What Is Business Consulting? How To Start a Consulting Business

By Chelsea Williams
Senior Copywriter
Jan 2 2024 read

Consulting. The word conjures images of business suits, boardrooms and hefty reports. It’s notorious for being one of those jobs your friends don’t understand.

However, it’s a lucrative and dynamic field well worth investigating.

If you’ve ever been interested in consulting but too afraid to ask what it entails, we’ve got you. This guide will demystify the industry and give you the essential knowledge to embark on this promising career path or hire a business consultant.

Read on to learn about:

What Is Business Consulting?

B‌usiness consulting is the practice of providing expert advice to business owners and leaders aiming to improve performance. This service is essential for companies seeking growth, efficiency and solutions to various operational challenges.

What Does a Business Consultant Do?

A business consultant is a catalyst for change — an individual who works closely with business owners and managers who want to improve operations and efficiency, grow their businesses or maintain positive momentum. 

Business consultants act as partners in problem-solving, identifying and overcoming the obstacles that arise along a company’s path to meet its goals.

There are consultants who specialize, while others take a more general approach. Specific services vary by consulting firm, but here are some of the most common responsibilities of a consultant:

  • Identify obstacles preventing growth or efficiency
  • ‌Pinpoint opportunities for change and help implement changes
  • Provide training and resources to staff and management
  • Bring out-of-the-box ideas to refresh processes or establish workflows
  • Assist in business planning and creating new businesses
  • Assess, hire and fire staff as necessary
  • Implement new programs
  • Analyze a company’s budget, suggest adjustments and implement suggestions
  • Locate vendors and partners

What Kinds of Businesses Need a Consultant?

Nearly any business, from small businesses to large organizations across various industries, can benefit from hiring a business consultant. Leaders would typically seek help from a consultant when navigating a period of change or looking to improve efficiency.

The following are a few scenarios in which a consultant might assist.

  • A software startup team needs to complete the planning phase and get a strong initial boost using third-party data analysis.
  • A growth-stage engineering business needs a fresh perspective as they enter a new market and try out different strategies.
  • ‌A mid-sized organization not meeting its financial goals digs deeply into their accounting history and practices.
  • ‌An established company is adding a new department and seeks support with setup and staffing.

What Are the Advantages of Hiring Business Consultants?

Having gathered insights and expertise from many clients and industries, consultants often have more and different resources than internal employees. Their “bird’s eye view” can complement the experience of seasoned business managers and owners. An outsider is often better at pinpointing strengths or weaknesses than someone entrenched in a business. 

There are some cases in which consultants can also make processes much faster. Especially when a team is building a new campaign or business plan, a consultant can come in with clear steps and assignments right away. Many also have a strong network of service providers and external resources.

Whether the focus is a budget adjustment, a sales revamp or a marketing initiative, business consultants tend to generate a wealth of creative solutions. 

Types of Consulting Services

Each type of consulting service addresses a specific aspect of a business’s operations or management. From shaping high-level business strategies to optimizing day-to-day practices, consultants bring a wide variety of impactful perspectives and solutions to entrepreneurs and their teams.

The following is just a sampling of the range of consulting work you may come across.

Strategy consulting

Strategic planning consultants specialize in helping organizations define their vision, mission and long-term goals. They often create comprehensive plans that outline the steps a team should take to achieve their objectives. In doing so, they assist with aligning resources, setting priorities and establishing measurable targets.

Operations consulting

Operations consultants are all about efficiency. They address things like business process management, cost reduction and service delivery. Their goal is to ensure their clients’ businesses operate at peak efficiency, even amid changing conditions.

Human resources consulting

A human resources (HR) consultant focuses on the management of a company’s workforce, one its most valuable assets. HR consulting might involve advising on talent acquisition, organizational restructuring, compensation, benefits, training and workforce development. This type of consulting is critical for companies looking to attract, develop and retain top talent in a competitive market.

Information technology consulting

Technology can set businesses up to gain a competitive advantage if it’s implemented the right way. Information technology (IT) consultants help to implement new systems, optimize existing infrastructure and manage IT-related projects. Their expertise is usually in areas like software development, data analytics, cybersecurity and cloud computing. 

Financial consulting

Financial consultants provide expert advice on a range of financial matters, including budgeting, investing, risk management and planning for growth. They can play a pivotal role in helping companies manage their finances effectively to achieve profitability and plan for the future.

