Are you looking to start a consulting business?
If you talk to any entrepreneur, getting started is one of the hardest parts of launching your own business.
There are many things to consider, such as:
- Validating your business idea
- Setting up your business structure
- Launch ideas for your business
- Determining your marketing strategy
- And much more!
In this detailed guide, we lay out all the steps to help you get started and run your business successfully.
💡 Introduction To Starting A Consulting Business
Is Starting A Consulting Business Right For You?
There are many factors to consider when starting a consulting business.
We put together the main pros and cons for you here:
Pros of starting a consulting business
You can put as much time into the business as you'd like. If you like the work and have some initial experience, you can start small and manage all aspects of the business on your own.
• Ability to start your business from home
It's not necessary to have a physical storefront or office space to get your business started. You can do everything from the comfort of your own home, at least in the beginning!
• Little startup costs required
The cost to start a consulting business costs significantly less money than most businesses, ranging anywhere from 62 to 23,259.
• Rewarding work
Starting a consulting business can be really rewarding work. After all, you are solving an immediate issue for your customer and you're working on something you truly care about.
With businesses and processes changing daily, there will always be demand for new features, products and services for your business. Additionally, there are several different business models and pricing tiers you can implement that will allow you to reach all types of customers.
• No overhead costs
To get your consulting business started, there are no costs associated with overhead, storage, packaging, etc. This will save you a lot of time and money!
• Meaningful business connections
You never know who you will meet as a consulting business. This could be the start of an incredible business opportunity!
• High margins
The gross margins for your consulting business are typically around 90%, which is considerably high and allows you to grow your business and manage costs easily.
• Quick build time
The average time it takes to build your product is quick - typically around 7 months. This will allow you to bring your product to market faster.
• Pick & choose the clients you work with
Consulting Businesses have the ability to choose the clients they work with. You have the freedom to work with only a few loyal clients or with hundreds of clients!
• Control of workload
With starting a consulting business, you have the unique ability to choose how little or how much you want to work. You also have the freedom to decide which projects you want to work on, and can turn down the ones that do not interest you.
• Gain exposure and experience
This career allows you to gain experience working for multiple different businesses - which will benefit your resume and also keep things interesting for you!
• Unlimited income potential
With starting a consulting business there is no cap as to how much income you can make. The stronger your business skills and the more energy/time you put into your career, the more you'll make.
• You are your own boss!
With starting a consulting business, you are the one to make decisions for almost all of the operations. Calling the shots can be empowering and liberating!
• Higher likelihood of getting referrals
This business is all about referrals, which can be a a very impactful way to attract and retain customers. It's critical that you have a great referral program in place that incentivizes your customers to tell their friends about your product.
• Simple business model
A consulting business has the advantage of a simple business model, which makes launching and building the business more seamless.
• Control your own destiny
Starting A Consulting Business allows you to control every aspect of your life and make your own dreams come true every day.
• You can decide who you work with
Gone are the days of working in a toxic work environment with employees that you may not vibe with. As a small business owner, you get to decide who you work and surround yourself with.
• Express your opinions
With starting a consulting business, you can express your opinions and knowledge to your audience, which allows you to build your own reputation and identity.
• You can work from anywhere!
Not only can you start your consulting business from home, you can also run your business from anywhere in the world. This is the entrepreneur dream.
• You get to inspire others
Your business is one that encourages and inspires others, which in itself, can be very fulfilling.
• High Hourly Pay Rates
On average, the hourly pay rates are high for your consulting business - which means quality of clients is often superior to quantity of clients.
• Never a dull moment
With starting a consulting business, there is truly never a dull moment. Your job offers a lot of variety and allows you to meet interesting people from all walks of life.
• Various different ways to make money
With starting a consulting business, there is not just one business model to choose from. This field is amazing in that there are various different ways to make money. Although this may complicate things, it's great to have different options and sources of revenue.
• Can build solid foundation of clients
It's unlikely you will have one-off customers as a consulting business. Typically, you have a solid foundation of clients that use your product and services regularly.
Cons of starting a consulting business
• Crowded Space
Competition is high when it comes to your consulting business, so it's important that you spend a good amount of time analyzing the market and understanding where the demand lies.
• Longer Sales Process
A consulting business can be a big time and money investment for your customer, so it's important you plan and predict a longer conversion funnel and stay in communication with potential customers.
• Work can be inconsistent
As a consulting business, the amount of work assigned to you and schedule tends to be more inconsistent, which may make your income less stable. It's important to set boundaries and budget accordingly based on the amount of work you plan to have.
• Lack of benefits
With a consulting business, you are typically self-employed and responsible for finding your own insurance, which can be quite costly and time-consuming.
Often times, as a consulting business, you typically work alone and do not have much face-to-face interaction with other team members.
As a consulting business, you typically pay self-employment taxes which can be quite high. It's important to understand what you will be paying in taxes each year so you can determine if the work you're taking on is worth it.
• No safety net
Typically, as a consulting business, you do not receive a consistent pay-check and instead earn money based on your transactions each month. During the slow periods, you typically take away less since the job is based on commission. It's important to budget accordingly for the slow times.
• Stressful work
This line of work can be stressful for both you and your clients. This type of transaction is a significant financial decision for your client, so expectations are very high for you. Although this career path can be very rewarding, it also comes with its challenges and stressful moments.
• Time commitment
With starting a consulting business, all responsibilities and decisions are in your hands. Although this is not necessarily a negative thing, work life can take over at times. This can place a strain on friends and family and add to the pressure of launching a new business.
• Be prepared to get out of your comfort zone!
Although this is exciting for some entrepreneurs, it can be a big challenge for others! You may find yourself in uncomfortable social and business situations, jumping into tasks and responsibilities you aren't familiar with, and pushing yourself as far as you can go!
• Minimal physical activity
A big part of starting a consulting business is sitting at a desk for the majority of the day starting at your computer. Some may enjoy this, but others may struggle with sitting for the majority of your day without much physical activity.
• Learning Curve
When you start your own business, you no longer have upper management to provide you with a playbook for your roles and responsibilities. You should know the ins and outs of every aspect of your business, as every decision will come down to you.
• Easy target for criticism
Since your consulting business has the ability to reach a large audience, you'll need to be able to handle criticism. The internet can be a cruel place, and regardless of your intentions, many people will disagree with you and even take their criticism too far. To survive in this industry, you'll need to have tough skin (or at least learn this along the way).
• The job can be demanding
This is one of the major disadvantages starting a consulting business. It's important to understand that you may need to make yourself available on a 24/7 basis.
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Let's take a look at the search trends for consulting services over the last year:
How To Name Your Consulting Business
It's important to find a catchy name for your consulting business so that you can stand out in your space.
Here are some general tips to consider when naming your consulting business
- Avoid hard to spell names: you want something easy to remember and easy to spell for your customers
- Conduct a search to see if others in the space have the same name
- Try not to pick a name that limits growth opportunities for your business (ie. if you decide to expand into other product lines)
- As soon as you have an idea (or ideas) of a few names that you love, register the domain name(s) as soon as possible!
Why is naming your consulting business so important?
The name of your business will forever play a role in:
- Your customers first impression
- Your businesses identity
- The power behind the type of customer your brand attracts
- If you're memorable or not
It's important to verify that the domain name is available for your consulting business.
You can search domain availability here:
Find a domain starting at $0.88
powered by Namecheap
Although .com names are the most common and easiest to remember, there are other options if your .com domain name is not available. Depending on your audience, it may not matter as much as you think.
It's also important to thoroughly check if social media handles are available.
As soon as you resonate with a name (or names), secure the domain and SM handles as soon as possible to ensure they don't get taken.
Here's some inspiration for naming your consulting business:
- IndependentAdvisory check availability
- Annotated Scout check availability
- The Convenient check availability
- SuccessfulConsultant check availability
- Vegetable ivory Advisory check availability
- Influential Consultative check availability
- CentralAdvisory check availability
- The Instructional check availability
- General Guidelines check availability
- The Native Template check availability
- Guidebook Pro check availability
- Rectangular check availability
- Aide Co check availability
- Consultants Consultant check availability
- Executive Expert Co check availability
- The Comprehensive check availability
- Governmental Advising Pro check availability
- General Guidebooks check availability
- Counselor Place check availability
- Civilian Councilor check availability
- Academic check availability
- Complete Scout Collective check availability
- The Level check availability
- The Political check availability
- Creative Counsels check availability
- Public Consultative Spot check availability
- Independent Advisory Collective check availability
- The External check availability
- The Senior Informative check availability
- The More check availability
- Chief Expert check availability
- The Appropriate Consulting check availability
- The Standard check availability
- The Sole check availability
- The Judicial Advisors check availability
- Deliberative Consultative Trading Co check availability
- Analytical Advisor Collective check availability
- The Fda check availability
- The Official Take check availability
- SaferGuide check availability
- SafeGuide check availability
- PerfectGuide check availability
- True Direct Collective check availability
- Request check availability
- Agricultural Planner Pro check availability
- Former Advisor Pro check availability
- Introductory check availability
- Informational Consultative Co check availability
- General Consulting check availability
- Guidebook Collective check availability
- RectangularGuide check availability
- Creative Counsellor check availability
- Advisor Trading Co check availability
- Clinical Consultative check availability
- Parental Consulting Pro check availability
- SufficientGuide check availability
- The Judicial check availability
- Page check availability
- Inner Direct Place check availability
- Clinical Advisor Spot check availability
- The Special check availability
- Safe Head check availability
- Usher Collective check availability
- Planner Place check availability
- ActiveConsultant check availability
- StatisticalConsultant check availability
- External Consultancy Trading Co check availability
- Forensic Expert check availability
- Deliberative Adviser Spot check availability
- Brief Usher Spot check availability
- Substance Consultant check availability
- The Frequent check availability
- Poor Scout Pro check availability
- Effective check availability
- The Administrative check availability
- InternationalConsultant check availability
- Known Consultancy Spot check availability
- Compulsive Consultant check availability
- Knowledgeable check availability
- The Only Informative check availability
- Circulating library Advisory check availability
- Consultative Co check availability
- Useful check availability
- Educational Adviser Trading Co check availability
- Usher Spot check availability
- Good Gear check availability
- Pundit Consultant check availability
- Safety Consultive Pro check availability
- The Useful Guidebook check availability
- Professional Advising Pro check availability
- Faithful Template Trading Co check availability
- Practical Head Collective check availability
- The Behavioral Expert check availability
- The Scientific Informatory check availability
- Civilian Contractor check availability
- Central check availability
- The Faithful Conduct check availability
- Triumphant Consultant check availability
How To Create A Slogan For Your Consulting Business:
Slogans are a critical piece of your marketing and advertising strategy.
