After being in the software development industry for several years, you might consider a career change. Ideally, you’d be able to find a position that allows you to employ your development expertise, but one that gives you a new environment, and possibly more control over your work.
One of the most promising options here is to start a consulting business. Consultants are paid for their expertise and insight, though not necessarily for executing ground-level tasks and strategies relevant to their field.
So is starting a consulting business in your wheelhouse? And if so, how can you get started?
The Perks and Downsides of Owning a Consulting Company
First, understand that there are some massive benefits to owning your own consulting company, but there are some downsides to be aware of as well.
For example, these are some of the best perks you’ll see during your career transition:
- A step away from the grunt work. Over time, debugging and other low-level tasks can become grueling. You might get tired of working on the projects demanded by your employers or clients. Consulting helps you step away from that grunt work, and gives you more control over the work you do.
- Near-complete autonomy. As a business owner, you’ll be able to control nearly everything about your job. You’ll set your own schedule, choose which clients you want to take on, and choose how and when you work on projects. It’s ideal if you want more free time or just want more of a say over your career.
- Unlimited earning potential. Many developers are attracted to consultancy because of the sheer income potential. You won’t be limited by a salary; instead, you’ll functionally earn as much as you want, based on how many clients and how many projects you take on.
- The preservation of your passion. If you’re passionate about coding and software development, this career keeps you involved in that passion. It’s an ideal transition for someone who loves the career field but wants a different job within the space.
But to enjoy these benefits, you’ll also need to be prepared to handle some of the challenges:
- Financial woes. Starting a business can be financially strenuous, and for multiple reasons. Businesses can be capital-intensive, even if you’re starting a consultancy, and your income may be low or inconsistent for months to years as you develop your business from scratch. It’s ideal to build up significant savings before starting a consultancy.
- Sheer competition. Millions of people are striving to be consultants. It’s a popular field, so you’re going to face tons of competition. That means you’ll need to be aggressive about marketing and differentiating yourself.
- Minimal guidance. Though you may be able to rely on the expertise of mentors or other entrepreneurs, there’s no one above you to consult with when you’re the business owner. This can make hard decisions especially challenging.
Choosing Your Niche
There are several angles you could take with your consulting business, dependent on your history in the career, what your goals are, and what audiences you want to target.
These are just a few of the potential options:
- Helping coders polish their craft. In this scenario, you’ll help individual coders or teams of coders improve their approaches, or learn new skills.
- Helping firms work more efficiently. Here, you’ll focus on helping other business owners attract, train, and retain the right talent to execute software development projects.
- Helping newcomers learn software development. In this role, you’ll be more like a teacher than a consultant, helping individuals or teams build a career or a business from scratch.
There isn’t a right or wrong option here, but your choice will have a massive impact on what you earn, how you work, and what future opportunities may be available for you.
Creating Your Business Plan
You might have plenty of expertise. You might know what type of business you want to develop. You might even have some clients lined up already. But it’s still in your best interest to develop a business plan long before you build momentum for your business. Your business plan will guide you in researching the current market, your target demographics, your competitors, and even how you’re going to make money. Ask hard questions and make conservative assumptions; the majority of new businesses fail within the first five years, but the more prepared you are for business ownership, the better chances you’re going to have.
From there, it’s a matter of putting the pieces together. What do you want your business to be called? Where are you going to place your headquarters? How are you going to find your first few clients? These are big questions, but with sufficient research, guidance from mentors, and learning from experience, you should be able to carve your own path.