The Pros and Cons of Starting a Consulting Business

A consultant advising a client
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Business owners sometimes seek help in many areas, including business plan writing, marketing, communications, and legal issues.

If you have expertise in these or other areas and a desire to help your fellow business owners, a small business as a consultant could be the perfect business idea for you.

Numerous Potential Clients: Pro and Con

A definite pro to a consulting career is that there are countless potential clients for consultants with in-demand skills, ranging from small startups to large corporations. While this means a lot of opportunities are out there for in-demand consultants, it also means that consultants have a lot of work to do networking and marketing their skills to a very broad audience. For someone just starting out as a consultant, this self-promotion can take up significantly more time than actual consulting work. Crafting an appropriate strategy when beginning a consulting business is the best way to be most successful at marketing your skills effectively.

Having a Niche: Pro

Perhaps you're an accountant with a lot of contacts among your community's local restaurant owners, or florists, or dog groomers, and so forth. Being an accountant by itself won't make you special, but among small business owners without a financial background, your experience might be in considerable demand. This is an opportunity to gain a foothold for your budding consulting business.

Lacking Licenses or Certification: Con

Many large corporations or government agencies require consultants in specific fields to hold advanced degrees or specific certifications. Before going into consulting as a career, study the market for consultants with your skills. If you don't have the degrees or the professional certification to match up with the competition, you'll have a more difficult time finding work.

Home Office: Pro

If you are running your consulting business out of your home, your startup costs should be relatively low. Working out of your home also can be a tax deduction when filing your taxes. Perhaps more important than any other benefit to a home office is the convenience. But keep in mind: It takes self-discipline to work from home, as distractions there can be far greater than those in an office setting.

Limited Expertise: Con

One of the most important things to do before starting work as a consultant is to be honest with yourself about your level of expertise. It's one thing to have experience in a particular field, but clients will be expecting you to be at the forefront of knowledge and expertise in your chosen field. Take a step back and try to assess your accomplishments objectively when deciding if you have the background to be successful. Also, talk to professional colleagues whose opinions you value.

You Are a People Person: Pro

Being a consultant means working with a lot of different clients, sometimes in a lot of different industries. To get work in the field, you need to be able to sell your skills to business owners and managers. This also means working with a variety of people with numerous backgrounds. If networking in such a manner comes naturally for you, that's a big step toward being successful as a consultant.