Starting a consulting business is an undertaking. You’re not just starting a new company, you’re setting out on a new career path as well.
But as rewarding and challenging as it may be, there are plenty of benefits to launching your own consulting business—and with the rise of the gig economy, it might make for a smoother transition than you think.
We’ll break down all you need to know to start a consulting business and get off on the right foot—from figuring out whether or not your idea will work in today’s market, picking up the necessary skills for success, and marketing yourself accordingly.
First, the biggest question: Do I need an MBA to start consulting business?
Absolutely not. If you’re reading this, then consulting is likely your next career move, whether you’ve just graduated or are taking a break from corporate life. And if you ask us, that’s a great route to consider. Sure, an MBA could open more doors since employers see the degree as a sign of leadership and management potential. But if it isn’t in the cards for you now—or ever—don’t let it stop you from pursuing your dream job.
You don’t need a degree to become a consultant, and you don’t need a fancy office space to start your business. You need a killer idea and drive to succeed.
So what can you do to ease into the consulting world? First, make your ideas work for you. Look at every potential scenario—from tailoring your services for a specific industry or problem to how you could use technology as an advantage—and consider how you can apply your skills and knowledge in new ways. Take all that information, research it thoroughly, and consolidate it into something killer. For some of us, making that final step into the consulting world is all the motivation we need.
But what if you have an idea and don’t know where to go from there?
Studying the industry and studying yourself. If you need a nudge to get you started, go out and find some resources for the industry. Learn about potential startups, see which consulting firms are thriving, etc. Then start brainstorming ways to apply your knowledge to new markets.
Along similar lines, it’s important to research the company itself and make sure you’re on the right track. There are many different types of consulting firms out there—so do some digging to make sure that yours matches what you’re looking for. For example, if you want to work with a large firm , you may want to consider whether they specialize in a certain type of problem or industry.
Find a Mentor
Once you get that going, it’s time to find yourself a mentor . Consultants gravitate toward each other for many reasons: Mentors often have expertise in the same fields as us and can offer guidance along our path. There are many ways to find a mentor. You can ask for one, or you can go out and make friends with experts in the field yourself.
Be willing to ask questions, and don’t be afraid of what others might think. You’ll benefit from their experience, wisdom, and maybe even their connections. But first, you’ll need a little technical know-how—in order to effectively put your business plan into action.
Coming up with something great isn’t enough if you can’t back it up with the tools and resources to take it all the way.
This doesn’t mean that you have to completely overhaul your resume just yet (although it wouldn’t hurt). But it does mean that you’ll have to know your stuff when you start approaching potential clients.
Build An Online Presence
One of the best ways to stand out is by having a strong online presence—and that means building a portfolio of your work.
This can be as simple as creating a website (or landing page) on which you highlight your problem-solving and analytical skills. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should give people an idea of what you’re capable of. Be sure to include examples from your previous experiences (large and small).
And if that’s not enough, make sure you can back up what you say with proof—especially when it comes to your experience in consulting.
In order to get some of that experience, you’ll need to do some actual consulting. This will give you the opportunity to tinker around and see what works best for you. It also means getting used to talking about your work with strangers (and potential clients) in a realistic setting.
All of this will help build your portfolio—and make you much more confident in approaching potential clients.
Next, you’re going to want a good business plan—and no, it doesn’t have to be complicated. For our best tips, check out our insider’s guide on writing a business plan to save you time and money.
Although this can be a daunting process, the good news is that there are plenty of resources out there to help you get started.
The most important thing is that you start with what works best for your situation—and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. After all, you know best what your next step should be.