The role of your slogan is to help your customer understand the benefits of your product/service - so it's important to find a catchy and effective slogan name.
Often times, your slogan can even be more important than the name of your brand.
Here are 6 tips for creating a catchy slogan for your consulting business:
1. Keep it short, simple and avoid difficult words
A great rule of thumb is that your slogan should be under 10 words. This will make it easy for your customer to understand and remember.
2. Tell what you do and focus on what makes you different
There are a few different ways you can incorporate what makes your business special in your slogan:
- Explain the target customer you are catering your services towards
- What problem do you solve?
- How do you make other people, clients, or your employer look good?
- Do you make people more successful? How?
3. Be consistent
Chances are, if you're coming up with a slogan, you may already have your business name, logo, mission, branding etc.
It's important to create a slogan that is consistent with all of the above.
4. Ensure the longevity of your slogan
Times are changing quickly, and so are businesses.
When coming up with your slogan, you may want to consider creating something that is timeless and won't just fade with new trends.
5. Consider your audience
When finding a catchy slogan name, you'll want to make sure that this resonates across your entire audience.
It's possible that your slogan could make complete sense to your audience in Europe, but may not resonate with your US audience.
6. Get feedback!
This is one of the easiest ways to know if your slogan will be perceived well, and a step that a lot of brands drop the ball on.
Ask friends, family, strangers, and most importantly, those that are considered to be in your target market.
Here's some inspiration for coming up with a slogan for your consulting business:
- Order Of The Expertise
- Political Adviser, Political Adviser
- Viewing Is What We Do
- Consultings With Step
- And On The Eighth Day, God Created Consulting.
- Worth Expertise, Private Consultations
- Don't Play With Fire, Play With Consulting.
- Mild Green Advisory Liquid.
- Organizational And Unassailable
- Set Of The Consultants
- Consulting The Time Is Now.
- Work Hard, Warning Harder
- Guide Innovate Your World.
- Political Consultancies Are What We Do
- I Wish I Had A Consulting.
- Consulting Stands Above The Rest.
- Dial Down The Guide.
- Jesus Loves Consulting.
- Budee Budee, That's All Consulting.
- Make It A Consulting Night.
- Technical And Biochemical
- Something Special In The Consulting.
- A Day With Consulting.
- Consultings With Variable
- Private And Vital
- Accessing Is What We Do
- Free Consulting For All.
- Consulting - You See This Name, You Think Dirty.
- It's My Consulting!
- Consulting Only.
- Unzip A Consulting.
- Worth Specializings Are What We Do
- Educational Consultant, We Are Here
- Consulting For All Time.
- Mild Green Consulting Liquid.
- Think Different, Think Consulting.
- First Consulting, Take A Seat
- Private Consultative, Worth Advise
- Feel Good With Consulting.
- From Public To Close
- Pure Consulting.
- Medical Consultant, Better Results
- The President Buys Consulting.
- You Wouldn't Want To Miss Consulting.
- Independent Investment Bankers Are What We Do
- We Will Take You Anywhere
- Beware Of Expensive Consulting.
- Consulting - The Revolution.
- There Is No Sore It Will Not Heal, No Consulting It Will Not Subdue.
- Consulting Innovate Your World.
- Because Consulting Can't Drive.
- That's Handy, Harry! Stick It In The Consulting.
- Can You Feel Consulting?
- Consulting New And Improved.
- Consultings With Republic
- Let Your Consulting Do The Walking.
- Consultant, Any Time Of Day.
- Rate Of The Advisor
- Share Moments, Share Guide.
- Consulting First At The Finish Line!
- Independent And Suspended
- Consulting - See The Light!
The Consulting Business Model
When implementing a consulting business model, you have a number of approaches to choose from:
Here are a few of the most common consulting business models:
1. The Time-Based Model
This is one of the more traditional consulting business models - where your rate, terms, and scope of work are outlined at the very beginning of the project.
Typically, with this model you would choose a day rate or an hourly rate.
2. The Project-Based Model
With a project-based model, you and your client agree on the scope of work you will be performing for a set amount of money.
There is typically a contract in place which covers the deliverables and expectations from both parties.
3. The Retainer-Based Model
The retainer model involves providing ongoing service for your clients over a specific period of time.
You may not provide a specific deliverable for your client, but instead, a broad scope of work over a set period.
4. The Consulting-Firm Model
This model is becoming more and more popular. The consulting firm model involves hiring freelancers or employees to complete work for your clients on your behalf.
Typically, in this situation, you still manage the relationship with the client, but you delegate some or all of the work to your team.
Which model should you choose?
The best way to determine which business model you will choose is to research other entrepreneurs or agencies in your space that are offering the same or similar service.
This will allow you to identify your competition, set your pricing, and determine your target audience.
🎬 How To Start A Consulting Business
How Much Does It Cost To Start A Consulting Business
If you are planning to start a consulting business, the costs are relatively low. This, of course, depends on if you decide to start the business with lean expenses or bringing in a large team and spending more money.
We’ve outlined two common scenarios for “pre-opening” costs of starting a consulting business and outline the costs you should expect for each:
- The estimated minimum starting cost = $62
- The estimated maximum starting cost = $23,259
|Startup Expenses: Average expenses incurred when starting a consulting business.||Min Startup Costs: You plan to execute on your own. You’re able to work from home with minimal costs.||Max Startup Costs: You have started with 1+ other team members.|
|Office Space Expenses|
|Rent: This refers to the office space you use for your business and give money to the landlord. To minimize costs, you may want to consider starting your business from home or renting an office in a coworking space.||$0||$5,750|
|Utility Costs For Office Space: Utility costs are the expense for all the services you use in your office, including electricity, gas, fuels, telephone, water, sewerage, etc.||$0||$1,150|
|WiFi & Internet: Whether you work from home or in an office space, WiFi is essential. Although the cost is minimal in most cases, it should be appropriately budgeted for each month!||$0||$100|
|Total Office Space Expenses||$0 (min)||$7,000 (max)|
|Employee & Freelancer Expenses|
|Payroll Costs & Fees: Payroll cost means the expense of paying your employees, which includes salaries, wages, and other benefits. This number depends on if you decide to pay yourself a salary upfront and how many employees you have on payroll. At first, many founders take on all responsibilities until the business is up and running. You can always hire down the road when you understand where you need help. Keep in mind, if you do plan to pay yourself, the average salary founders make is $50K.||$150||$250|
|Total Employee & Freelancer Expenses||$150 (min)||$250 (max)|
|Website Builder: The cost of your website will vary depending on which platform you choose. There are many website builders on the market, so it's important you choose the right one for your business and overall goals. To learn more about your options + how to build a great website, check out this article.||$10||$500|
|Web Designer: Web design includes several different aspects, including webpage layout, content creation, and design elements.If you have the skills and knowledge to design your website on your own, then outsourcing this to an expert may not be necessary. There are plenty of other ways you can design a beautiful website using design tools and software.||$200||$6,000|
|Domain Name: Your domain name is the URL and name of your website - this is how internet users find you and your website.Domain names are extremely important and should match your company name and brand. This makes it easier for customers to remember you and return to your website.||$12||$200|
|Business Email Hosting Service: An email hosting runs a dedicated email server. Once you have your domain name, you can set up email accounts for each user on your team. The most common email hosts are G Suite and Microsoft 365 Suite. The number of email accounts you set up will determine the monthly cost breakdown.||$1||$15|
|Website Hosting Costs: Server hosting is an IT service typically offered by a cloud service provider that hosts the website information and allows remote access through the internet. A hosted server can help you scale up and increase your business’s efficacy, relieving you from the hassles of on-premise operations.||$0||$300|
|Total Website Costs||$223 (min)||$7,015 (max)|
|Business Formation Fees|
|Small Business Insurance: Depending on which state you live in and the business you're operating, the costs and requirements for small business insurance vary. You can learn more here.||$500||$2,000|
|Permit and License Fees: Depending on your industry, there are certain licenses and permits you may need in order to comply with state, local, and federal regulations. Here is an article that goes over all the permits and licenses you may need for your consulting business.||$50||$700|
|Lawyer Fees: Although you may want to avoid attorney fees, it's important that your business (and you) are covered at all costs. This comes into play when creating founder agreements, setting up your business legal structure, and of course, any unforeseen circumstances that may happen when dealing with customers or other businesses.||$0||$1,500|
|Set up business: LLC & Corporations: The first step in setting up your business is deciding whether your business is an LLC, S Corp or C Corp. The cost for this depends on which state you form your business and which structure you decide on. We put together an article that goes over the 10 Steps To Setting Up A Business.||$50||$500|
|Total Business Formation Fees||$600 (min)||$4,700 (max)|
|Design Programs & Software: These programs might include the Adobe family of design tools: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and others. This is typically a monthly subscription ranging from $10-$50/mo.||$0||$50|
|Email marketing tool: If you plan to grow your email list and email marketing efforts, you may want to consider investing in an email marketing platform (ie. Klaviyo, MailChimp). We put together a detailed guide on all of the email marketing tools out there + the pricing models for each one here.||$0||$100|
