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100 Tips on How to Start a Consulting Business

By Michael Zipursky

There are all kinds of consultants in my coaching program where we focus on getting more clients and increasing your income.

Some consultants are already earning $10K, $40K, even $80K a month. Other consultants are just getting started. They’ve been managers and executives in the corporate world and are new ready to transition to become consultants and enjoy more freedom and control of their life.

These are just some of the key questions you want to work through as you look to start and grow your consulting business.

I’ve been asked many times, “what do I need to do to successfully start a consulting business?”

While this list isn’t exhaustive, it does include many of the key questions and ideas you’ll want to consider and can use to get started:

Identify Your Ideal Clients

1. Who are your ideal clients?
2. Who will you serve?
3. Who will you market to?
4. The more you know about your ideal clients, the better.
5. What industry are they in?
6. What is their position and title?
7. Are they in a certain geographical area?
8. What is the big problem they are facing?
9. What are their goals and mandates?
10. Without this information you won’t know who to serve, how to best serve them and especially, how to market to them effectively.

Be Clear on Your Value

11. How will you add value for your ideal clients?
12. What result will you produce for them?
13. Why should they hire you?
14. Why are you the best person to help them?
15. How do you compare to the competition?
16. If they don’t hire you, what will that mean for their business/life?

Deliver that Value

17. How will you deliver the solution?
18. Will you be doing this in-person?
19. Or will your delivery be online?
20. What will the delivery actually look like?
21. What should your client expect?
22. What will the process look like?
23. What type of deliverables will they get?
24. What type of timeline is involved?

Your Offer and Packaging

25. What does your offer look like?
26. How will you present it?
27. What will your fees be?
28. Does the value you’ll provide justify the fee?
29. Is your fee too high, or too low?
30. Does your marketing and positioning support your fee?
31. Will you provide options for your clients to buy?
32. How will you deal with and overcome risk and hesitation your clients might face?
33. Have you prepared for possible objections?
34. Can you deal with those objections before they arise?

Reach Your Ideal Clients

35. How will you reach your ideal clients?
36. Will you meet them in person?
37. Are you relying on referrals?
38. Will you use advertising?
39. What conferences do your clients attend?
40. Are they part of any special groups?
41. Do they read certain publications?
42. Are there popular blogs or websites they trust?
43. Can you reach them in a cost-effective way?
44. How can you increase your response rate?

Ask the Right Questions

45. How will you know if you can help the client or not?
46. How will you know if they are the ideal fit?
47. How will you qualify them quickly so you don’t waste your time or theirs?
48. How will you understand their marketplace?
49. What about their business model, goals and mandates?
50. What about their biggest problems?
51. How much (money) is this problem costing them?
52. When the problem is fixed how much will it be worth to them?
53. How can you demonstrate that you can add value?

Make Your Offer

54. Is your offer based on what you want to offer, or on what your clients want to buy?
55. Have you customized your offer to speak to their problems and goals?
56. Does your offer clearly communicate the value you’ll provide?
57. Will your client receive a significant ROI?
58. How will you demonstrate that ROI?
59. Will you talk about additional services or products you can offer or stay focused on the key issues your client has?

Get Proposal Signed

60. Has your client expressed their desire to move forward?
61. Have you already sold your offer, or are you counting on your proposal to do that?
62. Have you clearly outlined the issue and how you will help solve it?
63. Do you clearly outline the value they will receive?
64. Do they know what you will provide and what you expect of them?
65. Have shown the ROI your client will receive?
66. Can you make a guarantee to strengthen your proposal?
67. Do you have a date and time set to review with your client?

Do the Work

68. Will you follow the timeline you’ve agreed to with your client?
69. Will you update your client on a regular basis?
70. Do you have everything you need from your client to do the work effectively?
71. How will you ensure that the project doesn’t go off track?
72. What will you do if it does?
73. Do you have clear KPIs and objectives set?
74. Do you know exactly what you need to do to reach them?
75. Will you do all the work yourself, or will you bring in other experts?

 Add More Value

76. Are you always looking for additional ways you can add more value?
77. Can you provide any other products or services to help your client?
78. Can this become an additional part of your current project?
79. Should this be a follow-up project?
80. What can you do to put your client in an even better position than they are expecting?

Get Referrals

81. Do you have an active referral plan to get more business?
82. Have you reached out to your current clients?
83. How about your past clients?
84. How about your network of friends and family?
85. As you move through your project are you getting feedback from your client?
86. Are you building a deep and valuable relationship with your client?
87. Does your client know others that could benefit from your services?
88. Are they part of any groups that you should know about?
89. Do they have other divisions or offices you can assist?

