How to Become an Independent Startup Consultant in 6 Steps

May 13, 2024

Do you want to have a dynamic career? Work with passionate founders? And do you have experience in your industry? If so, you may be ready to take the leap and become a business and startup consultant.

I know that taking that first step on your own can be challenging. That's why in this blog, I'll share 6 steps to help you become a business consultant. First:

Why become a business and startup consultant?

Becoming a startup consultant can be an excellent option for those seeking flexibility, learning, and the opportunity to charge for their real value. It's common for people to specialize in an industry and type of company throughout their lives, however, that could limit our professional development opportunity.

Instead, dealing with multiple clients accelerates your growth, increases your network, and deepens your learning in new verticals. All this working according to your availability and generating a higher income per hour. On average, we've seen that Landa Club members increase their hourly salary between 2 to 5 times more.

1. Define your niche

Find a specialized segment in which you can stand out from other people. For example, content marketing strategist for companies in the education sector.

It may sound counterintuitive to narrow down your focus, but it will be clearer for you and for companies the value you will bring. As time goes by, you will be able to see how the market reacts and can adjust your niche progressively.

To define your initial niche, ask yourself the following questions:

• What were my main achievements in past companies?

• How many years did I spend in each of my past experiences?

• Is there any industry that stands out?

• What skills and competencies helped me achieve these accomplishments?

• What would your coworkers and/or bosses say about you?

• What would they highlight as good?

The goal is to arrive at one or two lines that define what you will offer. For example, the line that best describes what I offer is: I help Marketplaces from seed stage to Series B enter Latin America.

2. Prepare your social profile to support that niche

Once you have defined your niche, it is important that you prepare your social profile to support your experience in it. Create content that shows what you are offering and get testimonials from people who know your work. This way, you will start building a solid reputation and attracting more clients.

On LinkedIn, you can start with the following:

• Add to the title or biography of your profile that you are doing consultations. Include "Startup Advisor" or "Growth Consultant".

• Add an experience to your profile that shows that you are actively open to developing consultations. Ideally, in this section, you will add your area of ​​expertise and past clients (if you have them).

ejemplo de cómo compartir que eres un consultor de negocios y startups

• Add testimonials from bosses or past clients. Actively look for evidence that proves your experiences, as it will make you look more professional and demonstrate your good work.

testimonio de un cliente de un consultor de negocios y startups

3. Think about the salary you want to earn

It is important that you think about a price range that makes sense for you and your clients. There are formulas to define it, but here I present two options:

Using your desired annual salary:

• Add to your base compensation an annual cash bonus and equity (if applicable).

• Add a % of benefits that companies would have to pay in your country, this includes vacations, insurance, and other expenses specific to each company.

• Divide it by the weeks you want to work in the year (excluding vacations) and the number of hours you are willing to work.

Using the 2x-3x rule:

• Take into account that there are 2,000 workable hours per year.

• Identify the salary you have or for which you would change companies, then add bonuses/benefits and divide it by 2,000.

• That value per hour use it as a base. The final price can be 2 or 3 times that value per hour.

4. Identify your options for finding clients

Should you focus on local or international startups?

Your priority will depend on where your first level contacts network is located. Are they in your country or in another region? For example, if I'm in Mexico City, but my contact network is in Los Angeles (because I lived there all my life), I would start in Los Angeles.

This is because starting with your closest network, it will be easier for you to get your first clients. Your contacts know about your work and trust you. They can recommend you or even hire you.

Methods for finding clients

There are several methods for finding clients, and here I present three:

Through existing connections:

• Talk to your former bosses, colleagues, and clients who know your work well. It is important that it be an informal conversation, but mention that you are offering consultations and that you would appreciate it if they consider you in case there is an opportunity in the company. Or if they can recommend you.

• This is the easiest way to reach new clients, as it is easy for your acquaintances to show that you are the right person.

Through "cold" connections and social networks:

• Actively look for networking opportunities in spaces that converge with your ideal client. For example, if your target is fintech startups, it is important that you attend events with founders of that type of company.

• Another useful way to demonstrate your expertise is by sharing your experience in articles or posts on social networks.

Ejemplo de cómo promocionar tus servicios como consultor de negocios y startups

Through freelancers marketplaces:

• There are several portals that contain opportunities under a contract modality, such as TopTal and Upwork.

• It is worth mentioning that some have a rigorous filter and you will have to present your case for each application.

Explore different options at the same time until you find the ones that best suit you.

5. Manage the sales cycle

After attracting your leads, start preparing everything to ensure that they are satisfied at each stage, even if the work is not completed.

These are the stages to consider:

a. Schedule an introductory call

Have an agenda link available. Use tools like Calendly or Appointlet. Give your leads scheduling options and make the agenda of the call clear from the beginning.

b. Previous research

Before your introductory call, research your lead. Know the industry, financing stage, and some relevant news about the company.

c. Introductory call

It is important that you take at least 30 minutes to understand the client's need, the level of urgency, and if you are the ideal candidate. Speak as little as possible (less than 30% of the call). It will be useful to have a list of questions already prepared. Some that I usually ask are:

• What are the key challenges or problems you are facing in your business/organization right now?

• What are your short and long-term goals for your business?

• What is the timeframe in which you expect to see results or improvements in the ideal situation?

• Have you worked with consultants or external agencies before?

• What worked well and what didn't work so well in those experiences?

• What is your level of involvement and availability to participate in the consulting process? In case it is not your focus, who would be the "champion" of this challenge in your organization?

d. Send the proposal

In case you have validated the previous 3 points, it is important that you send an economic proposal within the next 24 hours. We recommend including 5 sections: Your experience, Meeting summary, Project scope, Compensation, and Work mode.

e. Negotiation and Closing

Once both parties agree to continue, schedule a call to agree on the exact terms of the work. Prepare to negotiate. But don't negotiate against yourself. Do not propose a price reduction unless the client communicates to you that they require it.

6. Prepare for billing and set aside a portion for taxes

Finally, have a billing system in order (consider using Deel or Ontop) and know the basic rules of tax payment in your jurisdiction, we recommend separating at least 30% being conservative and working with a local accountant or lawyer to help you in this management.

I hope that with these steps, you are closer to becoming a business and startup consultant. If you need more help, at Landa Club we are focused on developing experienced profiles in their first steps to become independent. We offer educational content, client opportunities, resources, and networking.

Gabriel Tudela

My career started in traditional consulting but quickly transitioned to the tech industry as an operator and founder. I’ve held operational and executive roles in 4 global unicorns: Uber, Bird, Kavak, and Lamudi, mostly focused on Operational and Product Launches. Aside from that, I’ve bootstrapped 2 companies, Pay&Go LatAm, a contactless payment solutions provider that I had to shut down after 5 years (COVID), and Landa, a professional membership that gives access to community, education, mentorship, and tools tailored to support experienced professionals in building successful independent careers. I also support early-stage companies with a strong bias in Seed and Series A Startups in LatAm with Marketplace components (10 active investments).