Intro Guide: Starting a Consulting Business with No Experience

blog article Dec 11, 2023

Estimated time to read: 14 minutes 

Download the article as a PDF:


Table of contents


Who is this guide for

Thinking of starting a consulting company but worried because you don't have any formal consulting or business ownership experience? This guide is just for you. It's specifically designed for those in the corporate world who are considering a shift to consulting without prior experience as a business owner. Whether you have a PhD, an MBA, or years of practical experience delivering results, you might feel unsure about launching a consulting business, especially if you think you lack business ownership skills.

Many people in this situation focus on what they don't have, like detailed knowledge of running a business, where you're responsible for everything from marketing to client relations. However, this article will show that you don't necessarily need to have been a business owner to succeed in consulting.

Success in consulting is mainly about having expertise and experience that enables you to help your clients achieve their goals or solve problems. These are the key things you need for a successful consulting career, not a background in business ownership. Skills like business strategy, marketing, sales, and client management can be learned, possibly with help from a coach or mentor.

This guide will explain how to start a consulting business without having been a business owner before. It will simplify the process, provide insights on beginning a business without specific consulting experience, and offer resources to fill any gaps in your knowledge.



Can you start a consulting business with no experience?

Starting a consulting business without having been a business owner before is definitely doable, as long as you have the right skills to help corporate clients reach their goals. The most important thing is to be good at getting results in a specific area or industry. Even if you don't have typical consulting experience, being skilled in your industry and having a history of success can be just as valuable.

Take John, for example. He is a consultant with deep knowledge in technical and business requirements. Despite not having formal consulting experience, John's years of helping startups with strategy, architecture, and software in a corporate setting gave him a lot of industry-specific knowledge and a history of successful projects.

John's experience shows that you can use your expertise to start a successful consulting business, even without being a business owner before. It's important to develop business owner skills, like how to get clients, sales strategies, pricing, and business management. In John's case, getting help to understand the basics of running a business was key to creating a strong business structure.

In just a few months, John launched his consulting business and had a full client pipeline, meeting his revenue targets. His success highlights the importance of mastering essential business skills like marketing, sales, pricing strategies, and developing the daily habits of a business owner.

John's story is just one of many where individuals have moved from corporate roles to successful business ownership. While having experience as a business owner is helpful, it's not essential and can be learned over time. The most important thing is to use your existing expertise, learn how to run a business, and strategically apply key business elements to make your consulting venture successful.


Starting a consulting business without experience as a business owner

Starting a consulting business without previous experience as a business owner can seem both intimidating and thrilling. If you're longing for more flexibility, independence, and control in your work, this information is specifically for you. Maybe you've been thinking about becoming an independent consultant for a while, attracted to the idea of picking your clients, making your own schedule, and deciding your income.

It's completely normal to feel a bit hesitant, especially if you don't have experience as a business owner. This is a common worry among many who aspire to be consultants. They have lots of experience in the corporate world and their industry, but they feel they lack entrepreneurial skills. The idea of starting and growing a business can seem like a huge challenge.

The great news is that your current skills and knowledge are very adaptable. The abilities you've developed in corporate and industry jobs can form a strong base for your consulting business. Plus, this path offers a great chance for professional growth. You'll get to learn new skills and try out strategies and techniques you might not have used before.

Think of this not just as starting a business, but as an opportunity to grow professionally. This section is meant to motivate and reassure you that even if you don't have experience as a business owner, your expertise is still very valuable. The unknown journey ahead is an exciting chance to learn, innovate, and develop personally. Embrace this challenge and find out how much value you can add as both an experienced professional and a new business owner.


The pros and cons

Starting a consulting business without previous experience as a business owner has both advantages and disadvantages. Let's look at the advantages first.



