What if you could have the freedom to choose your own hours, make a few thousand dollars extra per month, take vacations when you want, pick who you work with, refuse assignments and work with a variety of creative and fun projects?

Welcome to the life of a consultant. Last year, I made $220,000 consulting for small businesses and leaders around the world. It was one of the most exhilarating and challenging experiences of my life.

However, to become a full-time consultant, you let go of regular pay, administrative help, benefits and health care, tech support and other things many employees take for granted. When you become a consultant, you may also find yourself working alone, without the moral, creative and administrative support of co-workers.

At the core, you become an entrepreneur.

It's your job to lead, to clarify, to organize, to strategize and ultimately make your clients more successful than they were before engaging with you. If you can do this, you will never run out of work.

But the big question is… What makes a qualified consultant?

3 Parts Of A Qualified Consultant

1. Experience: This is completely relative to what you're consulting on. It could be as much as decades or as little as months. Ideally, you would have some success or detailed knowledge on a particular subject.

Critical Question: What field do you have significant experience? Gardening? Fundraising? Computer IT? Church Marketing? Playing Piano? Graphic Design? Branding? You get the picture.

2. Gobs of Self Confidence: Leading leaders takes confidence and levelheadedness. If you have a strong, passionate personality that operates well on the fly and can articulate vision and persuade people, consulting will feel natural.

3. A Niche Service, Program, or Strategy: The best consultants focus on a niche. For example, you might not be a business consultant, you're specifically an e-commerce consultant. Or, you might not be a marketing consultant, you're a customer acquisition and analytics consultant. This provides clients clarity on exactly what you can help them with. Furthermore, having a 5 step program, 3 hour discover session, or 90 day package outlined will help clients feel like they are buying a physical item, not just your brain.

If you've checked all three boxes above but just don't know where to begin. Here are 10 areas where consultants are often needed.

1. Small Business or Startup
2. Personal Career Development
3. Editorial & Copywriting Services
4. Marketing Strategy or Analytics
5. Branding
6. Company Culture or HR
7. Hiring
8 Public Relations
9. Legal & Finance
10. IT & Computer Tech

But what do you actually need to get started? Let's say you have some experience, self confidence, and a niche service and you're ready to move forward as a branding consultant for startups. What key steps should you take to get the fire roaring?

1. Get Your Business Essentials Out of The Way: The last thing you want to worry about is looking unprofessional to professionals. Get your business legally stated, launch a simple (clean) website, get professional head shots (you're selling you), update your twitter account, choose an accounting and invoicing software, get your logo and brand ironed out, finalize any client on-boarding documents (questionnaires, etc.) and any legal agreements used during a client relationship.

2. Create The Best Business Card You've Ever Seen: As a consultant, your most important marketing material will be your business card. This is where you should spend much of your marketing dollars. And I'm not talking nice cotton stock with raised letters either. I'm talking a piece of italian leather woven onto chipboard with your information literally hot-iron-branded on to it. Something so good that even people who don't like you will keep your card. I wrote an entire article on creating a great business card here.

“Something so good, that even people who don't like you will keep your card.”

3. Gather Some Friendly Endorsements: If you have some qualified friends or colleagues who can attest to your skills, ask for a short 2-3 sentence endorsement for your website, brochure, or handout. Ideally, you could get these folks (or future happy clients) to record a short video testimonial. There's nothing that relieves “new client skepticism” like a good video affirmation from a past satisfied customer.

4. Create A Brilliant Content Strategy: Consultants sell information, wisdom, or action plans. I find it very disheartening when a so-called consultant/expert is not providing public materials on the subject they claim to be so passionate about. I believe all consultants should be writing articles (weekly), publishing short e-books, or producing videos on the topics they are are consulting on. This will not only increase confidence in potential and current clients, but create a built-in continued education program for your business.

5. Network More Than Anyone You Know: But be careful you don't confuse being busy with being successful. Effective networking requires the discernment to know when to go or say no. By clearly understanding who your client is you won't make the mistake of attending events or meetings where they aren't.

Here are a few suggested books if you choose to become a consultant:

101 Ways To Succeed As A Consultant
• The Consulting Bible
Million Dollar Consulting Proposals

Have you ever thought about being a consultant? What's stopped you in the past?

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34 thoughts on “How to Start A Consulting Business

  1. Simon Villeneuve says:

    Wow, thanks for this Dale.

    I’ve considered starting a career consulting business for young guys just coming out of college. I’d love to be able to help them hit the ground with their feet running, but I keep dismissing the idea because I don’t feel qualified.

    Particularly, I like your bit about having gobs of confidence. You hit the hammer on the nail.

  2. Chichi says:

    Love this post Dale. What has stopped me in the past? Fear mainly. Fear of not being good enough, not having enough knowledge or experience, ‘who am I’ complex etc. However the more I have sat down to write out all that I have done and achieved and how I have already helped people, this is helping me to overcome it. Have sent you an email.