|IT Support: IT support installs and configures hardware and software and solves any technical issues that may arise.IT support can be used internally or for your customers experiencing issues with your product/service.There are a variety of tools and software you can use to help with any technical issues you or your customers are experiencing. This is a great option for businesses that do not have the means to hire a team of professionals.||$150||$2,000|
|Accounting & Invoicing Software: It's important to have an accounting system and process in place to manage financials, reporting, planning and tax preparation. Here are the 30 best accounting tools for small businesses.||$0||$50|
|CRM Software: CRM (customer relationship management) software system is used to track and analyze your company’s interactions with clients and prospects. Although this is not a necessary tool to have for your business, implementing this, in the beginning, may set your business up for success and save you valuable time.||$12||$300|
|Project Management Software: You may want to consider using a project management and collaboration tool to organize your day-to-day. This can also be very beneficial if you have a larger team and want to keep track of everyones tasks and productivity. For a full list of project management tools, check out this full list here.||$0||$25|
|Internal Communication Tool: If you plan to have multiple members on your team, you may want to consider an instant message tool such as Slack or Telegram. The cost is usually billed per month (approx $5/user/month) or there are freemium versions available on many platforms.||$0||$20|
|Social Media Management Tools: If you plan to do social media marketing for your consulting business, you should consider investing in a social media automation or publishing tool. This will save you time and allow you to track performance and engagement for your posts. Here is a list of 28 best social media tools for your small business.||$0||$50|
|File Hosting Service: It's important to make sure the information for your consulting business is stored and protected should something happen to your computer or hard drive. The cost for this is affordable and depends on how much data you need to store. To learn more about the different options and pricing on the market, check out this article.||$0||$299|
|Total Software Expenses||$162 (min)||$2,894 (max)|
|Advertising & Marketing Costs|
|Business Cards: A consulting business involves quite a bit of customer interaction, whether that is attending tradeshows, sales calls or simply having face to face interaction with prospective clients. Business cards are a great way to stay front of mind with your clients.||$0||$50|
|Networking Membership Fees: Joining local networking groups or your chamber of commerce is a traditional yet effective way to promote your consulting business - but these fees add up! It's important to choose the right group(s) that align with your business and help with growth.||$0||$250|
|Direct Campaigns, Printing and Mailing: Although it may sound old-school, traditional marketing methods can be a cost-effective way to drive awareness for your brand. This includes flyers, postcards, sales letters, coupons, special offers, catalogs and brochures.||$0||$300|
|Press: If your business and story is unique enough, press and media attention may come to you, but odds are, you may need to do your own outreach and budget for this. We put together a guide here that discusses different press opportunities (both free and paid).||$0||$500|
|Google Ads: With Google Ads you have the ability to control how much you spend by simply setting a monthly budget cap. Additionally, with these ads you only pay for results, such as clicks to your website or phone calls! It's okay to start with a small budget at first and make changes accordingly if you see valuable returns.||$0||$300|
|Total Advertising & Marketing Costs||$0 (min)||$1,400 (max)|
|Total Starting Costs||$62 (min)||$23,259 (max)|
Raising Money For Your Consulting Business
Here are the most common ways to raise money for your consulting business:
You may not need funding for your consulting business.
In fact, many entrepreneurs take this approach when starting their own business, whether they have a little amount of cash or a substantial amount to get started.
So what exactly does the term "bootstrapping" mean?
This method essentially refers to self-funding your businesswithout external help or capital and reinvesting your earnings back into the business**
Bootstrapping means building your company from the ground up with your own, or your loved ones, personal savings and reinvesting all earnings back into the business
Here are some tips to consider when bootstrapping your business:
- Use your savings as your capital - one of the best ways to bootstrap your business is to collect your savings and use them as startup capital. This will also help you avoid using your personal or business credit cards when getting started.
- Determine exactly how much capital you need and how much capital you have to get your business off the ground. Generally, when bootstrapping your business, you may want to consider starting a business that involves less startup capital.
- Consider starting a business that will generate immediate returns so you can put money back into the business
- Be as lean as possible - this refers to cutting down expenses as much as possible, such as payroll, fancy software tools, unnecessary travel, renting an office, etc
- Consider outsourcing instead of hiring - in the beginning, you may not need to hire someone permanently to help run your business. It tends to be much less expensive to outsource work to a freelancer and hire someone permanently down the road!
Want to learn more about bootstrapping your business? Check out this article
VC funding is a traditional and long process, but an effective way to raise money for your business.
The term "VC funding" refers to venture capital firms investing in businesses in exchange for equity.
The VC's (venture capitalists) are an individual or small group investing in your business and typically require substantial ownership of the business, with the hope of seeing a return on their investment.
VC's are typically the best approach for businesses with high startup costs - where it would be very difficult to raise the money on your own or through a loan.
When deciding whether to take this approach, it's important that you have a few things in place first, and know what you're getting yourself into:
Determine if your business is ready
Having an idea is not enough to get VC funding.
Typically, VC's will check to make sure you have these things in place prior to closing any deal:
- An MVP (Minimal Viable Product)
- A founding team with all proper documents in place (articles of organization, business formation)
- A validated idea with actual customers buying your product/service
Get everything in place and build a pitch deck
A VC individual or firm will be expecting a fine-tuned presentation that gives an overview of your business.
Here's what you should consider including in your pitch deck:
- Management team, their previous experience + current roles in the business
- Market challenge and solution
- Company financials - including a P&L statement, cash flow statement, and projections
- Company progress
- Investment amount - how much do you need and why?
Research the right VC to fund your business
Research the types of VC investors out there and what niche they focus on.
Then, put together a list of target VC's you want to approach and your strategy around setting up meetings.
Be sure you have everything in place (as discussed above) before setting up any meeting!
Make sure the terms and expectations are right for your business
Committing to VC funding is a big deal and a decision that should not be made lightly.
Although the money and experience from VC's can help your business quickly grow, you are also giving away a stake in the company, and the money comes with strings attached.
Be sure you do your due diligence in finding the right investor - one that truly believes in the growth and success of your business.
What Skills Do I Need To Succeed In Starting A Consulting Business?
As a consulting business, there are several essential skills and characteristics that are important to identify prior to starting your business.
Let’s look at these skills in more detail so you can identify what you need to succeed in your day-to-day business operations:
Resarch and Writing Skills
Research and writing skills are critical when starting a consulting business. Here's what this looks like:
- Basic computer & technology skills (Microsoft office or Google sheets/docs knowledge, data input, and proficiency in typing)
- Creativity & originality in your work and approach
- Great communication skills and ability to meet deadlines
- Understanding of SEO
Other skills that businesses find valuable include digital marketing skills, basic web design, and accounting abilities. Some employers may also look for a consulting business that has a bachelor's degree or formal education.
Additionally, you may want to consider putting together a portfolio of past work and experience. This includes samples of writing/research pieces, from school projects to internship work to career experience.
Whether you are the one designing the product or the decision-maker for the product, an eye for design is critical when starting a consulting business. Here's what this looks like:
- Creative Thinking - the ability to develop or design different products or ideas
- Visualization - being able to imagine or visualize how the product will look
- Articulation - the ability to communicate what the design will look like and how it will be executed
- Detail-oriented - paying close attention to all of the small pieces when designing or working on a project
- Some technical skills - knowledge of the design software you are using to create the product or build prototypes.
Other skills that may be valuable to have when starting a consulting business include digital marketing skills, branding experience, and basic business knowledge.
Business Savvy Skills
When starting a consulting business, there are a few fundamental business skills you will want to learn in order to be successful:
- Leadership and training skills: A great team starts with YOU. Make sure you have all company policies and training procedures in place prior to hiring your team
- Decisive and self-confident: Over the course of your career, you will need decisions that could impact your business significantly. It's important you are able to think clearly and rationally about these decisions.
- Ability to understand the financials: You don't need to be an accountant, but it is important that you are able to clearly understand and define metrics such as expenses, revenue, profit, margins, COGS, etc.