One of the biggest benefits is the opportunity to develop a wide range of skills. As you learn about marketing, self-promotion, and selling, you become an expert marketer, a convincing salesperson, and a strategic CEO. These skills, which might not be emphasized in certain corporate jobs, become invaluable. Whether you continue with your consulting business or choose a different career path, the skills you develop during this entrepreneurial journey make you more marketable. You'll have a versatile skill set that opens up many opportunities and gives you the freedom to choose your professional direction.

By taking on the many responsibilities of a consulting business owner, you learn about aspects of business beyond your previous corporate role. This gives you a broader understanding of business operations, improving your problem-solving skills and making you more adaptable, which is very important in today's fast-changing professional world.

In short, the benefits of starting a consulting business without having been a business owner before go beyond just running the business. They include developing skills that are useful in many industries, making you a more flexible and marketable professional.

Another big benefit is learning emotional tolerance. As a business owner, you'll experience a wide range of emotions, from the joy of getting a new contract to the frustration of losing a client. Managing these emotions is a crucial skill. Learning to deal with negative feelings, like failure, defeat, or insecurity, is a key part of being an entrepreneur. Being able to keep going through these emotional challenges without going back to a familiar corporate job shows resilience and success.

No matter what your long-term goals are, whether you want to grow your consulting business or go back to the corporate world, the experience of starting and running a consulting business is a significant part of your life. The skills you gain in dealing with intense emotions will continue to help you, making you more resilient and strong in the face of challenges, no matter where your career takes you.

However, starting a consulting business without business owner experience also presents a major challenge: a steep learning curve. For some, the idea of learning new skills is exciting, but for many potential consultants, it can be daunting. The range of responsibilities, from being a business owner to handling the roles of CEO, CRO, CFO, and more, can be overwhelming. This is especially true when you're also trying to deliver consulting services as an independent person, not an employee.



The main challenge of starting a consulting business without previous experience as a business owner is realizing that success isn't immediate but rather a gradual process, akin to climbing a metaphorical mountain. The steepness of this learning curve can be overwhelming, leaving people struggling with things they didn't even know they didn't know. This difficulty highlights that becoming a skilled consulting business owner requires time, patience, and continuous effort to fill in the gaps in your knowledge.

However, this challenge isn't insurmountable. There are ways to lessen the difficulties of the learning curve. Transitioning to consulting and building a stable, sustainable business is about more than just replacing your corporate income. Patience is crucial, as is the ability to find shortcuts and overcome barriers you set for yourself.

In summary, the downside of starting a consulting business without having been a business owner before isn't a barrier but a wake-up call. It shows that success in this field takes time, commitment, and a readiness to deal with the complexities of being an entrepreneur. By recognizing and addressing this challenge, aspiring consultants can better prepare for what lies ahead and develop a mindset that will help them succeed in the long run.


The importance of establishing a business owner's routine

As a new independent consultant, one of the biggest changes you need to make to be successful as a business owner is to take charge of everything, including all your routines. When you were an employee, you probably depended on others in your organization to set your priorities and guide what needed to be done daily and weekly to meet your objectives and work within the corporate structure. But as an independent consultant, you start with a blank slate and decide everything yourself. This freedom and flexibility can be both exciting and overwhelming because of the many decisions and priorities you need to manage.

It's essential, therefore, to break down everything in your new consulting business into specific routines. This approach ensures you make progress in business development, securing new clients, and avoid getting too caught up in day-to-day tasks at the expense of your business, which could lead to revenue gaps. Establishing a routine that outlines what you should do daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually is crucial for running your business, keeping your pipeline full, landing new clients, and ultimately achieving your business goals.

Having these routines in place is critical because without them, consultants often overlook, procrastinate, or defer the most important aspect of staying in business: business development. It's common to naturally lean towards and prioritize more comfortable tasks, such as client delivery and responding to emails, which are more reactive. A well-defined routine will help create a proactive engine in your business, leading to the results you're aiming for.

In essence, the importance of establishing a routine as a consulting business owner cannot be overstated. It provides stability, fosters discipline, aids in time management, promotes work-life balance, and sets the stage for long-term success in the dynamic world of consulting.

