How to Start a Consulting Business With Under $500
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 Namecheap.com. 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:
- Merchant transaction fees that may be charged by the accounting software or by payment platforms such as Stripe and PayPal.
- Business liability insurance – The average cost is approximately $29 per month for a professional services company.
- 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.
- 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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