- Strategic Thinking: Setting clear goals and benchmarks, identifying opportunities, risks. Ability to effectively communicate these insights to your team.
These are a few of many business savvy skills you should have (or work on) when starting a consulting business.
For a full list, check out this article here.
Customer Service Skills
Friendly communication with customers and the ability to address service issues is a critical part of the job.
Here are some customer service skills you may want to consider prior to starting a consulting business:
- Professionalism: The way you act, present yourself, and respond to situations all leave an impression on your customer. It's important to stay professional at all times when handling customer requests or issues.
- Problem-solving: When issues arise, it's important that you are able to think quick on your feet and address the situation with a calm and clear solution
- Friendly-manner: This is an obvious one, but customers truly appreciate someone that can respond in a quick, efficient, and friendly manner.
- Proficient in writing: These skills include the ability to write well-crafted emails, service tickets, and any other programs used by the business (ie. chat functions, SMS texting)
Self Motivation Skills
Self motivation and discipline skills are critical in order to become successful in this field.
It's likely that you will find yourself starting and running your consulting business from home, which could mean there are more distractions for you.
Here are the basic skills needed for self motivation & discipline:
- Becoming a self starter: It's important that you are capable of independently completing a task without the help or direction of anyone else
- Listening and following directions: When you are given direction by others, it's critical that you are able to follow directions and ask the right questions in order to get your job done
- Taking the initiative in problem solving: Instead of taking the easy route, you'll need to learn to troubleshoot issues on your own as much as possible.
Advice For Starting A Consulting Business
We've interviewed thousands of successful founders at Starter Story and asked what advice they would give to entrepreneurs who are just getting started.
Here's the best advice we discovered for starting a consulting business:
Michael Zipursky, founder of Consulting Success ($200K/month):
By sharing content, we built an audience. And that audience wanted more help.
Read the full interview ➜
Liz Illg, founder of Liz Illg ($0/month):
Industries change. Times are constantly changing. Relationships, if built regularly, can last forever!
Read the full interview ➜
Kalaboukis, founder of HelloFuture ($293K/month):
Do the Disney thing of repackaging your content in as many different forms as you can - if you wrote a book, turn that into a lead magnet, and a series of videos, and an online course, and a video blog and a podcast, etc.
Read the full interview ➜
Michael Zipursky, founder of Consulting Success ($200K/month):
The fastest way to grow your business is by investing in coaches or mentorship.
Read the full interview ➜
Akhil Suresh Nair, founder of Xena Intelligence ($25K/month):
We were at a crossroads at that time – filled with constant self-doubt about the career path we wanted to take. We could have easily applied for corporate jobs in the US or in India, but we chose to follow our hearts by continuing to work in our consulting business.
Read the full interview ➜
Write a Business Plan
Writing a business plan from the start is critical for the success of your consulting business.
Because this allows you to roadmap exactly what you do, what your overall structure will look like, and where you want to be in the future.
For many entrepreneurs, writing out the business plan helps validate their idea and decide whether or not they should move forward with starting the business.
You may want to consider expanding upon these sections in your business plan:
- Executive Summary: Brief outline of your product, the market, and growth opportunities
- Overviews and Objectives: Overview of your business, target customers, and what you need to run your business
- Products and Services: Specifics on the products and services your business will provide
- Market Opportunities: Analysis of customer demographics, buyer habits and if your product is in demand
- Marketing: Outline of your marketing plan and how you plan to differentiate yourself from other customers
- Competitive analysis: Analysis of your competition and the strengths and weaknesses therein
- Operations: Hierarchal structure of the company and what it will take to run the business on the day-to-day
- Leadership Team: Detailing roles and responsibilities of each manager based on their specific skill-set
- Financial Analysis Understanding of all expenses, operating budgets, and projections for the future.
Learn more about how to write a business plan here
Determine Which Business Bank Account You Need
There are hundreds of banks out there, and it can be overwhelming to find one that's right for your business.
Here are some factors you may want to consider:
- Location - Is your bank close enough that you can easily make deposits or get cash?
- Low Fees - Make sure to understand any and all fees associated with setting up and maintaining your bank account. Ask for a list - banks usually try to keep this hidden and in the fine print.
- Online Banking Services - Make sure you can easily navigate through your online portal and you have easy access to everything you need.
- Line of Credit - What do your options look like (even if you don't need this now, you may need this down the road).
- Every bank has something that differentiates them from the rest, so make sure whatever that is applied to your needs and values.
Check out this list of the 13 Best Banks for Small Business in 2020 and what makes them so unique.
Setting Up Your Consulting Business (Formation and Legal)
When it comes to setting up your business, you may find yourself in a place where you have to make some financial and legal decisions.
The first thing you'll want to decide on is whether you want to be an LLC, S-Corp, or C-Corp.
These three options are found to be the most common when starting a small business, and all serve to protect your personal assets and also provide you with certain tax benefits.
- LLC: All income and expenses from the business are reported on the LLC personal income tax return.
- S corp: Owners pay themselves salaries + receive dividends from profits.
- C Corp: C Corps are separately taxable entities that file a corporate tax return (Form 1120). No income tax is paid at the corporate level and any tax due is paid at the owners individual expense.
Depending on where you're conducting business, you'll also want to consider securing the proper permits, licenses and liability insurance.
Need to start an LLC? Create an LLC in minutes with ZenBusiness.
How Do I Pay Myself As A Small Business Owner?
Most entrepreneurs start a business to do something they love- but at the end of the day, you still have bills to pay (maybe now more than ever).
But it's important to strike the right balance - if you pay yourself too much, you could be putting your business at risk.
There are two common ways to pay yourself as a business owner:
1. Owner's Draw
Many entrepreneurs pay themselves through an owner's draw. This means that you are technically sean as "self-employed" through the eyes of the IRS and are not paid through regular wages.
At the point that you collect money from the draw, taxes typically are not taken out - so make sure you are prepared to pay these taxes once you file your individual return.
As an owner who takes a draw, you can legally take out as much as you want from your equity.
This type of compensation is suited for Sole props, LLCs, and partnerships. If you’re an S corp, you can pay yourself through both a salary and draw if you choose.
If you decide to pay yourself a salary, you will receive a set and recurring amount. This will be taxed by the federal government and the state you reside in.
The reality is that it can be really complicated to set your own salary, so we have some tips for you to consider:
- Take out a reasonable amount that allows you to live comfortably but also sets your business up for success
- Consider the number of hours you are working weekly + the type of duties you are performing.
- Set your salary based on your industry-standard, location, and profits (or projected profits)
- Look at your P&L statement: Deduct your own pay from that amount. This is important so you can first tackle important business expenses, and then pay yourself from the amount leftover.
- Pick a payroll schedule (and stick to it)! In the US, it's most common to pay yourself and employees twice a month.
To learn more about how to pay yourself and what is a reasonable amount, check out this article.
How To Price Your Consulting Services
One of the most challenging aspects to starting a consulting business is determining how much to charge for your consulting services.
When businesses under-price their product, this can be extremely detrimental to their bottom line and reputation.
Often times, businesses under-price their products to drive demand and volume, but that last thing you want is for customers to view your product/service as "cheap." Additionally, this can have a big impact on the type of customer you attract, which can be difficult to recover from.
On the other hand, when businesses over-price, this tends to be just as damaging to the business.
When customers buy, it's likely that they will explore the internet and look at other competitors to ensure they're getting the best value + deal. This is why it's so important that you research your competition and understand where you land in the marketplace.
Here are some factors to consider when pricing your product:
Understand your customer
It's important that out of the gates, you identify the type of customer you want to attract and how much they're willing to pay for your service. One great way to do this is by surveying your customers. Here are some important items you'll want to takeaway:
- Customer demographic: Age, gender, location, etc.
- Buying habits of your customer: What they buy + when they buy
- Level of price sensitivity with your customer
All of these segments will help you identify the type of customer you're attracting and how to price your product accordingly.
Understand your costs
When pricing your consulting services, it's critical that you first identify all of your costs and consequently mark up your consulting services so you can factor in a profit.
The actual cost of your consulting services may include things like:
- The actual cost to make the product (ie. raw materials, supplies, manufacturer).
- Shipping + overhead fees
- Operating costs to run your business
You may want to consider creating a spreadsheet with every single expense involved in operating/owning your business. This will give you an idea as to what you need to generate in order to at the very least, break-even and will help you price your products to factor in a profit.
Create revenue goals
When determining the price of your consulting services, you'll want to create goals for revenue + how much profit you want your consulting business to make.
This process is simpler than you may think:
- Think about your breakeven cost (by completing the above step).
- Create a revenue goal based on your break-even cost
- Evaluate the # of items you plan to sell in a given period (make sure this is a realistic number)
- Divide your revenue goal by the number of items you plan to sell
This figure will help determine your estimated price per product in order to meet your revenue goals.
Evaluate your competition
The last piece in determining how to price your consulting services is by simply looking at your competition.
The best way to do this is by finding like-minded businesses that offer product(s) with similar perceived value. Then, you can compare prices of the different businesses and determine where your consulting services fits best in the marketplace.
All of these factors play an equal part in pricing your consulting services, so it's important you evaluate each one individually to come up with an accurate price that will help optimize your business from the start.
