How to Start an Online Consultation Business

Consulting is a 488 billion dollar industry. Apart from being profitable, consulting provides you the opportunity to learn about different industries, gain experience quickly, and solidify your footing as an expert in your field.

Here are five tips you should follow to get your consulting business off the ground.

Think of what you like to do

The great thing about consulting is that you get to create your own working reality. To figure out what that reality is, take note of the projects you have and have not enjoyed so far in your career.

“If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.” You can prove your value to clients by going beyond what they want and giving them what they need. 

Thinking small works in your favor when it comes to consulting. It’s a good idea to own a niche rather than trying to be part of a broader group of experts. It will make it easier to land clients and market your selling points. So, knowing what you like or don’t like to do is key to defining the services you will offer as a consultant.

If you’re having trouble pinpointing your niche, try creating niche service offerings around potential clients’ needs.

In his book The Consulting Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Create and Expand a Seven-Figure Consulting Practice, Alan Weiss explains that a client has three basic needs:

  1. Pre-existing needs. Weiss says that these needs “are age-old, traditional, and valid needs now and tomorrow, and may include such areas as customer relations, market expansion, strategy, conflict resolution, innovation, and so on.”
  2. Needs you create. You might have heard that famous Henry Ford quote (although it’s unclear whether he actually said it or not)—“If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.” You can prove your value to clients by going beyond what they want and giving them what they need.
  3. Needs you anticipate. Anticipating your clients’ needs is a great way to show that your that your services are high-level, in turn making you an essential part of how your client does business.

Define your ideal client

Articulating who your ideal client from the beginning will help bring focus to your business in the long-term. Don’t worry if you don’t have the “perfect” client from the get-go. Having the objective will help inform the choices you make until you reach your goal.

Plus, knowing what your ideal client is will help you take the steps necessary to make sure you’re the type of consultant that attracts that type of client.

It might also be a good idea to define the client you don’t want. A bad client can ruin your business before you even make your mark. They can waste your time, withhold payment, or worse, make you burn out. Knowing the characteristics of the clients you don’t want to work with will help you avoid those business pitfalls.

Determine what makes you unique

Everyone has something that helps them stand out from the competition. Perhaps you have a proven method to help a client’s business grow by a certain percentage every quarter, or you have the SEO skills to help them land on the first page of Google, or you’re just a joy to work with—whatever it is, figuring out what makes you unique puts you in a great position to attract clients.

There are so many people with similar skills that everyone starts to look the same. So, spelling out what makes you unique to potential clients makes it easier for them to make the decision to choose you over another consultant.

Create your website and social media presence

It helps to have a robust online presence as an online business. Creating a website and utilizing social media platforms are good places to start. They bring legitimacy to your business and also serve as marketing tools.

A few tips:

  • Translate the ethos of your consulting brand into your website and social media. This will help potential clients feel like they know what you’re all about before you even have a conversation.
  • Having a domain that is the same or similar to your businesses name can help clients become familiar with your brand.
  • While there are many free tools to help you create a website and a logo, if those aren’t your areas of expertise, it might be a good idea to hire someone to create those for you. They will help your online presence (a.k.a. your first impression) look professional while allowing you to focus on your business.

Get out there

You’ve mapped out your consulting business; now, it’s time to get some work. Networking events, conferences, cold-calling, cold-emailing, social media, coworkers, alumni groups, and family and friends are all good sources for your first few clients. Once you’ve secured those first few projects, word of mouth is an invaluable avenue for getting more work.

The consulting journey may not have a built-in salary, but the flexibility and professional reward might be worth it if you’re up to it. Consulting is just like any business—it only works if you put the work in.

Online businesses tend to have low overhead costs. However, as your consulting business grows, you’ll need cash to help sustain that growth. Check out these short-term business loans to help you beat that problem before it beats you.

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