How to Start a Virtual Consulting Business

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Virtual consultants are independent contractors who are generally self-employed. They sell specific services to clients, often for short periods, rather than being employees of the companies they work with. A virtual consultant works remotely over the Internet rather than on site at the client's location, which saves the client money on travel, lodging and office space and allows the consultant to work from anywhere.

Determine what type of expertise you can sell. Being a consultant involves providing expert insight or a high level of professional quality work in a specific domain. Choose a specific service that does not need to be done in person and that you're confident you can deliver, such as Perl programming or Accounts Receivable record-keeping.

Write a business plan. This doesn't have to be a long document, but it should be specific about what your business will provide, how much it will cost to start and advertise, how you'll find customers, and how much money you expect to make. Since you'll be working virtually, your customers might be anywhere in the world; target your marketing campaign appropriately.

File for a business license in your state, if needed. Some areas may not require a business license for a self-employed person doing business under their own name. If your state does require it, filing will cost from a few dozen to a few hundred dollars and will provide you with a UBI (Unified Business Identifier) number that allows you to open a business bank account and pay business taxes.

Set up your virtual office software. This will include a video conferencing software like Skype or ooVoo, a desktop sharing application like GoToMeeting, and online accounting and project management software such as provided by Salesforce.com providers. You should be able to collaborate with your clients online, as well as send invoices and keep them informed of your progress.

Set up a website advertising your services. Your site should include specific information on the kinds of service you offer and how to contact you. A number of web hosting companies can provide website templates that require no expertise to set up. Once you have performed good work for a client, ask the client for a testimonial and include it on your website.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always follow up with a client after your consulting contract ends. This is both good customer service and good marketing, since keeping yourself in their awareness between jobs helps you receive repeat business.

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