How to Start a Consulting Business With Under $500

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An independent consulting business has one of the lowest start-up costs.

 As a new consultant, you basically need to a website, a logo, a scheduling application, a project management system, and maybe a customer relationship management system (CRM). The CRM is optional especially since there are multiple applications on the market that serve as both a project management and a customer relationship management system. You can also build automations, send invoices, and receive payments with these newfangled “client flow” or “productivity” platforms.

I spent under $1,000 when I started Grants Works in January 2020. Now there are so many applications competing for your time, and many are offering three-month or forever free trials. Of course, the point is that you will begin to rely on the application and will eventually become a customer.

I created this list of resources and software that have a total cost under $500 you can use to jumpstart your consulting business.

What This List Doesn't Include

The list doesn't include the cost to buy a laptop because it's likely you already have one--even if it's an older model.

It also doesn’t include the cost to hire a copywriter or web developer. This approach means you will write your own copy. Worried you may miss an error? Hire a friend with a good command of your language and pay the person $50 to review and edit. 

Let's Breakdown the Costs

  • Register your business with your Secretary of State and create standard Articles of Incorporation. Cost = $50 - $150
  • Logo Design: Use a free Canva account. Cost = $0
  • Domain name: Buy a domain name for $9 - $19 on Cost = $19
  • Website: Purchase a Business account on Squarespace. Cost = $33/month
  • Scheduling application: Purchase a monthly subscription to Calendly. Cost = $10
  • Google Workspace annual account: File storage and custom email address. Cost = $72
  • Freshbooks subscription: Cost: $15/month
  • Asana project management software: Cost: $0 (additional seats in your company could trigger a paid subscription)
  • Zoom video conference/meeting: Cost: $12/month
  • Inkjet printer with initial set of toner: $109

 So far, that’s a total of $420.

Watch Out for These Hidden Costs

Here are a few hidden costs that may bring your costs beyond the $500 threshold:

  1. Merchant transaction fees that may be charged by the accounting software or by payment platforms such as Stripe and PayPal.
  2. Business liability insurance – The average cost is approximately $29 per month for a professional services company.
  3. Making sure you select the monthly payment option for software subscriptions to get the actual cost you would pay each month. Many offer a lower “monthly” amount if you pay the total for the year. You may sign up giddy at the thought of only paying $23 each month, but then you're charged $276 if you're not paying attention. That's $276--$23 X 12 months.
  4. Virtual office to avoid using your home address can cost approximately $50 per month.

 You’ll notice there are no costs for business cards. That’s because you can use a free app to digitally share your business card. There are also no costs for brochures. With the sharp reduction in use of (or need for) paper brochures, that is also a cost you don’t have to incur. What should you do instead? Create a shareable slide deck of your business, services, case studies, and contact information.

 As your business grows, so will your costs. Starting with a small initial outlay means you start with very low expenses. Since you are learning about how to pitch and get paid for your services, minimizing costs is paramount.




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