Making the leap from the security and ease of working for a company to becoming your own boss as a consultant can seem like an especially frightening one if you’re not sure what awaits you on the other side. You may be able to get some sense of what you will need to do in order to be successful from associates or coworkers who made the leap themselves. But if you have dreams of flying solo and don’t have anyone to turn to, we’ve found some Web sites that can provide you with some guidance to get you off on the right track.
The Small Business Resource Center
If you want a better grasp of what is involved in getting your consultancy off the ground, The Small Business Resource Center is a good place to start. The site offers several free reports that explain a range of subjects that an aspiring consultant should understand from the get-go.
Most informative is “How to Start a Consulting Service,” a report that offers a basic but thorough introduction to the process of becoming a consultant. It covers important points such as the need to make an “honest evaluation of your training and experience” to find where your strengths lie. It also runs through the various issues that going solo will bring to a head—from what business equipment to buy to the necessity of a good filing system. You’ll also gain some insight about the merits of various forms of marketing and advertising, tips on setting fees, and ways to mount a direct mail campaign.
Other useful reports available on the site include “How to Prepare an Effective Business Plan,” which offers a primer on this necessity for any business that hopes to succeed, and “How to Set Up Your New Business,” which discusses the pros and cons of sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited partnerships, and corporations (for more on this topic, check out “Limited partnerships and LLCs are risky business,”“Forming a proprietorship or a partnership won't protect your assets,” and “Corporate perks: What do they mean for a small firm?”).
The Small Business Advisor
The Small Business Advisor offers a mix of articles and business tips on several different topics of interest to the beginning consultant. Among what you’ll find on the site are articles on starting a business, marketing, and dealing with your customers, and tips on dealing with legal and tax issues and how to save money.
The marketing articles will help you out if you never have had to deal with selling your services in a crowded marketplace. Some of these articles that are worth a look include “Ten Marketing Mistakes to Avoid,” “Seven Secrets of Customer Loyalty,” and “Proven, Effective Direct E-mail Marketing.”
If you are thinking about collaborating, “Pick the Right Business Partner” offers valuable pointers on how to choose one as well as how to tell if having a partner is even the right idea for you.
The Small Business Advisor also has a free newsletter that provides daily and weekly updates of business news and tips on marketing, stress management, taxes, and many other subjects helpful to the new consultant.
CCH Business Owner’s Toolkit
This third and final site may be the most useful due to the sheer volume of the information it puts at your fingertips. The CCH Business Owner’s Toolkit claims to offer “thousands of pages of essential information on starting, financing, managing, and marketing your small business.” And that’s no overstatement.
By clicking on its Table of Contents, you get a listing of the various subject areas covered by the site. These include Starting Your Business, Planning Your Business, Marketing Your Product, and Your Office and Equipment. Each main topic features several subheadings. By clicking on the plus sign next to each one, these subheadings can be further expanded to offer even more articles and subheadings, forming a chain of resources that you can follow to broaden your understanding of a specific topic.
This chain of resources is also accessible through the articles themselves. For example, “Writing Your Business Plan” offers a brief introduction to what a business plan is and what needs to be done when you are developing one. In the text of this introduction are links to related articles that discuss the purpose of a business plan and the background preparation you need to make before creating one. Then at the end of this introduction are additional links to related articles on the components of a business plan, such as the executive summary, financial projections, and general format and presentation.
The linking between the various resources available on the site—which also include downloadable documents and case studies—ensures that you won’t miss out on some important piece of information that will help complete your understanding of the subject at hand. Essentially, it’s like taking a self-study course in business basics.
Found any good Web resources for small business owners, especially consultants? To share your suggestions, post a comment or send us a note.