Starting a Consulting Business Checklist with PDF

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Use the best checklist for starting a consulting business

No pilot would fly, and surely no surgeon would operate before going through a checklist of critical items. 

As a new or aspiring consultant, you should ensure you are starting your consulting business with this checklist.

Consultants who prepare for the business side of consulting have a much better chance of reaching greater income, independence, satisfaction, and contribution.

For example, new consultants who have not prepared before starting their business face a much greater risk. If you choose the wrong niche or fail to develop a prospect pipeline your income will go through the infamous feast-or-famine cycle. Your independence and satisfaction may disappear as you scramble to recover.

To help you create a firm foundation for starting and building a thriving consulting business, here’s one of the best startup checklists on the internet.

Click to download the Start Consulting Checklist PDF.

Critical Steps to Consulting Success

There are critical stages and steps to starting a consulting success. Some you can catch up on later. Some are so critical and part of a solid foundation, such as finding the perfect niche and defining the ideal client, that if you do it wrong, you can waste years of time and money and lose opportunities you can't regain.

The free ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Starting and Building a Thriving Independent Consulting Business, describes these basic stages and some of the steps in each stage. You can read and download a condensed online version here. 


Critical to Success Courses, Coaching, Mentoring
Courses, coaching, and mentoring in Critical to Success guide you with strategies, tactics, systems, and skills to quickly build a highly successful consulting business. Our members have said our courses and coaching have saved them 5 to 10 years in building their independent consulting businesses.

We guide you step-by-step through all the stages.


Finding Your Perfect Niche

Consultants who are “experts at everything” and “market to everyone” reach and serve no one. They waste time and opportunity by trying to be everything to everyone. Choosing the right niche (industry, consulting offering, and differentiation) is key to success as an independent consultant.

  • Identify an industry
  • Identify your core consulting services 
  • Identify your micro niche – the domain where you are unique and sole expert
  • Identify the niche’s high-value opportunities, problems, and trends
  • Confirm and review your same-size competitors
  • Define your Consulting Value Proposition (CVP)
  • Create a Minimum Viable Consulting Service (MVS)
  • Validate a need for your services with the MVS
  • Identify potential adjacent industries and specialties

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Click to download the Start Consulting Checklist PDF.

Finding Your Ideal Clients

Finding clients is no longer a case of joining the right country club, schmoozing, or making a zillion cold calls. To compete and grow, you must find the exact people who need your services and nurture a relationship with them until the time is right and they need you. You can’t force a sale and turn it into a trusting, long-term relationship.

  • Create a list of potential contacts and referrals you already know
  • Create a client profile with data-searchable characteristics
  • Test the profile validity on LinkedIn (free)
  • Test the size of the client base using LinkedIn Navigator
  • Find industry associations for networking and speaking
  • Develop your Prospect Problem to Client Solution matrix

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Setup Your Consulting Business Model

As an independent consultant, you work both in and on your business. You must set up a solid legal, insurance, and tax foundation. You also must automate or simplify every business system you can. Getting this foundation, which is important to any business, is critical to relieving you of basic business, accounting, and tax work.

  • Create a revenue forecast v budget model (If your niche and client profile are valid, you will need 3 to 6 months' financial reserve.)
  • Choose a consulting business name
  • Choose and file a legal structure
  • File a Doing Business As (DBA) report with local governments
  • Obtain an Employee Tax Identification Number
  • Open a business checking and credit card account
  • File with national, state, and local tax agencies
  • Buy appropriate insurance (liability and/or errors and omissions)
  • Setup accounting software with a chart of accounts for professional services

Promoting Your Consulting Services

Promoting your consulting services has multiple parts. First, build your foundation, a LinkedIn profile, and a simple professional website to validate your identity. Second, begin promotion and marketing with two marketing channels from those below.

Creating all of this can take weeks, but keep moving forward and build it. If you are in our courses and coaching we guide you through this step-by-step.

Click to Learn More

Marketing Planning and Preparation

  • Write and memorize your one-line Magnetic Marketing Message
  • Write a Cornerstone outline of your services and benefits
  • Identify marketing channels that match for you and your clients
  • Use SEO analytics to discover your competitor’s top blog topics and keywords
  • Create an editorial calendar using your Cornerstone and top competitive blog topics to align and leverage content for speeches, blogs, and articles
  • Build an Authority Proof Platform using the following...

Proof of Authority: Testimonials and Case Studies

  • Capture detailed testimonials from clients or past employers
  • Write two or three two-page case studies (clients or prior work as an employee)


  • Create a client-oriented LinkedIn profile and picture
  • Use your name in the LinkedIn URL

 Website and Lead Generator

  • Register your web and email domain name
  • Subscribe to a web host that has site templates, email services, and CRM (customer list)
  • Create a minimal professional consulting website


  • Create an email and newsletter template
  • Create an editorial calendar to leverage topics

Getting Consulting Clients Quickly

Once you have a foundation to prove your authority and build trust, you need magnets to attract and value to nurture prospects. You want to keep them around to prove your value so that when they need help, you are the first person that comes to mind.

Connecting, engaging, nurturing, and closing clients is an ongoing process. Start with methods that give short-term results, then build long-term automated marketing and lead generation machines.

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  • Reach out to referral sources with a proven request script
  • Create an email referral template for others to use when they refer you
  • Thank people who refer to you


  • Create a high-authority LinkedIn profile
  • Create high-value LinkedIn posts that show the value you bring to clients
  • Target high-value LinkedIn contacts with high-value content and engage them with a discovery session


  • Create an email and newsletter template
  • Leverage editorial content through newsletter/blog/post
  • Leverage content by republishing to association/trade publications

Social Media to Direct Outreach

  • Use LinkedIn Navigator to build highly focused lists of high-potential prospects (we devote a module to this in our courses)
  • Use proven scripts and offers to contact, engage, and nurture
  • Engage contacts in Discovery and Strategy Sessions that can lead to Proposals

Speaking and Webinars

  • Contact association chapters for speaking opportunities
  • Create offers and Calls to Action for speaking/webinar lead generation

 Website and Lead Generator

  • Post case studies and testimonials to your website
  • Write and post high-traffic, high-value blogs weekly or bi-weekly
  • Post a short (1-2 page) high-value lead opt-in offer to capture visitor’s emails

Calculating and Setting Fees

Most independent consultants initially charge hourly or daily fees that are too low. If you are going to thrive and grow you must move as quickly as possible to project-based fees that cover all income, costs, and profit margin.

  • Calculate brackets for your hourly/daily rate using,
    • Comparable employee method
    • Market rate method
    • Cost + margin method
  • Know your minimum rate for the negotiations
  • Create a project-fee estimator worksheet
  • Develop a network of trusted sub-contractors
  • Work up to the ROI-based business model

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Selling Consulting Services

Most people do not like to sell. But as consultants, we must think of ourselves as doctors.

We have an ethical duty to help people improve their businesses and lives. It is a moral imperative to help prospects with problems become your clients so you can help them find a solution. Consultants who use the Discovery and Strategy session we teach easily convert prospects to clients usually use a conversation process that comes naturally.

  • Research the individual prospect’s situation
  • Know this specific Prospect Problem to Client Solution matrix
  • Agree on meeting agendas
  • Offer a Discovery Session to develop empathy and gain insights into issues
  • Know the Questions Script that converts prospects to clients

Click to Learn More

Click to download the Start Consulting Checklist PDF.

Learn More in the eBook on this Topic:

How to Start and Build an Independent Consulting Business

Learn More in Blogs on this Topic:

Starting a Consulting Business Checklist

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