OK, so you've decided that you are seriously interested in the prospect of starting a consulting business - now you need to understand HOW you will make that a reality. You need to carry out some careful thinking and planning.
Here's the Bad News: In order to do this properly with and with a high degree of confidence that you've not missed anything important you've got some serious work to do.
If you were to sit to make a list of all the things you need to think through in preparation for starting a consulting business it would probably take you a few days just to draw up the list.
But Here's the Good News. I've already done most of the work for you!
Set out on this page you will find headings and links for all of the key activities that need to be completed, logically grouped and presented in the form of a monthly calendar count-down starting with things you should do as a priority i.e. as soon as possible, then continuing with monthly actions starting from twelve months prior to you launching your new Independent Consulting business right through to actions you should take during the month immediately before your resignation from your current employment (Time: T-12 through to T -1 etc.).
Integrated within the text below are a number of links to pages elsewhere on this site that provide further information on topics where I believe more detail is essential.
By exception, some of the links will take you to other sites that provide specialist information on the related topic; rest assured that any links that take you outside of the independent-consulting-bootcamp site are very carefully selected and vetted by myself personally and are only included if they meet the stringent quality criteria that I apply to my own site. The acid test that I apply is simply whether the external site provides You with Highly Targeted, Relevant and Valuable Information that either complements or supplements the information that I am able to provide on independent-consulting-bootcamp.
I would encourage you to return to this page frequently as you work through your planning and wrestle with the question of When to Quit your Job. Browse the site frequently and use the twelve monthly count-down structure as your roadmap. This will give you a useful high level view of what needs to be achieved and is my suggestion of the logical order in which your preparations should be approached. You might like to add this page to your favorites in your web browser in order that you can rapidly check back for ideas on next steps.
Of course I did some careful planning and I started my preparations roughly two years prior to my resignation from my fulltime employment. However, my experience was that I really just rolled up my sleeves and got stuck into the work.
With the benefit of hindsight I know I could have dealt with some of the key activities more effectively if I'd spent more time planning - therefore I am convinced that what is set out on this page and the pages following are Invaluable Resources and I hope that you benefit greatly from them.
The indicative timing of twelve months is intended only as a guideline and to provide you with a framework. Depending on your own personal circumstances and the amount of time you have available to focus on the planning and preparation you might be able to shrink the time frame say to six or nine months, or you may need to extended beyond twelve months. Your aim should be to undertake sufficient planning & preparation to get to the point that you can make an informed judgement about starting a consulting business.
The elapsed time for the journey will be different for everyone but the main requirement is to do the right things in roughly the right order and make the most effective use of the time that you have available. That is my objective.
It would be fair to say that there are dozens of components that will feed into your decision about whether to make the move and if so exactly when to quit your job. For example, the exact timing of your resignation may be influenced by consideration of any bonus payments that might be due to you, the allocation of share options, a wider review of your personal financial circumstances, your assessment of your current skills and experience and the value of those skills and experience in the marketplace. These are just a few of the factors that you will need to include in your decision making process.
The process of starting a consulting business is challenging and exciting and the experience will be different for each of us. Only you can judge when you have completed adequate planning and preparation. These pages will help you by providing structure, content and experience.
This is where the Rubber Hits the Road
- Welcome to Bootcamp DAY1.
You might think that some of my suggestions are odd and maybe radical. I make no apology for this. My intention is to challenge You to work through a decision process that has the potential to change your working life and financial future fundamentally. You will NOT do this from the comfort of your arm chair - you need to Get Up, Get Out There and Make It Happen.
If you're going to successfully complete the preparation required to make the transition to working as an Independent Consultant you'll need to Review, Challenge and probably Change your priorities and particularly how you spend your time. In my experience people who achieve their goals in life actually get on and do the things that others do not like to do and choose not to do. For example, get fit and sell your television. Just two examples of life changes that made a fundamental difference to my perspective and my probability of success in making the transition that I made six years ago. But more of that later.
Given that you are browsing this website you are likely to be at a crossroads or key decision point in your career. If after working through the material on this site and progressing your own investigations and preparations you make the decision that starting a consulting business is NOT for you, then that too will have been a success. The objective of the independent consulting bootcamp site is to assist you in making the right decision and that decision may well be to maintain the status quo and continue in your current employment.
In my experience at least half the challenge in starting a consulting business is in maintaining momentum. One tip that I found useful and still use today when undertaking a project that is not my full time focus is simply to ensure that you Do at least one thing every day to move you towards your goal, even if it is just to make one phone call or send one letter. If you take this approach you will be amazed at how quickly you will complete tasks and these positive experiences will be like the wind at your heels - they will carry you forward closer and closer towards your goal.