The Outlook for Consulting Jobs

In 2024, both business consulting and management consulting are projected to continue growing as firms meet the demands of newly remote businesses and the demand for specialized advice. Some consulting firms are experimenting with digital productization and personalized data to gain a competitive edge.

‌An individual business consultant’s earnings depend on several factors, including their location, whether they have a Bachelor’s degree or post-graduate education, the industries they serve and the mix of consulting skills they bring to the table. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a consultant in the US makes between $45,000 and $95,000 per year.

➡️ Consulting grads are drawn to firms that frequently upskill managers, offer professional development and stay conscious of organizational culture.

How To Start a Consulting Business

Starting a consulting business involves the same preparation, curiosity and tenacity as building any other type of business, plus a few prerequisites: years of experience in the given field, excellent communication skills and a robust network.

Here are the first three steps to follow to start your consulting firm:

1. Identify your niche

You can’t serve everyone, so you must decide who you most want to help. What specific services can you offer and to whom?

It’s possible to turn nearly any skillset or knowledge base into a consulting service, as long as there is sufficient demand. Explore ideas with this list of in-demand consultant jobs.

2. Assess market demand and competitors

Your niche is just a concept until you prove there are unmet needs in this area. Just as you will need to conduct market research for your clients, you’ll want to do this for your business in the early days and update it regularly. Find out what people are searching for and where they look.

Then, take a deep dive into the other businesses offering the same or similar services to get a sense of how to position your consulting firm effectively. Consider why they might have made certain decisions such as selecting a given pricing model. Educate yourself on the benefits of charging hourly rates versus using consulting retainers. While you shouldn’t aim to do exactly as your competitors do, you need to understand them to differentiate yourself.

3. Develop a strong marketing and sales strategy

Research outcomes from the previous step will inform your approach to marketing. The voice and brand personality you want to exude should be a result of deliberate choice rather than developed by chance. In consulting, it can be powerful to communicate exclusivity in your marketing.

Sales strategy is equally important. Define your sales process, from lead generation to close, and learn what kind of data to collect in a discovery call.


Writing a consulting business plan 

A well-crafted business plan can guide your strategic decisions and be instrumental in attracting partners, securing financing and getting through the early stage of the business lifecycle.

Your plan should be clear and concise, reflecting your deep understanding of the market and your approach to providing a unique solution. It should also be adaptable and provide you and your team with a true guide for how to pivot if necessary.


What Tools Do Business Consultants Use?

‌Being a successful business consultant requires a lot of planning, researching and organizing. The right consulting tools can help you perform at your best. Below are five of the most important categories of tech you’ll need.

  • CRM: ‌CRM software is for more than keeping track of client information and interactions, sharing files and tracking lead progress. With accurate data attached to a client record, it should ultimately help develop strong relationships and support accurate internal and external communication.
  • P‌roposal software: Consultants send business proposals regularly, so using a platform that provides templates or AI writing tools can save hours. Proposal software also maintains consistency in branding and style.
  • Project management tools: ‌Most business consultants manage several different clients at a time — and multiple projects for each client. Ideally, they need project management tools built to support client-based businesses. ‌
  • Time-tracking tools: ‌A business consultant typically charges by the hour, so keeping up with billable hours is a foundational aspect of consulting. Moreover, these hours need to be tracked per client and per project.
  • Process automation software: Automated work management software can streamline your workflow and simplify your days. By integrating current apps into a single platform, business consultants can easily manage sales, projects, billing and more — no matter where they are.

See how consulting firms use Accelo — and read how one increased profits by 93%. 

Consulting — Optimized

‌Business consulting is a rewarding career. With the right approach and tools, it can be a profitable one. But running your own consulting firm can be stressful, too.

Get prepared to minimize obstacles with our advice on how to optimize productivity and profitability in this field.


About the Author


Chelsea Williams is Senior Copywriter at Accelo, where she shares unique insights with service professionals and tells user stories via blogs, eBooks, industry reports and more. She has over 15 years of B2B and B2C writing experience — primarily in tech, sales, education and healthcare. Chelsea is an AWAI-certified Master Copywriter trained in brand storytelling and microcopy.

Schedule a Live Demo
Tailored to your business All questions answered
Request a Time
Accelo uses cookies to give you the best possible experience - by clicking 'Continue' you agree to our use of cookies. Refer to our Privacy Policy for details. Continue