Striking out on your own and opening a business can be an exhilarating yet scary time. Being self-employed as a consultant lets you choose projects that allow you to share your passions with others. You can follow your career path and use your skills and knowledge to help your clients. Being prepared and developing a solid plan before you open your business can set you up for greater success.
This article provides details on how to start a consulting business with the following steps:
- Determining your niche
- How to name your business
- Conducting market research
- Marketing your business
- Social media
1. Determining your niche
Consultants usually work in a business with which they are highly familiar. You’re selling your expertise to potential clients. Before starting a consulting business, you should have a clear understanding of what services you will offer. You should also connect with your local small business administration or a professional in your industry to determine what kind of licenses you may need. At a minimum, you’ll likely need a business license or a different business structure (such as an LLC) for tax purposes.
To get started with figuring out your niche, try:
- Brainstorm ideas on what you offer that can help other business owners be more successful
- Identify problems that you can solve for your clients
- Write a business plan that includes your unique value, industries you can serve, details about your target market, and preliminary marketing ideas
After you have an idea of your niche and have developed a business plan, share your plan with friends or colleagues for feedback. They might have feedback that you haven’t considered, such as potential competitors in your area. Having a solid business plan will make the process of starting your consulting business go more smoothly.
2. How to name your business
Naming your business can be one of the most challenging parts of starting up. You’ll build your logo and your branding strategy around your name. There are many factors to consider when deciding on a name. One straightforward way to choose a name is to create your name around your industry.
For example, if you are a digital marketing consultant, you could build your name off of the word “click” because you’re helping clients generate more clicks on their website, but you’re also selling ad strategies that click.
You could also create your name around a synonym for your industry. If you’re starting an accounting firm, you could build your name out of words similar to “number,” such as integer or figure. Remember: your name will be the cornerstone of your brand. Once you start building awareness, this is the term that will stick with your clients. Be creative! Then use the Constant Contact Logo Maker to create a memorable logo.
3. Conduct market research
When you first start figuring out how to start a consulting business, research is key. You probably conducted preliminary market research when drafting your business plan to be sure that there is a market in your area for your consulting services. Once you have completed your business plan and have a better idea of how to start your consulting business, conducting more market research will help you devise marketing strategies.
You can conduct interviews with members of your target demographic to see what types of marketing best reach them. Useful data is also available from competitors. Take stock of the services they offer and determine who their clients are. This can help you come up with your strategy for targeting clients.
If you have a lot of market research to conduct, you may consider hiring a professional firm to help you. Some business owners skip this step because it can be costly, but you’ll be poised for greater success if you develop a business plan and marketing strategy that is based on solid data.
4. Marketing your business
When you first start a consulting business, your primary marketing goal will be to build brand awareness, generate leads, and land new clients. Your strongest initial marketing tool is your website, which should include at least four pages: A homepage, About page, Services page, and a Contact page.
Your website should be mobile-responsive and must align with your overall branding. Choose colors and fonts that are similar to your logo to maintain a consistent brand. Utilize keywords when drafting the copy for each of your pages to boost your position in search engines.
Once your website is up and running, take advantage of digital marketing tools. When you’re just starting your consulting business, you’ll likely use a multi-pronged marketing strategy that includes a mix of print and digital channels.
5. Social media
After your website, social media platforms are some of the easiest ways for clients to find your business online. Building LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram pages for your consulting business and regularly posting content can help you keep you at the top of search engine results. These platforms also serve as good ways to network. Some tips for making the most of these platforms include:
- LinkedIn: When building your LinkedIn page, use the tagline as a resource to communicate what you do. It should be short, but this is the best place to add keywords that help people find you. You can also join professional groups and regularly engage in discussions to showcase your knowledge and communicate your value to potential clients. Once you have a few projects under your belt, LinkedIn is a good place to post testimonials from happy customers.
- Facebook: There are two ways in which Facebook can benefit your business – through organic posts, which are your regular social media posts, and through ads or sponsored content. Running Facebook ads is beneficial for small businesses because the platform lets you set your price, which is based on the number of impressions. Facebook is a good tool for building relationships with potential customers.
- Instagram: This is one of the most popular social media platforms in the world. According to Sprout Social, the app has 1 billion users worldwide. Using Instagram is a great way to build brand awareness. Creating visually appealing posts and using keywords and hashtags in your captions helps people stumble onto your business. Instagram also offers sponsored posts that you can use to build brand awareness.
One of the most effective advertising strategies is word-of-mouth. By networking, you can spread the word about your new consulting business. Consider joining a local business association and attending networking events to find new prospects. If your industry has a professional association, sign up for networking events or set up a booth at a trade show. You can use LinkedIn groups to build your digital network. If you’ve joined a group, contribute to discussions.
Going into business for yourself can be a daunting idea. You have to do all of your own marketing and find your own clients. But once you’ve successfully gotten off the ground, it can be a rewarding career path both personally and financially. It gives you the opportunity to share your expertise with others and to earn money in a field that you love. With ample planning and a clear marketing strategy, you can increase the chances of successfully starting your consulting business.
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