Rate Calculator: How to Calculate The Price For Your Consulting Services Services
Our calculator is designed to be simple and easy to use.
The goal is to help you set realistic expectations and understand the hourly rate you should be charging to make your desired profit.
Please input below:
Identify Target Customer
A very critical piece in building consulting business is to identify your ideal target customer.
- Develop a niche and create a consistent brand that reflects your target customer.
- The colors, logo, content, and overall website should resonate with your target customer and should draw them in by helping them solve their specific "need".
Building an MVP (Minimal Viable Product)
When building a consulting business, it's critical that you first validate your product/service rather than rushing to build it right away.
This could save you months, if not years of building the wrong product/service.
If you're hoping to decrease any sort of risk that comes with launching your consulting business, designing a prototype can be a great way to de-risk your situation.
The point of your consulting services prototype is that it doesn't have to be perfect.
In the beginning stages, it doesn't matter how rough V1 of your prototype is, it's more important to just get started and you can always refine from there based on feedback from your network and most importantly your customers.
How To Build A MVP
Here are several different ways of building a prototype/MVP:
- Start by building a landing page to see if customers actually need your product and if they are willing to pay for it
- Build a very basic version of your idea and ask for immediate feedback from potential customers
- Present a problem and solution via Facebook/Instagram Ads and see what the response is like
Delali Dzirasa and Stephanie Chin, founder of Hutch dives deep into the process of designing and prototyping their product:
Hutch was started of the need for more diversity and inclusion in government.
“We realize the access to opportunities, capital, that access to knowledge and information and a support system is not readily available to founders of color. It’s not readily available for many women entrepreneurs, especially in the tech ecosystem. Hutch is here to fill that void,” said Delali Dzirasa, Hutch Founder and Lead Coach during the opening of Hutch’s incubator office space.
Drawing on Fearless’ experience and expertise in digital services, Hutch was created to help BIPOC and women entrepreneurs avoid the pitfalls that cause government projects to fail.
Our team of expert instructors, board members, and partners works to ensure our companies have all they need to build successful and impactful digital services firms in government.
In Year 1 of the program, we teach our cohort founders how to set the foundation for their company, and how to secure at least one paying customer. The first year is all about building the strong foundation that will set our cohort companies up for future success. Through this first half of the program, we coach and mentor each of our companies so they are well-positioned to secure more government contracts in their targeted domain by the end of the first year.
In Year 2 of the program, we teach our companies how to scale the business and bring in more customers. We provide coaching support and help our cohort companies put the team, systems, and processes in place that they’ll need to scale. This part of the program focuses on ensuring that our cohort companies can scale sustainably.
When we originally started Hutch in 2019, it was piloted as a one-year program. Testing and feedback led to it becoming a two-year program so that we would have ample time to dive deep with each of our companies and foster a community and connectedness amongst them that would extend beyond the incubator program. We used Lean Startup Methodology to launch Hutch and have continued to iterate and improve based on cohort feedback.
For the first year after launching, Hutch was run by internal Fearless’ team members, leveraging time and talent from CEO Delali Dzirasa, scrum masters, and passionate coaches. External surge support was brought on as needed for project management and curriculum development, and in late 2020 Hutch hired its first full-time dedicated employee, Program Manager Stephanie Chin, bringing expertise in leading incubators and accelerator programs.
Launching Hutch has been a large investment of time, talent, and capital from Fearless to expand its impact and vision of a world where good software powers the things that matter.
Unlike most incubators or accelerators, Hutch has pivoted away from taking equity in companies but instead created a royalty revenue model to ensure the program is sustainable and can have a long-term impact on the industry. We’ve found this model to be the right blend of accountability, alignment of incentives and expectations, and more entrepreneur-friendly (since the payment model scales as graduates grow).
🚀 How To Launch Your Consulting Business
Build A Website
Building a website is imperative when launching your business, and with the right tools in place, this can be a simple task to check off the list (without having to hire someone).
- Pick a domain name that's easy to remember and easy to type
- Choose a Web Hosting Plan (ie. Shopify, Squarespace)
- Make sure you choose the right theme and design
- Implement the proper page structure (ie. about page, contact page, pricing etc)
To learn more about how to build a stellar website with little stress, we give you all the details on this step-by-step guide.
Best Website Platforms To Use For Your Consulting Business:
There are a variety of websites platforms out there, and it's important to choose the right one that will set you up for success.
Here's everything you need to know about the two most common platforms for your consulting business:
Free and open-source content management system based on PHP and MySQL.
Free to use/open source but you will need to pay for the hosting.
Businesses using WordPress:
The all-in-one solution for anyone looking to create a beautiful website.
- Personal Plan: $12/month
- Business Plan: $18/month
- Basic: $26/month
Businesses using Squarespace:
Once you have chosen the domain, web hosting, and platform, it's time to get started with the design phase.
Themes are a great way to produce the fundamental style and identity of your website - this includes everything from your font design to your blog post styles.
One of the best ways to get started is to simply explore the various themes (free or paid depending on what you're looking for) and test them on your site.
If web-design really isn't in the cards for you, you may want to consider outsourcing a web designer to help bring your vision and brand to life.
Traditional Launch Strategies For Your Consulting Business:
There are various different ways you can launch your consulting business successfully.
Here are a few different strategies to get customers excited about your consulting business:
- Set up a Facebook page for your business. This is a great way to establish an online presence
- Host an event in a fun location with drinks & food. This is a great way to get exposure in the local community.
- Get Press! Pitch your story to the media and you may just land in an amazing publication
- Live sales to get customers excited
- Send a hand-written letter in the mail with a discount on your services to the local community/neighborhoods.
Roy Kiessling, founder of EMDR Consulting dives deep into the process of launching the business:
Once I made the decision to leave, the real challenge began. I wish I could say it was a leap of faith, that I had a business plan, an outline course to follow. Actually, it was a jump into the unknown! Of course, I had years of experience training others in EMDR, however, most of that was teaching others Shapiro’s basic course. When I resigned from my positions at Shapiro’s organizations in November 2012 my material had not been fully written. I had not submitted my training for approval and actually was not even certain it would be approved. While my training included the basic foundations of Shapiro's EMDR, I had heard that other materials had not been approved, and that could happen to me as well. I recall saying to my wife, “Well, if this does not work, guess I’ll retire!”
While waiting for approval I taught a small group of clinicians my materials for no cost, just to give them a test drive. After the course, I listened to their feedback, made some revisions, and waited.
June 13, 2013, I was notified that my training materials were approved and I “officially” launched my training. I returned to that small group and retaught the materials so they would be officially trained. I also contacted another colleague who had known I was going to be trained independent of Shapiro’s organization and we scheduled my first “official” training.
In 2014 and 2015 I scheduled training throughout the county. There were several key elements in building “traction” for my training.
- Existing relationships: Most were in areas where I had established relationships, depending upon their network of clinicians for registrants.
- Pricing: EMDR training is quite expensive as it includes the lecture, practice, and follow-up consultation. Most training at the time were only charged for the lecture/practice portion of the training. The follow-up consultation was extra. In pricing the training, all the fees were included, and I offered a reduced rate for those clinicians working in non-profit organizations. These rates were one of the lowest training rates in the country.
- Location: I purposefully scheduled training in smaller cities, using local EMDR clinicians to help during the training and provide after-training support. I followed a “Boots on the ground'' approach.
- Content: Typical training was presented in a rigid, protocol format, much like the airline pilot’s adherence to protocols and procedures. In contrast, my training was integrative, flexible, and intuitive, much like an acrobatic or combat pilot’s approach to flying.
- Referrals: Enough cannot be said about the value of “Word-of-mouth referrals.” Having participants tell their colleagues about the training created repeat demand.
- Organizational culture: When I formed EMDR Consulting, my primary value was “Service above Self (borrowed from The Rotary Club). Treating our participants as we would want to be treated. At times it was difficult to “walk the talk”, i.e., giving refunds, discounts to displeased participants, based upon the concept of, “If I were in that situation, what would I expect, consider to be fair, under the circumstance?”
Administrative: Looking back on our growth, our major surge occurred when I hired an administrator. When I first hired Karen, while not a business major, she had great organizational skills and a passion for EMDR. We learned together as our organization grew. Once again, “On the job training, modifying and adapting to the ever-growing demand.”
Interpersonal skills. I cannot say enough about having an administrative team that has great interpersonal skills. They represent the “front door” of our organization. While
The Training Team: Choosing those of like mind and goals: As demand for the training grew, adding additional team members was necessary. Fortunately, those I sought out, or who approached me, share the same values and goals. They understood and supported the EMDR approach that I had developed, and at the same time, felt comfortable enough to offer suggestions, improvement. The “It takes a village” could not be more true in developing and improving one’s product.
Part of EMDR Consulting’s training team!
In summation, it is essential to believe in yourself and your product. Find the niche in your community, and build the best, highest quality product you can create. Build your core values and mission on how your product can serve others and then "walk the talk." Surround yourself with like-minded individuals who share your visions and passions. “Walk-the-talk” sometimes means making business decisions that are in the best interest of your customer, at the expense of your "bottom line."
Get Press Coverage For Your Consulting Business
The more buzz around your brand - the more the phones ring, the more traffic to your website, and the more customers as a result.
