credit: Magic Madzik
Starting up your own consulting business can be a scary and challenging thing to do, especially if you have always been employed by another company. Becoming self-employed throws up a huge amount of responsibilities and tasks you will never have had to deal with before, such as accounting and managing staff, and it can be a completely different animal to having a 9-5 job. Starting up a new business can be very costly and investment can run into thousands of pounds. However it is possible to start up without any initial layout and keep your business plan low risk.
In a nutshell, a consultant is someone who gives professional advice to companies with the aim of helping to improve profits. Businesses value consultants extremely highly and the business consulting market is now worth $100 billion worldwide. Companies will pay very high sums for consultants if they feel they can help their company and making a name for yourself in this industry can be highly lucrative. To become a big player however, you need to be spot on when setting up your business. Investing very little or no money into your new company will make no difference if you ensure you get everything else right. Investment can come later and if you find yourself at the point where you have enough demand to expand your business, consider yourself on the right track.
Before you do anything you need to develop an area of expertise if you don’t already have one. Businesses will look for a consultant who is especially knowledgeable and experienced in one area rather than a generalist so you need to identify this and use it to promote your services.
You also need to decide what type of consulting business you want to run and how it is going to be organized. Do you plan to do one-to-one sessions, workshops or seminars? One to one sessions are your best bet at the beginning as they require very minimal outlay. Once you have a few payments from these sessions you can start to reinvest them into moving your business forward, whether that be resources, rooms for seminars, hardware or advertising.
Although you want to start your business up with no initial investment, it is always a good idea to be armed with the basics to give you an organized and professional appearance. Branded stationary is always a good place to start and doesn’t have to be expensive if you choose a business starter pack which includes business cards, letter headed paper and compliment slips. Print Express is currently showing its support for UK start-ups by offering free stationary packs for any bootstrapped business. Anyone can apply, as long as you have no outside funding.
A website is also a must for any business these days and a great tool in which to sell yourself and your services. However they can be expensive so look out for deals to help start-up businesses. There are usually several companies around at any one time that offer cut price services including web design. Good4Business is currently offering free websites to new companies and you have nothing to lose by investigating these deals and taking advantage if they suit your needs.
Make sure you are in the know by subscribing to newsletters relevant to your business and keep on top of industry news. If you are up to date with your sector you will be able to offer the best service to your customers. Join organizations such as the as they will also help you stay in the loop and are a great way to share ideas and tips with other independent consultants.
One of the best ways to get business when you are starting out is to offer free half hour consultations so businesses can get a feel of you and how you work. People are more likely to say yes in the beginning to something free than if they have to fork out. If you know your stuff this is a sure fire way of getting contracts and when you visit them again you can start the meter. It only takes a few people’s word of mouth to produce more and more work for you and one free consultation could potentially lead to a lot of paid work.
By following the tips above you should be well on your way to being a successful independent consultant without any initial outlay. Good luck and remember that you don’t always have to invest in the beginning to see results.
Kevin Hardcastle is a retired business analyst who spends his time gardening, guest blogging and going on camper van adventures with his lovely wife.