Scale and Grow

90. Will you scale up your business by taking on more clients?
91. What will you do to take on more clients?
92. Will you increase your fees?
93. How will you increase your fees?
94. Will you be a one-person consulting practice or will you add staff?
95. Can you expand your product and service offerings?
96. Can you help additional industries and sectors?
97. Can you expand your offerings to other regions or countries?
98. Can you partner with other firms or professionals?
99. Do you have a strategic plan to get more clients and grow your business?
100. Are you ready to grow your business and increase your income?

These are just some of the key questions you want to work through as you look to start and grow your consulting business.

If you’re looking to take your consulting business to the next level and start consistently attracting your ideal clients (and higher-paying clients) to significantly increase your income and grow your business 2X, 3X, even 5X, get in touch to find out about my coaching program for consultants.

22 thoughts on “100 Tips on How to Start a Consulting Business

  1. There’s so much detail behind each one of those items. I’ve been studying each of those areas and it’s easy to get down into the weeds on each topic. It is good to see a list like this that pulls one up out of the weeds to see the whole life-cycle from product/service idea, through delivery to building and growing the business. I’m contemplating taking this and starting a score card to be reviewed quarterly. It could be a good way to help focus priorities.

    • Eric – you’re more than welcome to. If you do create that email me to let me know – would be great to see how it turns out.

  2. Susan Richards says:

    Great list! I worked through many of these when I built the business plan for my new consulting firm. Taking the time to think beyond getting the first client is challenging but worth the effort. I like Eric’s idea of a scorecard to track progress. I’ll incorporate that into my 1 year review!

  3. Mark Casey says:

    For someone who is in the early stages of developing a business plan for starting a consulting business these 100 tips are great!! Pulling the trigger so to speak is the challenge !! ( overcoming the Fear factor )

  4. Ravi says:

    Indeed a very comprehensive list. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Jackson says:

    I am new to the consulting field and after taking some time to read your contribution on this subject, i can confirm that I am very impressed. Each of the steps highlighted are very relevant to me as an new entrant to the field. Though I have started working on the marketing plan for new consulting firm, this list serves as a further boost to my quest to craft a very effective marketing plan. Any further input into my marketing plan?

  6. Aalee Ishat says:

    In a consulting business our target market is more likely to come from our own professional reputation than making cold calls – the people we want to reach are C-suite and are highly unlikely to respond to random telephone calls or unsolicited emails, which are a no-no anyway. If we want to use emails, use a list of people that have opted-in to receive them. Printed brochures may be worthwhile if we are sure they are going to be seen by people who will pick them up and read them.

  7. David Torrence says:

    I may be a bit late but thanks for this post Michael, I discovered your podcast a few days ago and now your website.

    Just stopping by to say that copying this into Evernote and answering each question really is an enlightening experience for the new consultant (me).

    Cool post.

  8. JackH says:

    Are you still using Contactually for CRM or do you recommend something better?

    • Jack, Contactually is still a good option however there are many others on the market as well you can take a look into.

  9. imsolutions37 says:

    I started my own consulting company a few years back, but have not had much success. Not that I don’t have solutions to business and government issues, because I do provide solutions to the most complex problems. The problem is that I am 20 years ahead of my time in thinking. I advised GM and the Carter Administration way back in 1979 about the dangers of unfunded liabilities, would result in bankruptcy. GM did go bankrupt some 25 years later and the government is not far behind. I created and implemented the only solution to the banking crisis of the early 1980’s. As a result our bank ranked number two in safety and soundness, this during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. I provided my congressman with a solution to Social Security Solvency. Initially he was very interested. But in the end, he just could not see how it could possibly work since it did not cost the taxpayer or the government any money. Gee, I thought that would make it a great plan. Oh well. I warned Freddie Mac of an impending mortgage crisis back 1984, if Freddie kept rolling out ill thought loan programs some 25 years later we have the mortgage crisis, costing the taxpayers a cool trillion dollars. I even authored an article in a magazine warning everyone of the pending collapse of the real estate market, two full years prior to the collapse. After the collapse I provided the solution to the problem which would have allowed homeowners to stay in their homes. By keeping those homes off the market, real estate values would have stayed up. Additionally, banks would have gotten 100 cents on the dollar back, instead of the 35 cents they settled for. I am able to walk into any business and all they have to do is tell me what their problems are, and within seconds, I am able to provide best immediate and long term solutions. The problem I have is that my thinking is 20 years ahead of its time. The reason I became a business consultant after I restructured and sold the company I worked for, was that one recruiter advised me that there would virtually be no one that would be able to comprehend the magnitude of my accomplishments. He was right. At this time I could provide solutions for several large companies that could add as much as $100 Million in annual revenue. However I cant seem to get to the people that make the decisions. What would you advise?

  10. Mwithia Livingstone says:

    Am planing to start consultancy business relating to lean six sigma.Am gothhering information on what it takes and I find these idea helpful.I hope I will be successful in starting the same. Thanks

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