial plan, a marketing plan, and a logistics and operations plan. 

If you’re not well-versed in these subject areas, hire experts that can help. It’s better to do things right the first time than waste weeks or months on financially-draining practices that don’t work. 

After you’ve created your business plan, hire a registered agent to help you choose the best business structure for your consultancy firm. 

Types of business entities.

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For example, they may advise that you shield your personal assets with an LLC or Limited Liability Company. An LLC may protect your home and savings from potential liabilities associated with your consulting business. 

When meeting with your agent, present your business plan and list any concerns. They’ll look at your goals and unique situations to help you choose the right entity for your business.

Step 5: Create your business tech stack

Refer to your logistics and operations plan to create a relevant tech stack for your business. 

Again, don’t be afraid to seek support if you’re not well-versed in business operations technology.

Think about what you’ll need to organize your work orders, systems, team, payables, receivables, and anything else you manage. 

For instance, you might use:

  • Project management tools to manage work orders, assignments, and tasks
  • Marketing apps to manage social media and email campaigns
  • Bookkeeping software to manage payables and receivables
  • A CRM to manage your prospects and new clients 
  • SEO tools to manage your SEO strategy 

Sign up for demos and free trials to put your tools to the test. Choose the ones that are the best fit for your specific business model, budget, and team needs.

Step 6: Hire and onboard subject-matter experts 

Look for and hire business consulting experts with experience in the niche you cater to. Consider running mock consultancy scenarios with them to see their advice in action. 

If you’re on a limited budget, hiring contractors can help you reduce overhead costs. Many business consultants also prefer contract work so they can manage any new clients they have on the side flexibly.

When onboarding your team, use a password manager for companies to provide safe access to your tech stack. This tool helps you share passwords securely with your team members and new clients. It also monitors your firm’s “password health” so you can stay ahead of potential cyber threats. 

A password sharing image example.

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Implementing a password manager is critical to keeping your clients’ financial records, business plans, and trade secrets safe from unauthorized access. You can manage permissions according to each person’s role — and revoke access if a contractor stops working with you. 

Your clients might alsoask you how you protect their sensitive information. Having cybersecurity tools is key to giving them the peace of mind to trust you with their data.

Step 7: Set up your consultancy website and marketing channels 

Hire a marketing director (read: marketing consultant) to help create an online presence strategy for your consulting service.

The right marketing director should help you set up a tailored website and marketing channels that attract and convert qualified leads. They should also help you apply copywriting and SEO best practices in line with your target audience’s pain points, needs, and expectations.

Other things to ask your marketing director to lead include:

  • Funnel marketing campaigns to grow your email list and sales pipeline 
  • Guided selling experiences, such as quizzes, forms, and a chatbot to book discovery calls and consultancy packages
  • Business intelligence reporting to monitor how people behave on your website and refine your firm’s sales approach accordingly
  • Keeping track of industry trends across social media marketing platforms

Step 8: Launch your business and announce it on all marketing channels 

Schedule your official launch date and initial marketing campaigns to announce you’re open for business.

Implement your marketing director’s plan, thought leadership content, pain point messaging, and contextual ads to get the word out. You might also offer your first sessions for free and then use referral marketing to help spread the word.

Other ways to spread the word for your small business include:

  • Strategic partnerships (Consider partnering with other firms who consult on different topics so you can refer each other)
  • Guest posting on websites with high domain authority 
  • User-generated content (UGC) campaigns 
  • Segmented email marketing campaigns 
  • Engaging with users on social media
  • Participating in LinkedIn groups
  • Influencer marketing
  • Affiliate marketing

Wrap up 

Launching a consulting business is an exciting venture. You’ll help businesses grow and improve — and stimulate the economy. 

More than anything, you’ll be doing work you specialize in and love doing. 

If you’re ready to start your firm, bookmark and print out this guide for easy reference. 

And if you need help staffing, head to Sortlist to find the perfect service provider for your new business.

Here’s to your first step in running a profitable consulting business! 


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