Here are a few ways you can get press for your business:
Press releases are a great way to share big announcements or news, but in order to get any traction, you'll need to find a way to make your press release stand out amongst others.
Try to convey a story that really matters, not just to you, but to the reporter and to their audience.
Here are some things to consider when submitting a press release:
- Craft a catchy subject (keep it short and sweet).
- Acknowledge the journalist's past work and interests - this is key!
- Include the main point of the story in the first paragraph, heck, even the first sentence. Reporters want to hear the juice first and foremost.
- Focus on the facts and try to limit the amount of jargon used.
- Pitch yourself! Help them put a face to the story.
- Make sure your topic is newsworthy. If it's not, find a way to!
- Try not to include any attachments of your release!
Email is one of the most effective and preferred way to send your press release, so as long as you keep your pitch brief, interesting and personalized (no cold emails), you should stand a chance!
Get Press Using HARO
HARO, otherwise known as "Help a Reporter Out" is an outlet for journalists to source upcoming stories and opportunities for media coverage.
The best part is, HARO is free to use! There are, of course, premium versions you can purchase, but the free version is still an accessible way to get press.
Once you set up an account, HARO essentially will email you based on stories (that are relevant to you) that need to be covered where you will then have a chance to essentially "bid on the story."
Here are some tips when crafting your pitch:
- Discuss your experience and expertise in the space. Make sure it's obvious why you're relevant to this story.
- Answer the question in 3-4 sentences. Try and be as direct as possible
- Offer to provide the reporter with more information and make sure to give them your contact info
Plan a Publicity Stunt
Planning a publicity stunt is an effective and quick way to raise awareness for your brand and gain some traction from the press.
If you're looking to plan a stunt, the objective should be to be bold and create something memorable
However, being bold has a fine line - it's important that you consider the timing of your stunt to ensure you don't come off insensitive or unethical. For example, timing may not be in your favor if you plan something during the general election, or in most recent cases, a global pandemic.
In order to measure the success of your stunt, it's important that you first determine your end goal, for example:
- Is the stunt aimed to raise money for your business or a particular organization?
- Is the stunt aimed to drive more traffic to your website?
- Is the stunt aimed to get more followers and engagement on Instagram?
Here are a few tips for creating a great publicity stunt:
- Research to ensure that there haven't been similar stunts done in the past by other businesses - this could easily turn off journalists and your audience.
- Make sure you can explain the stunt in one headline - this will help grab the media's attention. In other words, simplify!
- The stunt should be related to the product you are promoting. Even if the stunt is a success in terms of viewers, but it doesn't tie back to your original goal, then it's not useful.
- Keep the stunt visual with videos/images.
- Leverage the internet and social media platforms for your stunt by sharing your message across a variety of audiences. This will help with word of mouth and the overall success of your event.
To learn other strategies on how to get press, check out our full guide here.
🌱 How To Grow Your Consulting Business
Social Media Advertising
Social Media Advertising is one of the leading ways to get the word out when it comes to consulting business.
There are various different Social Media platforms available to you. Some may be more critical for your marketing efforts than others, however, it's important to have an understanding of what's out there and available to you.
Let's talk about a few of the main platforms and what makes them unique:
- Facebook Advertising - more than 2 billion monthly users. Facebook is the best for lead generation + capturing email addresses for e-commerce businesses.
- Instagram Advertising - approximately 500 million monthly users and has a higher audience engagement rate than any other platform. Instagram ads are best for linking to a product page or landing page and reaches the 18-29 age group most effectively.
- Twitter Advertising- Small businesses typically use twitter ads to drive brand awareness, but the platform is meant more for organic engagement (and is not as heavily used for paid advertising)
- Pinterest Advertising - 175 million monthly users and most effectively reaches the female audience. Pinterest is great for promoting products without "promoted". The promoted pins have a way of blending right in.
- LinkedIn Advertising - 227 million monthly users and is geared towards the B2B market and generates the highest quality leads. Great platform for recruiters, high-end products and services that will help businesses
It's important to first define your goal/objective so that you don't waste time and money into the wrong platform:
Here are some different questions to ask yourself as it relates to your goals:
- Do I want to simply drive brand awareness?
- Do I want to drive users to my website to gather information?
- Do I want to increase sales and get my customer to take action?
From there, choose the platform that targets your audience best and start experimenting!
Learn more about social media advertising ➜ here.
Founder Andy Hayes talks about mastering FB ads and the pixel:
The biggest bang for your buck will likely be mastering Facebook and it’s platform - which we all know is pay for play, so you’ll have to come up with a small amount of budget to start for marketing.
We’ve spent countless hours (and paid numerous coaches) before we cracked the code that works for us on Facebook, but it is working really well for us now.
Some of the most important things to know when it comes to FB Ads:
- Start with retargeting (that’s showing ads to people who already know you but did not purchase). Master this - and start building information on your Facebook Pixel - before you do anything else
- Once you have that down, try working with the 1% “Lookalike” audience to prospect for new customers. This may take awhile because your pixel audience is small, so try layering on interests - 1% Lookalike and your largest competitor, for example. Don’t use interest-only targeting until you master this.
- Great photography and videography is key, as is smart copy. Research what’s out there in your industry and constantly test - what works for one company may not work for other people.
- Make sure you have good offers. For example, we have a $5 trial for our subscription, which converts affordably - if we promoted our subscription with the standard $30 front charge, it wouldn’t be as cost-effective.
Build A Facebook Community
Building a community is a great way to grow your network and your business.
There are several different ways of building a community, one of the most effective (and simplest) ways is to build a Facebook group
Setting up the group page takes less than 10 minutes, and we've outlined ways the top 5 ways to create an engaging and successful group:
- Make the group exclusive. This may sound counter-intuitive, however, this ensures privacy and that the group will feel comfortable posting and engaging with members.
- Try to be warm and welcoming. A great way to do this is by having a "Member Monday" where you welcome new members and ask them to introduce themselves in the group
- Use polls/surveys. This is a great way to know your audience and see what people want more of in the group (more business tips, networking opportunities, etc).
- Include influential people & conduct AMA's (ask me anything). This is a great way to get members engaged
- Host an in-person (or virtual) event with members in the group. This will create stronger relationships and build a strong community.
Mike Doehla, founder of Stronger U, an online nutrition company noticed that his customers needed a little motivation and sense of community:
Most diets are lonely so we wanted to give support and a community.
I think many people fail diets because there is no one to talk to and no accountability.
You can by a book, or google a meal plan but who’s going to keep you on track? We will. The entire SU community.
We give our members access for life to our Facebook community filled with people around the world who are looking out for everyone’s success.
Most diets make up arbitrary rules and we thought they just didn’t make sense. Meal timing, Cutting carbs, butter in coffee, sugar being the devil? Ehh no need to overthink that stuff.
We’ll give you the science behind of what we do and show you what actually matters based on real research.
Luckily we have a PhD at our disposal to educate our staff and members so everyone is getting the most up to date information out there.
Experiment With Pay Per Click Ads (PPC)
Pay-per-click (PPC) is a performance-based marketing method that allows you to show specific ads for services or products oriented to a very defined target, with the goal that the user visits your website or landing page.
Here are some tips to consider:
- Consider connecting the ad to your corresponding landing page so that the audience receives the necessary information after clicking on the ad.
- Conversion Tracking: When running PPC campaigns, be sure to run the ads with conversion tracking.
- Focus on quality keywords, even if there are few as this will save you time and money. When assessing the performance of a keyword, it's important to track the expense, conversion, and cost per conversion, as well as the ROI.
PPC advertising can be a very important lead generator as long as it's done properly. Your PPC campaign is intended to drive traffic to your website and help the business scale.
Additionally, if the campaign is not having the desired results, you can make the necessary changes immediately to improve them.
Ryan Schortmann, founder of Display Pros talks about their investment in PPC Ads:
My name is Ryan Schortmann and I’m the founder of Display Pros. We are a custom trade show display booth company offering easy to use portable display “kits” for small and medium businesses wanting to get into the trade show game.
It did not take long to come to the realization that to compete at any reasonable level, we were going to need to take the plunge and invest in Pay Per Click ads and display.
From experience, I know that it is important to give Google’s hivemind some time to settle in before each campaign starts seeing consistent results (this is largely dependent on budget).
A certain amount of PPC budget must be viewed as a “marketing research” expense and then you can look at the analytics data and make informed decisions on where to refine, tweak or plain scrap an idea.
Google Shopping was an entirely new concept for me. You can’t assign keywords to products so at first, I was asking myself “How the hell do you refine these?”. Then I found some good reading material and courses and learned of some advanced methods that the pros are using. It turns out you can utilize negative keyword lists combined with the priority setting on each shopping campaign to “shape” the keywords that are coming in and how much you are spending on them.
To learn more about PPC Ads and Google Shopping, check out this video to learn everything you need to know!
Grow Your Email List
The more engaged list of emails, the more engaged customers, which ultimately leads to more sales.
One of the best ways to start growing your list is by providing your customer with something free (or discounted) in return.
This could also be anything from:
- Fascinating case study
- Video series
- Free week of the product
- Discount on the product
Learn more about how to grow your email list and improve email marketing ➜ here.
