If you’ve gained knowledge and honed skills in a particular business area, you may have what it takes to set up shop and become a virtual business consultant. The subject matter could be just about anything—accounting, marketing, operations, product design, software development, strategy, etc. Organizations could face issues in any functional area, and a virtual consultant with the requisite insights can help overcome those issues.
And no need to worry about geographic boundaries. While companies used to hire consultants and require them to perform work onsite, that’s not as prevalent anymore. Like other verticals, consulting has been going virtual for some time; the global pandemic only fast-tracked that trend. Many companies now accept—if not expect—consulting to be performed offsite. That’s good news for entrepreneurs like you who are interested in remote consulting.
Ready to get started on your virtual consultant journey? Keep reading to see what steps you should take to get your consulting business off the ground.
7 Key Steps to Starting a Remote Consultant Business
1. Write a business plan.
Any successful consulting business starts with a well-thought-out business plan. Don’t make the mistake of simply offering your services in the market before creating a clear plan of action. There are lots of elements to consider:
- What services will you offer?
- How much will you charge?
- What kind of clients will you target?
- How will you find and win new clients?
- What kind of technology will you need to acquire?
- What are your financial projections for the first five years?
Answering these questions can help you develop a solid business plan, though there’s more to consider depending on the kind of consulting you plan on doing. Be sure to research the market and identify competitors—this will help inform your planning.
2. Obtain any required business licenses.
While not always required, a business license may be necessary for your remote consultant business. You’ll need to do some research about the type of services you offer, the industry in which you operate, as well as the state and city in which you live. These are all factors that may impact what type of licensure you need to have if any.
3. Acquire relevant software.
As a remote business consultant, you’re going to need some technology assistance to be effective. Regardless of your service offering, you’ll likely need software for:
- Communication. You’ll need a solution for conference calls and video chats for client meetings.
- Scheduling. To make it easy for clients to book time on your calendar and keep your schedule in line, implement a scheduling tool.
- Invoicing. You’ll need a way to request payment for your services that’s professional and gives you an easy way to track those payments.
- Task management. As you grow your client base, staying on top of your work will get more challenging. A task management solution can help you track your work and meet deadlines.
Depending on the type of consulting you do, there may be additional software you should acquire. For example, if you plan on offering accounting-related consulting services, you may need access to accounting or bookkeeping software.
4. Build a business website.
Freelance business consulting means not only working for yourself but also selling yourself. And you can’t do that effectively in today’s digital culture without a business website. Your website is how potential clients find you, learn about the services you offer, and contact you to do business—so it’s important that your website is done right. Get professional design help to ensure your website has the best chance at attracting new clients.
Beyond design, there are several elements you want to include on your business website:
- Value proposition
- Pricing (optional)
- Contact information
You want potential clients to get a sense of not just what you do but who you are and why they should choose you over competitors.
5. Start blogging.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a marketing tactic focused on helping your website rank highly on search engines like Google. The higher your ranking, the easier it will be for customers to find you among your competitors.
Blogs are useful tools for improving SEO on your website. As you create content around a particular subject—in this case, your consulting expertise—your site gains authority, which leads to better rankings. Keep in mind this process doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s a useful long-term strategy for continually reaching more customers.
6. Reach out to your network.
Once you have the above foundational elements in place, it’s time to get to work. But first, you need to have work in your pipeline. Leverage your network to identify potential clients you can work with—consider past employers, former clients, past coworkers who moved on to other companies, and so on.
Announce your new virtual consulting business on social networks like LinkedIn. Share your website and invite people to contact you if your services could be of use to their companies.
Also, pay attention to what the people in your network are saying about the companies at which they work. Are they complaining about issues your services could resolve? Use these complaints as opportunities to reach out to these people and learn more—the result could be a lucrative engagement.
7. Advertise your services.
Even if something pans out with your network, you’ll likely need additional clients to create a sustainable virtual consulting business. You can try budget-friendly marketing options such as participating in online forums and starting a podcast. Still, you’ll likely also need to open up your wallet and do paid advertising on search engines and social media.
With companies growing more and more comfortable working with consultants virtually, now is the time to start a remote consulting business. Following the steps above will make your startup experience much smoother.