In the movie "Up in the Air" with George Clooney and Anna Kendrick, Clooney's character works at a human resources consultancy firm specializing in termination assistance — also known as firing employees for other companies.

Clooney's character spends his time traveling, meeting different people every day, and working with a variety of organizations.

If you're anything like me, that life sounds like it could be fun (minus the firing people).

Plus, consulting is a growing industry. In 2020, the size of the global consulting marketing is expected to reach almost 300 billion dollars.

If you're an expert in your field, whether it's sales, marketing, IT, or finances, you can make good money as a small business consultant.

Below, let's review what small business consulting entails, what services are offered, and how to start a small business consulting firm.

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Consultants can be an important tool for small businesses that can't afford full-time employees year-round, need a third party to solve a company issue, or want an expert to give advice and strategize.

So, what would a consultant actually do?

A small business consultant might design a business plan, marketing plan, or public relations campaign. They can specialize in certain areas such as accounting, operations, human resources, management, marketing, or public relations.

Below, let's review some services a small business consultant might perform.

1. Sales and marketing consulting.

If you're an expert or have worked in sales and marketing, you can easily transfer that knowledge as a small business consultant.

A small business consultant can work with sales and marketing teams in a number of ways. For example, they can come up with a digital strategy, a marketing campaign, or work on the web development or training side of things.

To illustrate, let's say that a company contacts a consultant because their sales team hasn't been performing well. A small business consultant will come in, observe, identify the problems (whether they're operational or training based), work on strategizing a solution, and then implement it. For instance, a consultant might recommend using the HubSpot Sales Hub or Active Campaign.

2. Project management consulting.

One of the main reasons that companies hire small business consultants is for project management.

Let's say a company has a new product or launch coming up, but they aren't sure how to strategize for it because there are only five employees and none of them work in project management.

That's when a consultant could come in and either train your employees on how to handle the project, or work as a contract project manager.

Additionally, if a company has operational inefficiencies long-term, they might consider hiring a consultant to spot the inefficiencies and come up with a plan to improve the organization's project management.

3. Reporting.

A consultant can help a company with reporting in two ways: they can gather analytics and reports and they can analyze the reports that come in.

This is a service that a company might want to hire a consultant for on a longer term basis. With reporting, a small business consultant will help a company collect and understand the analytics or reports so they can make smart business decisions based on data.

If a company or owner tries to do this on their own, they could misinterpret the data or not understand what the numbers mean contextually.

4. Forecasting.

When a small business is just starting out, they need to have projections and forecasts for how things will go in the near and distant future.

However, forecasting is hard when you don't have ample resources, time, or personnel to gather the data and analyze it. That's when a small business consultant can come in. They'll work with the company to understand and put together proper projections.

5. IT consulting.

With a small business, choosing the right technology and getting the system set up efficiently isn't easy.

That's why companies hire consultants for IT services. A consultant can help choose the proper technology and ensure the technological systems are set up correctly and efficiently.

If a company has been up and running for some time, a small business consultant can help identify technological inefficiencies and then figure out a solution to improve a company's system and processes.

6. Accounting consulting.

Accounting is another service that a small business might hire for the long-term. With a small team, having an accounting department might not be financially worth it. However, every company needs an expert managing and looking at the finances.

A small business consultant who specializes in financial management, can come on and help spot areas where a company needs to hold back monetarily, set up payroll, or help with taxes. Finances and accounting are one of the hardest things to manage for a small company, but it's one of the most important areas to set up accurately and efficiently.

7. Strategic planning.

At its core, small business consulting is about strategic planning. A small business consultant might help plan strategic messaging or launches.

The role of a small business consultant is to identify issues and strategically plan solutions. Essentially, they are creative problem solvers that can specialize in any area of business and help small business work more efficiently.

How to Start a Small Business Consulting Firm

If you're interested in becoming a small business consultant, it's an extremely rewarding and fascinating industry to be in. You would be a creative problem solver, working on a variety of issues with several companies.

But you might be thinking, how would I get started?

Here's a quick rundown of how to start a small business consulting firm:

1. Choose a specialization.

Determine what you're an expert in. Ideally, you'd have five years of full-time experience to be an expert on a certain subject.

2. Research certifications.

Some states have laws around consulting, especially in the fundraising industry. Before you get started, look up if you need to have a certification to work as a consultant in your industry in your state.

3. Take courses.

You should always be learning and active in your specialized industry. For example, if you're a marketing consultant, make sure you're an expert in the industry by taking courses and staying informed on the latest trends. Ongoing education should be a huge priority for you.

4. Begin networking. 

To be a consultant, you need to build a list of contacts. Begin by attending local events and conferences for small businesses.

5. Decide on a pricing structure.

Once you're starting to drum up interest in your company, you need to consider how much you're going to charge. You can look up the competition and see their rates. Do they price per project, hourly, or on a retainer business?

6. Have a marketing plan.

Figure out how you're going to promote your services. Plus, consider your budget. How much do you want to spend on traditional or internet marketing?

7. Systemize your business.

Make sure your own business is working efficiently and you have a business plan. Perhaps, you can even hire employees to help with administrative work.

Overall, small business consulting can be a rewarding career. With creative problem solving, every day looks different and presents interesting challenges. To learn more, check out this blog on how to become a consultant in 9 steps.

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Originally published Dec 5, 2019 8:30:00 AM, updated May 13 2020

Topics:

Consulting