How to Become a “Green” Business Consultant
by Caron_Beesley, Community Moderator
- Created: December 29, 2011, 7:50 am
- Updated: April 30, 2012, 6:59 pm
Are you interested in environmental responsibility and stewardship? Think you’ve got the skills to turn this into a career? Becoming a “green consultant” might be the ideal home-based business opportunity you’ve been looking for.
According to Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media, green consultants who help businesses assess their environmental footprint and develop sustainable strategies are poised to be the next hot industry, growing 9.4 percent per year to $30 billion in 2016.
The environmental industry is, of course, thick with regulatory standards and laws. This creates an obvious opportunity as businesses look to outside experts to help them with compliance. However, it also means you’ll need not only an entrepreneurial passion, but the willingness to fine tune your skills, know the industry well, and find and grow a profitable niche – largely on your own.
If you think being a green consultant is for you, here are some considerations and resources that can help you plan your new venture.
Are You Ready to Be a Consultant?
Being a consultant requires more than just passion and skill; you have to be prepared to run your own business. This can be incredibly rewarding, but it also means everything falls on your shoulders. From sales and marketing to juggling client demands and the obligations of day-to-day business operations (accounting, business law, taxes, etc.). So step back, talk to others who have made the choice to become consultants, and assess if it’s really for you. These resources can also help:
- Becoming a Freelancer: Assessing your Readiness to Be your Own Boss and Tips for Getting Started
- 20 Questions to Ask before Starting a Business
Pick a Field
The environmental industry is vast, so your best bet at success is to pick a field that you know best or have some training or experience in already. For example, if you have construction or architectural training, then you might consider specializing in building energy efficiency. You might even consider using your marketing skills to help businesses develop outreach strategies that spread the word about their sustainable business practices.
Conducting environmental assessments and developing management plans for businesses is another potential field where a consultant can help businesses cut costs, improve efficiencies and reduce their carbon footprint. (This guide from SBA actually includes everything you need to know about the process of creating an environmental management plan for a business.)
Other areas to consider include recycling, telework programs, waste reduction, alternative energy utilization, and regulatory compliance.
Come Up With a Plan of Action
Starting a business as a consultant doesn’t require a lot of upfront investment, but you should still do your research and develop a plan of action that takes into consideration market factors as well as any training costs.
Start by researching the industry. What opportunities exist? What customer challenges can you address? Who are your competitors? What is your unique advantage – i.e. what can you offer to do for your potential clients that they can’t do for themselves? Get more market research tips as well as information on how to market to environmentally-conscious customers in SBA’s Guide to Conducting Market Research.
Another useful tool to help you find your addressable market is this guide from Smallbiz-Enviroweb.org (sponsored by the EPA Small Business Ombudsman) which includes a useful list of organizations with significant small business membership in industries affected by environmental regulations.
Assess Your Training Needs
It’s likely that you’ll need some training to get the right accreditations. Many community colleges offer green business certification programs. You can also search online for green consulting courses that match you with existing green business consultants who will train and mentor you.
Take Advantage of Green Business Resources
Find guides that explain step-by-step how businesses can adopt green business practices, get green product certifications and market their green policies, plus so much more in this comprehensive Green Business Guide from SBA that pulls together resources from across government and non-profit entities.
Calculate Your Rates and Develop a Contract
Most consultants are paid a project rate. For tips on how to calculate your rates read: How to Set and Negotiate your Consulting or Freelance Business Rates. You’ll also need to draw up a standard customer contract. This guide can help: Setting Up a Client Contract: Must Know Information for Freelancers.
Set Up and Register Your Business
SBA’s Home Business Guide includes everything you need to know about starting a home-based business including these essential 10 Steps to Starting a Business. You might also consider incorporating your business to reduce liability, so read Should You Incorporate Your Freelance or Consulting Business?
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