8 Steps to Becoming a Consultant at 50+
When we think of entrepreneurs, we often picture young, tech-savvy millennials. But the face of American entrepreneurship is actually quite different. A recent survey conducted by Monster.com found that baby boomers take more risks and start more businesses than twentysomethings. With assets such as more wealth (and less debt), wisdom, education and experience, it’s no surprise that the average age of entrepreneurs is rising.
Consulting or contracting is a particularly attractive form of business ownership to older people – you can work anywhere and start-up costs are low. According to MBO Partners, nearly 5 million baby boomers are working as independent professionals – and 83 percent of them held traditional jobs before starting their own businesses.
If you’re interested in consulting or contracting as your second career act, here are eight essential steps to getting started.
The business planning stage
Most consultants and contractors start their businesses with very little financial investment, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore the planning process. In fact, a business plan can help you focus on your goals and the route you need to take to achieve those goals while doubling your chances for success!
If you need help with your plan take a look at SBA’s online, interactive Build a Business Plan tool.
Choose your business structure
Many consultants and independent contractors assume that they need to form a limited liability company (LLC) to operate successfully and with minimum risk. While being an LLC can protect you from personal liability for business decisions or actions of the LLC – the liability protection is limited. In fact, over 70 percent of small businesses operate as sole proprietorships – the simplest way to start a business.
A sole proprietor owns and runs the business – there is no legal distinction between the business and you, the owner. This may be a disadvantage because you can be held personally liable for the debts and obligations of the business.
Managing this and other forms of risk is an important consideration and often requires a layered approach that includes selecting the right business insurance (clients often require that consultants have a form of insurance before entering into an agreement) and consulting an expert about the best structure for your business. Read more about your business structure options.
Financing your consulting business
How much money you need depends on the cost of doing business for the first few months (before you start generating sustainable income) such as the cost of getting business insurance, utilities, incorporation fees, setting up a home office, etc.
If your cash flow predictions indicate you may not be able to cover your expenses during this period, consider your options. Many contractors get around this problem by maintaining their existing full-time job while running their consulting business on the side. If you do need to borrow money, AARP strongly advises against dipping into your retirement funds. Instead, consider other ways to finance your business.
Tax and legal obligations
Starting a business can seem overwhelming and not just because of the legal and tax obligations that you’ll encounter. During the start-up phase, it’s important to get these right.
This includes obtaining the right licenses and permits. If you intend to use a trade name or name your business something other than your own name, then you’ll need to register that name with your local government.
From a tax perspective, consultants need to take care of quarterly estimated tax payments to both the IRS and yours state revenue office.
For a complete list of the legal and regulatory “must-dos,” read “Starting a Freelance Business – How to Take Care of Legal, Tax and Contractual Paperwork”.
Setting your pricing
Consultants and contractors often undervalue their worth for a number of reasons. It can be awkward to talk about money or we underestimate how long things take us, or, worst of all, we want the gig so bad that we underprice it. To help you set your pricing, and negotiate your worth, read How to Calculate and Negotiate Your Hourly and Project-Based Pricing.
Go after your existing contacts
Your current pool of business and personal relationships will almost certainly be the source of your first clients as you start up. When I started my consulting business, my first client was my last employer. It’s been a fruitful relationship on both sides that spans over 10 years. They understand my value, trust me to deliver results and I understand their work practices inside out.
From there, network out and tap into relationships with former colleagues and industry peers. As your client base grows, hopefully these folks will also become your cheerleaders. Referrals are a huge source of business for consultants.
While networking is important, it’s a good idea to have a marketing plan. Elements to consider include establishing a website (to build credibility, showcase work, promote testimonials and ensure you can be found on search engines). You should also work on refining your marketing message – what you do, for whom, and why you’re different from the competition. Other tactics that can help build your online profile are blogs, social media accounts, etc.
Don’t go it alone
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Helping to Boost Business Development for Native American Entrepreneurs
Native American Heritage Month is a time to reflect on the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S. The month is a time for Native people to share their culture, traditions, art, and ways of knowing with the entire nation. American Indians and Alaskan Natives were also the country’s first entrepreneurs, and the SBA is working hard every day to ensure that the entrepreneurial spirit of Native people continues to thrive.
The SBA’s Office of Native American Affairs offers a variety of Entrepreneurial Empowerment workshops nationwide. These workshops provide specialized training to new entrepreneurs and to established Native American businesses that are positioned to grow. They are developed to be culturally relevant and responsive to the challenges and needs of their communities.
This year alone we’ve held 19 workshops in 17 states, and more than 50 tribes have sent representatives. We also hold 8(a) business development workshops nationwide that focus on the unique rules and considerations for tribally and Native-owned corporations and organizations. In 2014, over 500 individuals representing 109 different tribal communities attended these sessions. In 2015, we will be increasing our number of workshops to ensure that we reach even more entrepreneurs throughout Indian Country.
American Indian veterans have played a vital and distinguished role in the United States military for over two hundred years. In fact, Native Americans serve at a higher rate than all other service members.