Dylan Jacob, founder of Brumate states their email collection tactic that is proven to work:
We use Spin-a-Sale for this (you spin a wheel for a discount code in exchange for subscribing to our email list). This has been the best email-collecting tool we have found because the customer truly feels like they won a prize rather than just a coupon code.
Even if a customer doesn’t convert right away, if we have their email we have a 19% chance of converting them into a future customer whether that is through future promotions, new releases, or simply just sending an email at the right time for a purchase to finally make sense for them.
We also have a return customer rate of over 14%, so one out of every 6 people we convert will end up buying from us again with an average order value of over $60.00.
Add an exit-intent popup to your online store
A great way to double, or even triple, your email opt-in rate and to grow your list is to add an exit-intent popup to your site, and offering a discount or content upgrade for subscribers.
Here's an example of what that might look like:
One thing that I spent years NOT doing, that I now kick myself about, is adding an "exit intent pop-up" to our site, which lets people enter a sweepstakes to win a Xero Shoes gift certificate.
That one idea has added over 100,000 subscribers to our email list, which is one of our most effective marketing channels.
Improve Your Email Marketing
Different types of emails
Here are the most common types of email campaigns you can send to your customers and their benefits:
- Welcome emails - the perfect way to provide information from the start with a clear CTA. Make sure to tell your customer everything they need to know about your product or service.
- Newsletters - a great way to give customers updates or send out your latest content
- Product launch emails - the quickest (and easiest) way to increase sales is by selling to current customers. Make sure they're the first on the list to know about your new product
- Promotional emails - promote discounts, deals coupons etc. Try and make this feel exclusive and for a limited time only
- Abandoned cart emails - give your customers a reason to complete their purchase!
Here's a great resource for finding curated email designs, for all types of email campaigns!
Abandonded Cart Flow
The abandoned cart workflow is one of the most effective strategies for turning your lead into a customer, and a powerful tool to have if you're an e-commerce business.
Think about all the times that you went on a shopping frenzy only to add items to your cart and then either forget or realize nows not the right time to pull the trigger.
Then, minutes later you receive an email saying "Hurry up! Your cart is waiting - and we want to provide you with 20% off your order."
Maybe that's the special touch (and discount) you needed to pull that trigger.
Implementing this workflow can automatically trigger this for your business every time a customer abandons their cart.
Here's a great example of an abandoned cart email from Brooklinen:
Things they do well:
- Showcase 5-star reviews from other customers
- Offer a small discount + free shipping
- Great design + clear call to actions!
Improve your SEO
SEO is not just about driving traffic to your site, it's about driving the RIGHT traffic to your site, and ultimately, converting leads into customers.
One of the most important aspects of SEO is understanding what your customers are searching for, otherwise known as "keyword research."
Here are some tools that can help you choose the right keywords for your consulting business.
- Google Ads Keyword Planner invaluable for discovering search trends.
- Google Search Console is very helpful once your website is up as it shows you what words/phrases are generating traffic.
- Ahrefs and SEMRush are paid tools that allow you to look at results of your competitor's website.
Publish Great Content
Finding keywords is an important piece of the puzzle, but Google also ranks your site based on the actual content you produce, as this is what your customers are reading and engaging with.
There are various different "forms" of content that you may want to consider diversifying on your sites, such as blog posts, articles, studies, and videos.
So let's discuss what google considers "good content:"
- Length - This will vary depending on the page, however, generally having a sufficient amount of content helps search engines recognize that your site is a good source for a specific topic
- Engagement - The longer people stay on your website to read your content, the higher Google will rank your website. It's important to have informative and "thick" content that keeps people reading
- Avoid Duplicating Content - Google will recognize this and may consider your content to have low value
- Ensure pages load quickly - This will also help with engagement and time spent on your website
- Shareability - Create content that people want to share, and is easy for them to share, especially to their social media accounts (ie. "click to tweet" is a great example of this).
Another element of creating good content is creating consistent content.
If (and hopefully you are) publishing content frequently, it's important to stick to a schedule - this helps build brand trust and easy user experience with your customers.
Planning out your content with a content calendar is key to staying consistent.
Here are a few great content calendar tools that can help you:
Backlinks are an important piece to SEO, as they allow for other websites to link to your content.
Search engines recognize that other sites are essentially "verifying" your content and essentially rank you higher because of this.
Of course, some links are more valuable than others and can affect your site in different ways.
For example, if a highly valuable and credible site like the New York Times links to a page on your website, this could be remarkable from an SEO perspective.
Aside from organically getting mentioned from other sites, there are other ways that you can increase and earn backlinks:
- Create infographics with relevant data that people want to share
- Promote your content on different sites/look into "guest blogging"
- Contact influencers/journalists/bloggers and ask them to mention you!
- Write testimonials for other sites in exchange for a backlink
- Leverage existing business relationships
Build A Blog
One of the most effective ways to build brand awareness and grow your business is through consistently blogging.
We've outlined some useful tips for you to consider when creating content:
Consistency and Quantity
Quality is important, but it should be the standard for any content you publish.
What’s more important is consistency and quantity.
Consistency is as simple as committing to publishing and sharing a certain number of posts per week. For me, that’s three per week right now.
This kind of commitment is key, because one day, a random post will blow up, and you will have never expected it.
The easiest mind trap is to think "I’m posting too much", and “I need to give my readers/audience/this platform a break”.
This is nonsense.
There is no such thing as oversaturation. Well, there is, but it is just someone else’s opinion.
For every person that tells you you are posting too much, there is another person that wants even more of your content.
You should ignore people’s opinions on how much you post.
Patience & Persistence
Keep posting, keep trying, and keep putting out good content on the regular. Your time will come, and when it does, it will change everything.
The only thing you have control over is your content.
You can’t control how people will react to it. You can’t control pageviews, likes, or shares.
So the only metric you should focus on is how much content you can put out in a week, month, etc.
Where to share your blog content
I know it sounds obvious, but the best places to share your content is on your mailing list. It is guaranteed traffic and it is a great way to get rapid feedback from your most loyal readers.
Send newsletters often. I have done once a week since starting, and I’m moving to twice a week soon.
Work on increasing your mailing list as well. Look into ways to increase your conversion rate to your mailing list. I added a flyout popup thing to my site and now I’m collecting ~30 emails per day.
An email newsletter is one of the most powerful assets you can have and it is worth its weight in gold.
Reddit is one of my favorite places to promote content.
It is a very scary place because you will often get banned or heckled, but it can really pay off.
Create social media accounts for your blog, the main ones I use:
Twitter Facebook Instagram LinkedIn
Set up Buffer and share all of your blog posts to all of your accounts. All of these little shares really do add up.
Automate this as much as possible. I automated all of my social media for Starter Story.
When I started out, I put together a spreadsheet of relevant Facebook groups for my niche, and I would post to these groups whenever I had a big story I wanted to share.
Form partnerships for your consulting business
Starting a consulting business is all about building relationships and becoming an integral part of your community.
Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of thinking they can do everything on their own. In reality, other businesses (even your competition) and members of your community can be a huge piece of your growth strategy.
When forming any type of partnership, a lot of energy and time can go into this. To ensure it's worth your while, dive deep into the vetting process and ask yourself (and them) the following questions:
- What are your businesses values and priorities?
- Who are your customers? What matters most to them?
- In what ways can we both bring value to each others businesses? Cross promotions? Clout/credibility?
- Should we do a trial run first to make sure this partnership works out before finalizing an agreement?
- What will the agreement look like?
Once you have an idea as to what the ideal partnership agreement looks like, that's when the outreach begins (the hardest part)!
Here are some different ways you can meet other entrepreneurs and form partnerships:
- Simply talk to other people in the consulting business industry. You'd be surprised as to how willing other entrepreneurs are to share their knowledge with you
- Host an event: By inviting people to your event in your community and industry, you may be able to form partnerships and expand your clientele
- Join a facebook community: Nowadays, everything is online. A great way to meet other people is to become 'active' on a public forum or community
- Use other social networks such as LinkedIn or Twitter to aid your outreach. This can be a very powerful tool if used properly.
Forming partnerships and building relationships within your community can be a very valuable tool, but it's important that you do your due diligence and avoid going in blind to any sort of partnership. This can save you months, if not years of time.
Mike Aspinall, founder of The Crafty Gentlemen discusses how brand partnerships are the most important part of his growth strategy and revenue stream:
My main revenue stream is sponsored brand partnerships, whereby a company pays me a fee to feature their product within one of my blog posts.
Over the years, I’ve worked with some really cool brands – Etsy, Hobbycraft, Cricut, Pinterest, Gorilla Glue, Singer, Janome, Brother, Bosch, and lots more.
For a long time, I was hesitant to charge for my work – I was happy to work in exchange for products. But there came a point where I was being offered more work than I could have said yes to – something had to change. So I started to charge for partnerships. And brands agreed, no questions asked!
The last 6-12 months have been the most successful yet for my business. I’m making regular revenue through multiple streams, including sponsorships, media appearances, influencer work, and passive ad revenue. My website traffic is at an all-time high, and growing – as are my social media followings:
🏃🏼♀️ How To Run Your Consulting Business
How To Retain Customers For Your Consulting Business
Retaining customers is one of the most effective ways to grow your consulting business.