  3. Maritza Diaz says:

    Thanks for the post. My blog is my side “gig” if you will. I think consulting is great, especially when it’s still a challenging job market. Great post!

  4. Steph Nora says:

    I’m graduating with a marketing degree in a year and I’ve been working on setting up a consulting business to start on once I graduate. This was extremely helpful! I’ll have to save up a bit of money to do some courses or buy some books. I’d love to know more!

  5. Rana Campbell says:

    I really enjoyed this post Dale. It solidified that I really need to figure out my “niche strategy.” I’ve been doing alto of ad hoc projects but would like to consult in 2015 with more of a vision.

  6. Justin Harmon says:

    Thanks for this one Dale! I’ve been getting ready to start pursuing consulting now that my latest project is up and running. This is very helpful and came along at the right time. Also, just wanted to mention I’ve been seeing a lot of useful posts from you lately. Mostly via Lewis Howes page in my Facebook feed. Thanks for doing what you do man.

  7. Scott Morrison says:

    Thanks for this Dale! I’ve worked in Event & Brand Sponsorships for many years and have picked up Consulting almost on accident. However, I’d like to make consulting a larger part of what I do now. Thanks for the tips here. They’re a great help!

  8. Daniel Odegaard says:

    Great tips, Dale! I’m in the early phases of becoming a marketing consultant. Thanks for the good read.

  9. Jasmine Sydney says:

    Thanks for the tips Dale! I’m into personal career development. I’ve started with close friends and family for free as a test run. I created a questionnaire and a personalized vision/timeline specifically crafted for them. These tips let me know I’m heading in the right direction!

  10. Dewitt Robinson says:

    Good read Dale. Thanks for the tips. Do you see potential in blogs that function as online magazines with 5-10 posts per week? Or should beginner bloggers simply focus on 2-3 posts per week?

  11. Dat Nguyen says:

    Thanks Dale. I’ve been consulting for 7+ years now. I’ve been fortunate and love the flexibility but have been struggling with how to package/automate my services in order to grow. Can you elaborate or give an example on the “having a 5 step program, 3 hour discover session, or 90 day package outlined”?

      • Helen says:

        Hia….as I wrote a while ago, in response to another post, I’m having to rebuild my businesses again from scratch….I’ve found it much harder second time around….I’m older, the market is much more saturated etc etc., but one thing I’ve definitely found is that experience sells…..young whipper snappers might do the job at a tenth of the price but experience/quality is *priceless* (well, not priceless, but you know what I mean…..experience = people expect to have to pay a premium)…I’ve definitely learnt, through this, to value my own skills/experience and to have the confidence to charge accordingly….something I was always too scared to do…moral of the story? There is a silver lining in every cloud, however full of hurricane-force rainstorms that cloud might be 😉

  12. Pascal Batan says:

    Hey Dale great info.

    The one concern I have and potentially has v me from starting anything is 1. how long does it to make an income and 2. What are the rates go for for consulting business. ( is the customer being charge by hour, day or packages.

  13. FHIConsult says:

    Geat article! I am making the transition to my conuslting firm and this is really helpful. Do you recommend reading the books on Consulting prior to taking your offer for the 5 sessions for $299?

  14. Krystal - The Feisty House says:

    This post was so on time! My husband and I have been considering going into business together to do consulting for startups and smaller nonprofits, and this post will definitely help us think things through!

  15. Created Well says:

    Thanks so much for this! I know I’m like, super behind in reading this. I wouldn’t have read it a few months ago when you published it because I wasn’t in the headspace I’m in now. Though I believe I have a lot to offer in certain areas, I don’t know if what I could put on paper would have people considering me an “able consultant”. So I looked for other things that also offered a spin on “consulting” – like coaching, mentoring, and supportive services. I’m taking some classes(Groupon is a good place to get some training in various areas for an inexpensive price) and starting a multi-contributor blogsite. Anywho – in the midst of these things, branding and niche-refining is where I am, and I’m working with my first paying client! Thanks for these tips! They are really great, no matter where you are in the process.

  16. C.D. Beatrice Clay says:

    Am tardy to the party but this good and on time. The bit about finding a niche and developing some tools is very helpful. I would hate to throw up my consultant for hire shingle and have no do-for-you tools. Thanks!!

  17. Simone Shaw-Stewart says:

    Hi Dale, awesome article. I smiled as I read because I had no clue someone else is out there with the very ideas I have. The problem I have is, how do I get started ? I am so saving your blog and putting things in motion immediately. Thanks again for writing this.

  18. Markeda says:

    I’m starting a financial services brand and glad I came across this article, one of the best on the subject I found. Thanks for the guidance.

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