For an example of a successful consulting business routine, click here to download the Consulting Business Owner Routine Checklist.


How to prepare for starting an independent consulting business without experience:

There are five primary steps for you to execute when you're ready to start your consulting business, even though you don't have business owner experience (yet).


Step #1: Create a consulting business plan

The initial step in starting a consulting business without prior experience as a business owner is to create a consulting business plan. However, this isn't the formal type of business plan you might associate with seeking small business funding.

In this context, a business plan for your independent consulting business means deciding on the services you want to offer, your income goals, the type of schedule you want to maintain, and visualizing your ultimate aims. This could involve determining whether to grow your practice into a micro or boutique consultancy or remain a solo practitioner. It's about painting the big picture of what you want your business to be.

These considerations are essential for crafting a roadmap that guides you as you develop your business. By clearly understanding and outlining these aspects, you establish a framework that helps you make decisions and set priorities in line with your broader business objectives. This approach ensures that you have a clear direction and goals to work towards as you build your consulting venture.


Step #2: Define your business owner routine for finding consulting clients

The second step in starting your independent consulting business, especially if you lack prior business experience, involves clearly defining specific routines that will help you achieve the goals outlined in your business plan from step one.

For instance, if you've set a goal to generate $250,000 in revenue to replace your corporate income in the first year, it's important to break this down into actionable business routines. These routines should include tasks like identifying potential client leads, engaging in conversations with those leads, selling your services by developing and proposing tailored solutions, and ultimately closing contracts.

You should establish routines focusing on business development to ensure your consulting pipeline remains full and aligns with your revenue and utilization goals. This is essential for continuous progress and maintaining a healthy client roster.

Simultaneously, you also need to establish routines for managing the administrative aspects of your business, such as time tracking, invoicing, and regularly evaluating your results against your goals. This approach helps you pivot and adjust proactively, preventing problems before they become significant issues.

Additionally, it's crucial to develop client delivery routines. This involves how you deliver your services, capturing and standardizing your work processes to make them more repeatable and efficient over time. This enables you to continuously improve and add more value to your clients' objectives.

In summary, as you build your consulting business, focus on these three main types of routines: business development, back-end management, and client delivery. These routines will help you systematically work towards achieving your business goals and ensure the success of your new venture.


Step #3: Follow the how to start a consulting business checklist

When most consultants think about starting a new business, they often focus on tactical tasks like creating an LLC, registering the business, building a website, and creating marketing materials. While these steps are important, they often become a means of procrastination, distracting from the more challenging yet crucial task of generating new business. In reality, setting up an LLC can take as little as an hour, and having a website, an updated LinkedIn profile, or marketing materials is not necessary to land your first few clients. The key is to start engaging with your network, get introduced to new contacts, and use these conversations to refine your approach until you find clients who need your services and are ready to request a proposal.

When creating a checklist for starting a consulting business, it's important to prioritize effectively. While tactical tasks have their place, they should not overshadow the most impactful activity: client acquisition. You should focus 80% of your time on acquiring clients and creating demand, especially if you don’t yet have clients. The remaining 20% can be spent on backend tasks like setting up an LLC, building a website, or establishing CRM systems.

The most crucial aspect to remember when starting your consulting business is to concentrate on client acquisition. To help you navigate this process, I have compiled all the necessary steps in a checklist format. This provides a clear roadmap to launch your consulting business successfully, even if you don't have specific business owner experience to rely on.


How to start a consulting business without prior consulting experience

So now that you have the basics of how to start a consulting business with no business owner experience, let's dive into some of the most commonly asked questions for people who are considering starting a consulting business and are worried about whether or not it's a secure and predictable path for them professionally.


Frequently asked questions

Is it necessary to have prior experience working for a consulting firm to start a consulting business?

A common question from those interested in starting a consulting business is whether it's necessary to have prior experience working at a consulting firm like Accenture, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, or McKinsey. The simple answer is no, you don't need that kind of experience.