You will need to be structured and organized in your approach and this site will help you with that. I would also suggest that you find a Mentor; someone with experience beyond your own who will agree to meet with you regularly to discuss challenges, monitor progress against your plan and help with overcoming obstacles. There is little more motivating when undertaking a challenge than involving others who have a genuine interest in your success.
Another proven idea that delivers tremendous results is to grant 'Nagging Rights' to someone. This simply means that you agree with someone that they will contact you at regular intervals - usually monthly, to follow up with you, discuss progress and refocus on priorities for the month ahead.
Activities to start ASAP
There are a number of areas that you need to start to work on as soon as possible:
Understand your basic proposition or offering as an Independent Consultant
- Review your skills and experience
- Update your CV or Resume
- Investigate your marketability and the current market value of your skills
- Identify and plan any training or professional development activities that you need to undertake prior to establishing your consulting business
- The answer to the question - When to quit your job partly lies in your honest assessment of whether you currently have the skills and experience to operate effectively as an Independent Consultant
- Collect together and organize your intellectual property
- Identify all of the papers, materials, reports, business models, ideas, insights, and methodologies that you have created that together comprise the practical output of the application of your professional skills and experience most likely over a period of many years
- Start to build a repository of material that represents the body of knowledge that you will use in winning and delivering consulting assignments going forward
- Understand your current financial situation including your insurance and pension requirements
- Determine your financial goals - what will your personal balance sheet look like in say five years and then ten years?
- Understand the cash flow implications of starting a consulting business and making the transition from employment to self employment
- Identify and approach a small number of people who would potentially be willing and able to act as a mentor as you work through the process of starting a consulting business
- These will need to be high integrity individuals who can be trusted to maintain confidentiality, have experience beyond your own and a good understanding of the profession or industry that you intend to target as an Independent Consultant
- Contact these individuals, discuss your ideas in outline and ask for their assistance, making it clear that you are looking for them to provide input as a mentor or coach and to challenge you as you work through this planning process
- Make an arrangement to meet and prepare yourself for that first discussion
Improve your Physical Fitness
- Take a long hard look at your current lifestyle, health and general level of fitness
- Success in the planning process will be partly determined by your success in quite fundamentally changing the way you operate and how you currently spend your time
- Take a look at your waistline! Do you smoke? How many hours of physical exercise or activity to you undertake each week? Do you eat healthily? Do you get enough sleep to allow you to be effective during the day? Do you drink enough water through the working day? How many hours a week do you spend watching television?...
- I recommend that you look on this planning and transition process as a true bootcamp experience - if you are physically fit you will find that you have much more energy & focus and the right mental attitude to apply yourself successfully to the tasks that need to be completed
- Identify and start to effectively manage your network of contacts, colleagues, general associates, fellow professionals, professional advisers, mentors, future suppliers and clients
- Start to apply some rigour in your approach to this task - you'll need to be structured and disciplined to wring the most benefit out of this, but if you do it right it will pay you back tenfold
- Start to make full use of the power of Microsoft Outlook to manage your Contacts
Starting a Consulting Business: T-12 months
In this first month we cover Business Planning -- it is important to invest time in the creation of a straightforward and robust business plan. The document does not need to be particularly lengthy or overly complicated, but it will provide structure for your thinking and allow you to capture the key information about your proposed consulting business.
Fast-track the preparation of your Consulting Business Plan using the free templates, resources, ideas and information available from one of our trusted partners at Business Plan Master.
Starting a Consulting Business: T-11 months
This month I share with you my experience of how to get organized and minimize the percentage of your time that you spend on activities that will distract you from your main objective.
There is a lot to do to enable the effective planning and set up of any business. Furthermore, it is likely that you will be doing this work in addition to your current day job and other family and social responsibilities. Therefore, it is essential that you are disciplined and well organized and that you have in place a number of basic tools and approaches that will enable you to make best use of your time.
I guarantee that if you follow my advice in this respect you'll be amazed at the increase in your effectiveness and the number of hours per month you are able to win back to invest in planning your new consulting business.
To reinforce the importance of effective organization you should think ahead to when you actually start working as an independent consultant. Every hour you spend chasing your tail and dealing with administration will be an hour of lost chargeable time. The foundations that you put in place during your planning phase will enable you to build a business that runs like a well oiled machine and will allow you to focus your effort and energy on delivering for your clients.
