Starting your own consulting business is a smart strategy for retirement success. Draw on your skills to make it happen, and you can easily grow your business while keeping your day job. Pre-retirees use this strategy all the time to boost their savings and make their dream retirement a reality.
Years of work experience is all you need to make it happen for you as well. Follow these 6 steps to become a highly paid consultant:
Step 1: Pick your niche
When starting your own consulting business, you’re going to want to stick with your strongest skills. You can’t succeed at consulting on topics related to your hobbies and interests. Instead, you should leverage your decades of work experience. You might not think it, but you have a lot of skills that younger generations of workers will pay money to learn!
Here are a some of the different in-demand consulting areas you might choose from:
- Writing or editing
- Customer support
- IT and computer tasks
- Employee communications
- Investor relations
- Taxes and auditing
- Real estate management
- Strategic planning
These are just examples. There are plenty of ultra-specific tasks you can focus on as well to become a highly paid consultant. For some people, their consulting business niche will be a no-brainer. Say you’ve spent 20 years working in university admissions. You could become an expert consultant on admissions essays. The possibilities are endless.
Others may have to do a little more digging into their skillset before they discover their niche. I recommend starting by making a list of all the tasks you do daily as part of your regular job. Don’t overlook anything. You’d be surprised what simple things you do every day that people need help with. Don’t believe me? Just Google “productivity consultant,” or “organization consultant.” People are getting paid to offer advice on these topics.
If you’re in a hurry and you want to fast track your consulting business, you need a mentor. They help you avoid the first-timer mistakes. Personally, I recommend Pete & Connie Sisco at ResilientPersonalFreedom and their mentoring program.
Step 2: Take care of your legal obligations
One of the great things about starting your own consulting business is that you can do it from anywhere. If you want to move abroad to fund your retirement, you can. But you’ll still have tax obligations in the US.
Start by registering a new limited liability company (LLC). This is better than starting your business as a sole proprietor, because it relieves you of some legal liabilities. Then you can apply for an employer identification number (EIN) online.
After that, the rest of your tax and regulatory compliance obligations will depend on the state in which your LLC is registered. Some states require consultants to get professional liability insurance, for example. Do the research for your state and consider talking to a tax compliance consultant yourself to make sure you have your ducks in a row.
Depending on your niche, you may need to have some official credentials before you can start offering consulting advice. Financial and accounting advisors, for example, aren’t legally allowed to offer advice without certifications from recognized institutions.
For softer subjects like employee communications, you can rely on your years of experience to serve as your credentials. Just make sure you do your research on your niche and cover these legal obligations.
Step 3: Pick your services and pricing
Consulting isn’t all about offering up your advice for a fee. People have specific skills they want to learn, and certain tasks they want to accomplish with your help. Say you’re a real estate consultant, for example. Your services could include:
- Strategy development
- Market research
- Valuations and cash flows
- Community segmentation
- And more
Some of these tasks mean you spend time on the phone, others mean you do some research for your clients. You could also offer products as part of your business structure, like industry research reports or a redevelopment guide.
In most cases where you start a new business, you’ll need to set lower prices and raise them over time. When starting your own consulting business, it doesn’t work like that. You already have the credentials and years of experience. You’re an expert, and should charge rates that reflect that.
A quick Google search can give you an idea of what competitors in your niche are charging. When you set your pricing, you’ll need to decide on:
- Charing hourly, or
- Project-based billing.
If you can offer your clients some kind of a package deal (e.g. 10 hours of consultation, an ebook guide and related worksheets), go with project-based billing. Hourly billing is simple, but it can sometimes look like you charge a lot for your time with this structure.
Step 4: Set up your website
Your website will be your home base for running your business. You’ll use it to market your services and it’s where clients can first come into contact with your services. And it isn’t expensive either: You can get a custom site completely set up without spending triple figures.
If you want, you can hire someone else to create a site for you, but it’s not necessary. All you have to do is buy a domain, install WordPress, buy a professional website theme, and you’re done. Just follow the steps in my website setup guide to do it.
Step 5: Develop a marketing strategy
Developing a marketing strategy is the most important step in starting your own consulting business. You need to know how you’re going to land clients and grow your business for retirement success. Here are a few areas you’ll want to focus on:
Start out by making all your friends, family and colleagues aware of your new consulting business. Ask them to pass on your recommendation to anyone who might benefit from your services. Take opportunities to network and spread the word about your business.
- Paid advertising
In the internet age, anyone can get into paid advertising. You can advertise online using Google pay-per-click, display advertising, and more. You’re in complete control of your budget, and can control what kind of sites you advertise on.
Start a blog on your website covering important topics related to your niche. Answer common questions people have, and keyword-optimize each post for search engines. Use a keyword research tool like KWFinder or Keysearch to find relevant keywords with high search volume and low competition.
- Social media
Set up a Facebook Business Page and create professional profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, and possibly other social media sites. Start building a following by sharing helpful and interesting content related to your niche. Then you can market your website content to attract people back to your business.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of marketing. If you want to really scale your business, you’ll need to put a lot of effort into different marketing areas. That takes me to step 6:
Step 6: Consider outsourcing
If you’re starting your own consulting business while keeping your day job, or using it as a part-time retirement savings booster, you might not be prepared to take on all your business tasks alone.
Marketing, client communications and bookkeeping are all examples of tasks you can outsource to reduce your time investment. You might wait until your business scales a bit before you do this, but it’s a good idea to think about it now.
Finding affordable freelancers to help run your business is beyond easy. Post a job on Upwork or Freelancer and you’ll get applications from skilled, remote workers around the world willing to charge an affordable rate for job flexibility.
Starting retirement savings at 55 is a scary prospect. But starting your own consulting business is a great way to gain financial freedom and make up for lost investment in your retirement savings. Your career has helped you learn a wide variety of skills that other people will pay to learn from you.
Becoming a highly paid consultant can also lead to other lucrative earning opportunities like training groups or speaking opportunities. All you have to do is follow the right steps, hang up your shingle, and start marketing your business.
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Ian Bond is a private banking senior executive with over three decades of experience in wealth and asset management with Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, and Citigroup. He has built major businesses on four continents.
Despite his professional responsibility for assets over $100B and revenues over $1B, after the 2008 crash Ian was personally going broke. Within five years he destroyed his debt, became an expat in 2014, and built multiple streams of income to fund his imminent retirement. Ian is also the founder of MyRetirementRehab.me created to help other executives and professionals rehabilitate their finances and make a prosperous, enduring retirement a reality.