In partnership with the SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development, we held a Native American veteran-focused event called “Boots to Business: Reboot” this August in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which saw over 125 veterans join to receive entrepreneurial training.
Several months ago I had the opportunity to moderate a roundtable in Oregon City, Oregon, with my colleague Patrice Kunesh, Deputy Under Secretary of Rural Development at the USDA. Our panelists included SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet and Phil Karsting, USDA Administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service. At the roundtable, we hosted 40 American Indian small business owners and tribal leadership representing nearly 15 different tribes nationally. The discussion included the importance of international trade for our Native businesses as well as Foreign Trade Zones as a potential economic driver. The participants ranged in age from tribal elders to young entrepreneurs fresh out of college.
I hosted another roundtable in Los Angeles with Administrator Contreras-Sweet and the California American Indian Chamber of Commerce in September. Common threads brought by participants at both events were strong entrepreneurial ideas and a desire to make a difference in their communities. My family has owned small businesses in Cherokee, North Carolina, for several generations, so I could strongly relate to the concerns, needs, and questions of those in attendance.
For the past 15 years I have worked with Native entrepreneurs and small business owners throughout the U.S., helping them access the tools they need to start, maintain, and grow their entrepreneurial ventures. In the past year, the SBA has provided over 100 million dollars in SBA loans and microloans to firms owned by Native Americans. Across the federal government we have also provided over 10 billion dollars in small business contracts to Native-owned businesses through the 8(a) program.
As my office looks toward 2015, I am excited for what lies ahead. We will be rolling out numerous new initiatives in the coming months, and we are looking forward to meeting the challenge of increasing the strength and number of successful Native American-owned businesses throughout the nation.
The interactions I have every day leave me with no doubt that the strength and power of America’s entrepreneurial spirit is as strong in Indian Country as it has ever been. Let’s work together to ensure that both today’s and tomorrow’s Native American entrepreneurs have the resources they need to make their business dreams a reality as they spur job creation and economic opportunity in their communities.
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Why A Mentor is Key to Small Business Growth and Survival
By presidential proclamation, November is National Entrepreneurship Month and a time for recognizing the grit, determination, innovation and contribution of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners to the nation’s economy.
Amidst all the celebrations, however, it’s hard to ignore the fact that only half of all small businesses survive more than five years (source: SBA Office of Advocacy) and about 10-12 percent of all employee-based firms close each year.
There is growing evidence, however, that connecting your business with a mentor can change this statistic.
A mentor can be a game changer for small business
Research proves that small businesses that receive three or more hours of mentoring achieve higher revenues and increased business growth.
Even better, according to a 2014 survey by The UPS Store, 70 percent of small businesses that receive mentoring survive more than five years – double the survival rate of non-mentored businesses.
Small businesses agree. The same survey found that 88 percent of business owners with a mentor say that having one is invaluable.
“For many, starting a business can be overwhelming – it’s no longer just about exploring a passion or following a dream,” said W. Kenneth Yancy, chief executive officer of SCORE, a non-profit mentoring and business counseling organization. “A mentor can help navigate the complex challenges that often come with being a business owner, and the guidance from someone who has been there themselves can be a real asset.”
Mentoring at work: Cloth Interiors
Having a mentor can be an invaluable resource for anyone who has chosen to go it alone in business, but how do these relationships work?
Teri Cardinelli, proprietor of Cloth Interiors, a custom window treatments and fabrics showroom, learned a lot from her mentors by putting their experience to use in her own.
Having operated a part-time business out of her Kennebunk, Maine, home for 25 years, in 2012 Teri decided it was time to commit full-time to her business and move out of her home office.
Teri has tremendous talent and technical skill, but needed help getting the business details organized. She started attending two evening workshops offered by SCORE – one on marketing and other on finance. She also connected with two SCORE mentors, Sandy Carlisle and Lisa Allison. SCORE mentors deliver free and confidential advice for start-ups and existing businesses.
“Teri had extensive background in her craft, which she needed to recognize and draw upon. Most of her issues were in the areas of business management and marketing, which SCORE is exceptionally well equipped to address,” said Sandy.
With SCORE’s help, Cardinelli started making a plan for her business; found a perfect location; organized her bookkeeping, contracts and pricing; and got ready for her grand opening in May. She did all this while completing jobs, adding new customers and showing a solid profit and positive cash flow in every month of 2013.
As Cardinelli explained, “From that first meeting, I got the validation I was on the right track, experience to point me in the right direction, wisdom to guide me through my ideas and suggest better ones, and encouragement to know what my real value is to myself and my clients. That is a lot to have on my team. Because of Sandy and Lisa, my confidence just kept on building and my business began to grow.”
One month after its grand opening on May 15, 2013, Cloth Interiors of Kennebunk, Maine was nominated by the Seacoast Chapter of SCORE as a small business success story for 2013.
Teri Cardinelli’s experience is one of many success stories made possible through small business partnerships with SCORE. With 320+ local chapters and 11,000 volunteers, SCORE can match small business owners with mentors across 61 industries, both in-person or over email.