Oftentimes, it's easy to find yourself focusing on generating new customers, vs retaining your current ones.
Look at it this way - you are 60-70% more likely to sell a new product to an existing customer than you are a new customer.
That's not to say that finding new customers and revenue streams is not important, however, the easiest (and most inexpensive) source of new revenue is right there in front of you.
Here are some ways you can retain customers for your consulting business:
- Responding to comments on social media
- Send discounts (or freebies) to loyal customers
- Provide valuable content, for free
- Write a hand written thank you note
- Provide awesome customer service and build relationships with customers
To find out more tips and tricks on retaining customers, check out this article ➜ here
Uri Weinberger, founder of Adjust Media dives deep into the process of attracting and retaining customers:
In our business, acquisition and retention are our specialties. We quite literally run the show for our brands, meaning that we need to have a tight handle on both these aspects for our own business.
Let’s start with the acquisition. At this point in time, based on team size, we know that the ideal number of clients we can manage at our standard is 15. We have clients that work with us seasonally (Fishing, Biking, Skiing, etc.) but like to keep a constant 15 on the roster at all times.
When we drop below 15, a roster spot opens up and we start pumping out free content such as case studies or updates, but those typically live on our Blog, YouTube channel, or within our own Facebook community group. I even started a podcast - eCommerce Made Simple - which has been surprisingly effective despite only having had the time to launch 4 enticing episodes.
We’ve never run paid media – which is ironic – because we haven’t had to. We usually get inbound leads through any of the above-mentioned channels or through client referrals.
Once we book a ‘discovery call’, the process is pretty simple, and our conversion rate is quite high. I preface each call by noting that this is not a sales call. I simply want to understand the merchants’ needs and discover whether we are a good fit for each other. I walk through our process and some real and live ad accounts to explain our process.
Don’t be afraid to give content away for free. Whether that’s audits, strategies, case studies, or free offers, it’s important that you land your first client.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I am the one interviewing them. At this point, we have the luxury (and responsibility) of picking clients that are only good fits for us. Our agency is small. We know what we’re good at and prefer to stick in our lane. I call it “The Power of Small”.
Retention is tricky, but I can confidently say that we do a great job. Over half of our clients have been with us for over 2 years. The key to this success, in my eyes, is multifaceted.
First, impeccable service, i.e., communication standards and humility. I’m big on both of these aspects, and so is our staff. They’re non-negotiable, and clients appreciate it. We set expectations and communicate results whether we hit performance numbers or not.
There’s value in understanding that we aren’t magicians, just highly skilled professionals, and sometimes campaigns don’t perform as expected. As long as we communicate that in plain English with humility, clients are generally happy.
The second is proactive performance. We adjust our campaigns daily, ensuring that we hit our clients’ KPIs. We write killer copy. We make thumb-stopping creative. We plan, strategize and execute new ideas. But most importantly, we catch a lower-than-average performance before the client does. If there’s a problem in the account, we bring it to the client rather than wait for them to bring it to us.
Lastly, a “merchant-first mentality.” I started Adjust out of a passion for helping SMBs grow, not be a thorn in their side. As a result, the way we have constructed our operation is merchant-first—no contracts, performance-based billing, and a-la-carte services that our merchants actually need.
We started with Facebook Ads only, but over the years have expanded into Google and other social platforms as clients requested. We have an entire team of email marketers that do copy and design for clients who can’t do it in-house. We have video editors and graphic designers if required—all a-la-carte to help our clients out.
We aren’t perfect. No one is. But I am happy with our retention numbers.
Diversify Your Product Line
Adding new products to your business is a great way to expand into new markets and grow your business.
It's important to note that adding new products and diversifying may not be in the cards for you right this moment, and that's okay. You can always consider it down the road.
Here are some reasons you may want to considering adding/diversifying your product
- Meeting the needs of your customers
- Establish yourself as a top provider in your industry and stay ahead of the game with competition
- Resistance to downturns/trends fading
- Create new revenue streams
Word of Mouth
The most tried and true way to grow a consulting business is through word of mouth - some entrepreneurs would say it's more important than all social media.
Why you should focus on word of mouth:
- Consumers trust word of mouth above all other forms of marketing
- 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising
- 64% of marketing executives indicated that they believe it is the most effective form of marketing
Learn more about word of mouth in our guide: 30 Ways Founders Grow Their Business ➜
How To Crush The Sales Process For Your Consulting Business
You may find yourself in a spot where you're ready to hire a few (or many) salespeople to support the sales conversion process.
Regardless if you have one or thirty salespeople, it's critical that you assign them specific roles and responsibilities to nurture the client and provide excellent support.
Mike Korba, co-founder of User.Com walks us through the entire sales process and which teams are responsible for what:
User.com Sales Process
Each user and account is qualified with a specialist. For business leads, they are handled by the sales team, and if they are qualified we give them a demo, more than often at the end of their fourteen-day trial. If they’re happy they’ll add a payment, and get an account manager, so a customer support and success team who will help implement the solution and to use the technology.
Sometimes, users will convert naturally on their own, after using the freemium product and finding it to be something that they will find beneficial.
After they convert, we help with onboarding, give them some personalized tips for their specific business or industry to grow plus all kinds of support, for whatever they need - something we take huge pride in.
The team is right now more than 30 people, with more than half working on the IT and product side, and the rest are in three teams: Support, Marketing, and Sales who all work together very closely.
Build a Referral Program
Word of mouth is one of the best ways to get the word out about your business and acquire new customers. Especially when you are starting out, it’s important to build a solid referral program to encourage existing customers to help you find new ones.
A great way to do that is by offering a reward (ie. credit on your service or cash) to customers that refer you to their friends and family.
A fantastic referral program will help with clout, credibility, and establishing yourself in the space.
As a brand, you want to deliver an experience that authentic, honest and transparent.
Don't make the mistake of giving your audience less credit than they deserve.
If you go around chasing every trend and only focused on yourself and money, you’re going to lose very quickly.
There have been many times where we have been tempted to do this but stayed true.
Sure we sacrificed sales, but we kept our integrity, played the long game and people saw and appreciated that, and really began emotionally investing in the brand.
If you can afford to hire someone to help support your consulting business, outsourcing is a great way to save you time and energy.
Most importantly, outsourcing can help you focus on the core growth of your business, versus spending your time on day to day tasks that other people can do just as well!
If you do plan to outsource your work, it's important to be hyper-familiar with the actual work involved.
Why is it important to be hyper-familiar with the work?
- So you can understand how long it takes
- So you understand the full process, edge cases, things that can go wrong.
- So you can explain it in detail to your employee.
- So you can make sure it actually works (for example - how do you know cold email works for your business if you’re not on the ground floor trying it out?)
- Understanding the tasks at a deep level will save you a lot of time and money.
We put together the best resources on the internet to help you start your consulting business.
- Platform tools such as WooCommerce, Amazon, Etsy, Google Shopping, Custom Built, Wix.com, Weebly or Canva
- Email tools such as MailChimp, ConvertKit, G Suite, Whatsapp or 1Password
- Social media tools such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Hootsuite, Medium or Vimeo
- Advertising tools such as Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, Google Adwords, Bing Ads, Google AdSense, Taboola or LinkedIn Ads
- Design tools such as Canva, 99designs or HubSpot’s form builder
- Analytics tools such as Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager or Google Forms
- Productivity tools such as Google Suite, Dropbox, Slack, Asana, Microsoft Office 365, Trello, Calendly, Jira or SmartTask
- Payments tools such as Paypal, Stripe or Apple Pay
- Blog tools such as WordPress or Squarespace
- Accounting tools such as Quickbooks, Xero or Google Sheets
- Crm tools such as Hubspot, PipeDrive or Dubsado
- Customer service tools such as Facebook Chat App
- Freelance tools such as Fiverr or Upwork
- Affiliate tools such as ShareASale, Amazon Associates or PepperJam
- Education tools such as Udemy, Coursera, Teachable or Lynda
- Shipping tools such as UPS WorldShip, FedEx, DHL or UPS
- Sales tools such as ClickFunnels
- Stock images tools such as Unsplash, Pixabay or Shutterstock
- Seo tools such as Ahrefs, Semrush or Yoast
- Reviews tools such as Google My Business or Clutch
- Podcast tools such as Podbean or Spotify
- How To Start And Run A Successful Consulting Business: Gregory F. Kishel
- How To Start A Consulting Business
- How To Start A Profitable Consulting Business In The Next 42 Days
- How I Started A $18K/Month Digital Consulting Firm Specialized In Customer Acquisition
- How I Started A $20K/Month Business Offering Financial Consulting Services
- How These Cousins Started A $200K/Month Consultant Training And Coaching Business
- How I Started A $13K/Month Fitness-Focused Marketing Consulting Business
- How I Left A Professional Skateboarding Career To Start Developing IT And Mobile Solutions
- How We Started A $104K/Year Digital Product Management Consultancy Firm [Vietnam]
- How I Started My $10K/Month Blogging Education And Coaching Business
- We Created An $80K/Year Incubation Program To Help Minorities And Women Entrepreneurs
- I Built A Business Around Mental Health & Grew It To $1.8M/Year
- How We Launched A Six-Figure Startup Consulting Business With 100% YoY Growth [Since 2017]
Hey! 👋I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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