Quick Checklist for Starting a Consulting Business

In this time of being fluid, flexible and adaptable, many former managers, CMOs, CEOs, CFOs, Vice Presidents of this and that are ready to take the step to become an independent consultant to be able to work with many clients in a variety of settings. It’s so exciting! I’ve helped several people make this transition and thought you might find our initial to-do list helpful as you start your own consulting firm. This is NOT legal advice, this is my own list and it seems to work well for the quick start of the nitty-gritty items you need to do.

  1. Decide on a name for your new firm. It can include your name if you want to ensure that it is only viable if YOU are in it. If you want to perhaps sell it later, pick a name that speaks more to what you do. Will it be just you or are you planning on employees and a team in the first year? If so, consider that as you are naming your new company.
  2. Commit. Get the URL. Get a few variations if you want to – one for SEO, one for Bit.ly links, one for email and branding. Email and website URL need to be THE SAME for a variety of reasons I could explain if you hire me to help you with this. Buy the URL at SusanFinchSolutions.com (I’m a GoDaddy reseller – same price but a simplified process). Skip the add-ons for now. Just secure the domain. Think of a sports jersey – you don’t want it wrapping around like some long-hyphenated name. Oh, and skip the hyphens if you can. Need help brainstorming? I’m here.
  3. Decide on your mail host. I prefer using GSuite for mail. I’ve NEVER had an issue and love being able to call Google directly to get support. $10/month per account. SOOO worth it. You can bring it into Outlook if you still want to use Office365 or similar. This email address will be your business lifeline for banking, including PayPal for software purchases and more.
  4. *If you will have employees, register with the IRS to get an EIN (Employer Identification Number) to avoid sending out your SSN to too many places. You’ll need this for quarterly tax filings too. You’ll need a federal business number and one for your state. The EIN is often the only “number” you need for both state and federal tax filing.
  5. *Check your state/county regulations for business licenses. Some states do not require it if your company name includes your first and last name. Many CITIES require a business license. Check with yours.
  6. *If you are collecting sales tax, or need to collect sales tax, the regulations and requirements get more complicated.  (permits, etc).
  7. Get a business bank account, business PayPal to keep personal separate from business. Your tax analyst or CPA will thank you later. Get a business credit card. NOTHING that is not related to your business goes on here. NOTHING or none of the interest will be deductible – not one tank of personal gas, one quick grocery run, one date night movies. Keep this CLEAN.
  8. Decide how much office space you will be using at home if you are using a home office. Think about file storage, bookshelves, the entire space. Measure it and make a note of it along with the date you started preparing for this launch. Your CPA will need this to determine a percentage of utilities and home improvements that may be deductible as it affects your place of business.
  9. Consider Quickbooks online to allow remote reconciling of your accounts if you choose to have a bookkeeper help you (highly recommend).
  10. If you don’t already have one, get an HSA account so you can make regular deposits to be used for all health care-related expenses other than your premiums. This includes family prescriptions and the like. We like Health Equity. They are responsive and helpful.
  11. Keep track of all business related purchases – big ones that can depreciate such as shelving, desk, monitors. You want the date you purchased and what it is. Mark up the receipt and keep it in a folder for the year. Keep computer related items separate from the “office” types of things. This includes all software subscriptions such as hosting, cloud solutions, domain registrations, back up systems and more. Check with your CPA/Tax Analyst for more about that.
  12. Time for the fun part – BRANDING! You have your name. Time for a logo, business card, letterhead, envelopes, website, social media identity and the rest! I’d LOVE to help you with this.
  13. Website content. Keep it simple to start. SPEED is the name of the game – has to load fast and immediately tell people what you do. They want to know what you can do for them. They DO NOT care about your life story and journey to this place on your home page. They may NEVER care.
    1. What can you do for them, how well? (home)
    2. What do others say about you (testimonials in an inside page, not home)
    3. Why choose YOU? (inside page)
    4. What 3 unique values to you bring to the services you offer? (home)
    5. What services do you offer? (taste on home, details inside)
    6. How can they reach you in every possible way? (contact page and footer)
  14. Time to update your LinkedIn profile to add this new company, branding, email. Get rid of @gmail as your contact everywhere. Update the WORLD!

*You should seek legal advice from an attorney in these areas.

Ready to get started? Let’s do this – together!