There are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of consultants who have achieved great success by using their industry experience to help clients meet their goals and overcome challenges. This type of real-world industry experience is the only real prerequisite for starting a consulting firm.

To sum up, while corporate experience is essential to become a successful independent consultant, formal experience at a consulting company is not required to deliver results to your clients and succeed in the consulting business.


Should I take courses or acquire certifications?

Another frequent question is about the importance of obtaining certifications or taking courses for success as an independent consultant.

The straightforward answer is that in 99% of cases, it's unnecessary to acquire certifications or learn new skills through courses. This percentage might even be higher. The primary reason to pursue a certification or course is to expand your knowledge and provide more value to your clients, embodying the continuous learning and improvement mindset typical of consultants who have a genuine interest in their industry and profession.

However, a common reason consultants seek additional certifications or courses, or even consider pursuing a PhD, is the belief that it will increase their earnings or boost their confidence. While acquiring new qualifications might offer a slight confidence boost, it's likely that you already possess sufficient skills to achieve the results your clients need. More education might not be necessary for this.

Piling up certifications and degrees often doesn't address underlying issues like self-doubt or impostor syndrome. These feelings need to be confronted directly, finding techniques and tools to overcome such doubts rather than relying on external achievements like additional courses or certifications.

I've observed many consultants pursue further qualifications, only to find themselves still grappling with self-doubt, having also spent significant money without impacting their confidence. If your goal is to continuously hone your skills, seeking more education can be beneficial. However, if the motive is to feel more competent or secure more business, this approach seldom yields the desired results and should be carefully reconsidered.


Should I engage in pro bono consulting for experience and testimonials?

A common question is whether independent consultants should consider doing pro bono work or offering free services, especially for obtaining testimonials or case studies, when starting their consulting business. My straightforward answer is that this is not necessary.

To land your first clients, you don't need testimonials. You can leverage case studies from your corporate experience. Unless you are completely new to the corporate world, in which case consulting might not be the best fit, you already have the necessary background to launch your consulting business successfully.

Often, consultants take their past experiences too literally, thinking that their work doesn't count because it wasn't in a formal consulting role. However, this isn't true. Any work you've done, starting from college up to your current position, is relevant. This includes all the projects and tasks you've handled, which can be utilized as examples of your past experience or case studies when discussing potential work with clients or for your marketing materials.

It's important to remember that all your career experiences contribute to your consulting skills in some way, whether it's internal consulting, working with end clients, or any other role, even if it wasn't officially labeled as consulting. Recognize and give yourself credit for this diverse experience. Use it to confidently approach and land your first clients, charging them a rate that reflects the value and expertise you bring to the table.


Recommended books, podcasts, and other resources

Here are resources to help you get started with your consulting business, even if you have no prior business owner experience. 


Books for starting and growing a consulting business

There are several helpful books that lay out the steps to start a consulting business. Review this blog article, The Best Books for Consultants, to find all the books and resources for you to reference.


Podcasts for starting and growing a consulting business

There are also several podcasts that will help you start and grow a consulting business, including mine, the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business. Click here for a full list of podcasts that are specific to this topic, The 5 Best Consulting Business podcasts.


Other resources

Finally, download the 12 Steps to Start Your Successful Consulting Business so you know what to focus on and what is lower in priority that you can keep in the parking log.


Get help starting a consulting without previous business or consulting experience

You’re a consultant who brings specific expertise to help your clients solve their problems and achieve their business objectives more quickly.

I do the same thing for consulting business owners.

I help consultants successfully launch and grow their businesses so they can avoid common mistakes and achieve their desired results more quickly. Click here to learn more about coaching for consultants.

Take the Independent Consultant's Pricing Assessment

Most independent consultants have hidden pricing opportunities just waiting to be discovered.

Let's see where your opportunities to make more money are hiding...

Start the Assessment