Starting a Consulting Business: T-10 months
In month T-10 we plan the technology requirements of your consulting business considering both hardware and software. It is likely that you will require a reliable laptop computer and a range of other hardware and software to enable you to work effectively both during the planning phase and when you are working with your clients.
I describe the equipment that I use, the reasons for my choices and experiences that I have, both good and bad.
Starting a Consulting Business: T-9 months
Following on from our consideration of technology requirements in the previous month, this month we work through whether there is value in creating and maintaining a Website for your consulting business.
Is a quality business Website essential to have OR simply unnecessary vanity and therefore an avoidable overhead?
Starting a Consulting Business: T-8 months
Next up we carefully consider the Professional advice that is required both during the setup and operation of a consulting business. By now it will come as no surprise to you that in my opinion it is of critical importance that you seek professional advice from qualified and experienced advisers across a range of disciplines.
I will assist by giving you insight into my experience of identifying, engaging and taking advice from accountants, tax advisers, lawyers, insurance advisers and financial planning consultants.
Whilst we're on the subject of lawyers... Another key area to understand and get right is the Consulting Contract.
Whether you are contracting direct with the end client, working indirectly through an intermediary or engaging subcontractors, there is a lot to consider. Take a look at Contract Basics and Sample Contracts for a solid grounding.
Starting a Consulting Business: T-7 months
Now its time to consider explicitly When to make the move i.e. When to quit your job.
In this section we work through the main considerations that will influence the timing of your resignation from your current employment; this will help you identify the potential start date for your new venture!
Starting a Consulting Business: T-6 months
Here I share with you my experience of the practical steps required to give you the best chance of securing chargeable and profitable client work as soon as possible after you commence trading.
Starting a Consulting Business: T-5 months
In this section we consider personal insurance requirements . When you resign from an employment it is likely that you will lose a number of important employee benefits including health and dental insurance.
This cover will be lost for you personally but possibly also for your family. Therefore it is important to take steps to replace the insurance cover that you will lose when you start to work independently.
Starting a Consulting Business: T-4 months
A key part of your planning will be the identification and assessment of the risks that you will face in operating your consulting business.
You will need to determine which risks you are willing and able to bear and which will require insurance cover.
An All Risks policy is just that; it provides cover for the main risks that a Professional working independently will typically face.
Alternatively, separate policies can be purchased to cover the range of exposures including Professional Indemnity , Public Liability , Product Liability , Slander and Libel.
In addition, if you intend to employ staff you will require Employers' Liability Insurance.
The related pages provide detailed information to enable you to more fully understand the risks that you will face when starting a consulting business and the importance of Insurance as part of your Risk Management Strategy.
Starting a Consulting Business: T-3 months
In this section we consider a range of finance related matters including:
- Business banking requirements including borrowing if appropriate
- Invoicing your clients
- Managing your cash flow
- Accounting and financial control
- Business charge cards
Starting a Consulting Business: T-2 months
As an independent consultant you will find that for certain clients in some industry sectors perceptions can be of critical importance. Therefore it is important to anticipate clients' expectations and maintain an appropriate professional image.
I'm not suggesting that you need to engage an image consultant or anything as radical as that, however depending on your profession and the clients you will be targeting there will be an expectation that you will dress and generally present yourself in a particular way.
When you're working independently it could be said that you are the product i.e. the client is paying for your skills and experience and they come delivered in a wrapper which is simply you and the way you dress, behave and present yourself.
Therefore, whether you like it or not you will be on display when you are working with client staff and you need to think carefully about your image and also that of your business including subcontractors, staff, company vehicles, business stationery and business website.
Starting a Consulting Business: T-1 month
In this final step we consider the main issues and actions associated with leaving your current employment.
This includes much more than merely drafting and presenting a letter of resignation, and working your notice period. You need to consider a significantly longer time period that begins when you make a firm decision that you will be leaving the organization and extends well into your first few years of operating independently.
It is important to 'leave the door open' and do all that is possible to maintain a positive working relationship and open communications with your current employer. It could well be to your commercial advantage if this can be achieved...
A note on Navigation
This tier 2 page is 1 of 4 interrelated pages that together are intended to provide a basic body of information to assist you with starting your own consulting business. The four pages seek to answer following questions:
The rationale for considering starting your own consulting business including consideration of the advantages and disadvantages.
What is a Consultant? - Basic definitions and distinctions between different ways of working.
factors that are likely to influence the timing
of your move to establish your own consulting practice.
4. How (This page)
A summary of the key activities and steps that are prerequisites to starting a consulting business and making a smooth transition to a commercially successful practice.
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