Before you make the decision to start your own consulting practice or to provide consulting services as a self-employed consultant, you should carefully evaluate whether or not this type of consulting is for you. Bear in mind that operating as a self-employed consultant or running your own practice comes with risks and rewards that should be carefully considered.

Common characteristics shared by successful independent consultants include: a marketable skill, the ability to sell and negotiate, a very strong work ethic, self-motivation, satisfaction with one’s own work, no need for total control over people or programs, excellent written and verbal skills, good networking ability, and strong problem-solving and analytical abilities.

Once you’ve decided to begin providing independent consulting services, you’ll need to assess whether you will employ other consultants in a consulting practice or simply provide consulting services as a self-employed, independent consultant. These two options are quite distinct from one another, and have implications relating to business registration and taxation.

In addition to defining your commitment to your consulting practice, you will need to carefully define your service offerings and take time to develop your approach to promoting and delivering them. This information will be included in your strategic plan and business plan, which are discussed below.
Thorough research is required to help you anticipate the opportunities and challenges that await you in your new endeavour. You should speak to as many people as possible in this – potential clients, other consultants, other professionals, college advisers, etc and take their views into account while making your own decisions.

Exercises such as a SWOT analysis allow you to understand the consulting industry as a whole better and the particular sector(s) you intend to target.

The online Market Research Centre run by Enterprise Ireland holds a wealth of market research knowledge, and it can be accessed here.

Additional free market research and market data service is available through ResearchFindr. .

A strategic plan is a short document which outlines your practice’s overall strategy including its mission, values and long-term business goals. A business plan describes in more detail how your practice will operate in order to fulfil its mission and achieve its goals in both the short and long terms.

A guide to developing a strategic plan and online planner from Planware can be accessed here.

A guide to compiling a business plan and a comprehensive business plan template from Planware can be accessed here.