Sponsored by the SBA, SCORE also provides inexpensive or free business workshops, webcasts and free business tools, templates and tips online. SCORE also offers a free email advice line. Simply type in your question and a SCORE mentor will contact your directly to see how they can assist.
Other sources of counseling and support
SCORE is not the only source of support in the community. Check out these other resources committed to making your small business a success:
- Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) serve more than one million small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs each year through free face-to-face business consulting, low-cost training (covering business planning, how to access capital, marketing, regulatory compliance, exporting and more). Funded in part by the SBA, SBDCs represent the most comprehensive small business assistance network in the U.S.
- Women’s Business Centers are part of a nationwide network that provides business training, counseling and other resources to help women start and grow successful businesses. Tied closely to the SBA, WBCs are also able to advise women about business financing such as SBA loan programs. If you are interested in selling to the U.S. government, WBCs can also provide guidance and training resources to help you get started and navigate the process.
- Veterans Business Outreach Centers provide training, advice, mentoring, business planning assistance and much more. Funded by the SBA, there are 16 centers across the U.S. ready to help.
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From Military Base to Business: Resources that Help Veterans Make the Move to Entrepreneurship
During the week of November 3-7, the nation and the U.S. government recognized and celebrated the second annual National Veterans Small Business Week. And rightly so – one out of every 10 small businesses in American is started by a vet. These companies employ nearly 6 million workers and generate more than $1.2 trillion in revenues. Moreover, statistics show that the success rate of these veteran-owned businesses is higher than other startups – perhaps a reflection of the discipline, skills and leadership experience acquired in military service. As SBA administrator, Maria Contreras-Sweet states, “…this is a talent pool we must nurture.”
To help veterans succeed in the transition from service to entrepreneurship, extensive support from both the public and private sector is readily available. Here’s a rundown of free training, financing and mentoring opportunities available to vets.
Get your business off the ground with Veterans Business Outreach Centers
Whether you need help putting together a business plan or need the advice of a business counselor, SBA’s Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOCs) provide free entrepreneurial development services including business training, support, mentoring and more. VBOCs are situated throughout the U.S.
Boots to Business Program – SBA and DoD help vets make the transition to business
Boots to Business is a free, three-step training program developed to introduce and train transitioning service members to business ownership. The program is sponsored by the SBA and is offered as a component of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) redesigned Transition Assistance Program (TAP) renamed Transition GP.
Boots to Business gives vets the tools and knowledge they need to identify a business opportunity, draft a business plan, connect with local small business resources and launch their small business.
Need capital? Low-fee loans and workshops boost veterans’ access to funding
If you need financing to start or expand, consider the SBAExpress loan program. It offers low-interest rates and streamlined, expedited procedures for members of the military community (responses to loan applications are made in 36 hours). It’s also worth knowing that fees on all SBA loans have never been more favorable and are currently set at zero for loans under $150,000.
To help you take advantage of capital opportunities, check out VetCap (capital for veterans) event in your region. VetCap national workshops are focused on educating veterans on where and how to raise capital. The workshops also connect veterans to a network of financial sources. More information on specific VetCap events is available through SBA’s district and regional offices.
Woman-owned veteran small business programs
Resources to start up and grow a woman-owned veteran small business are at your fingertips!
- Women's Business Centers (WBCs) are designed to assist women to start and grow small businesses. WBCs operate with the mission to "level the playing field" for women entrepreneurs, who still face unique obstacles in the world of business. WBCs offer comprehensive training and guidance on a variety of topics in many languages to help them start and grow their own businesses.
- Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (VWISE) is an entrepreneurial training program that assists female veterans to discover their business passion and learn business-savvy skills. VWISE is a three-phase program that includes online self-study courses, a three-day conference, and ongoing support from mentors. To apply, visit Whitman.syr.edu/vwise.
Check out SBA’s women-owned business guide for additional information.
Events, seminars and fairs
Bookmark SBA’s event calendar for info about nationwide and online veteran-specific training, networking and outreach events.
Other essential resources
The SBA offers a wealth of resources for veterans through its Office of Veterans Business Development. For a useful round-up of just how the agency can help you view this quick video.
Other public and private sector resources include:
- SBA’s Veteran and Service-Disabled Veteran Small Business Guide – A one-stop portal with links to programs and resources, financing information, government contracting opportunities and other resources.
- Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) – If you don’t have a Veterans Business Outreach Center in your area, you’re very likely to find an SBDC nearby. Each center provides business training, seminars and one-on-one consulting. Sponsored and partially funded by SBA, these centers also offer support for veterans, including help with understanding their financing options.
- SCORE: Counselors to America’s Small Business – SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. Volunteer business counselors, advisors and mentors provide free, confidential business counseling; free business tools; and inexpensive or free business workshops to aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners.
- Vets in Technology – Entering the technology field? Get help from Vets in Technology.
- VetFran – Interested in opening a franchise business? VetFran supports veterans and their spouses’ ability to access franchise opportunities through education on the franchise industry, financial assistance and industry mentorship.
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