4 Tips for Starting a Consulting Business on the Side

By MBO Partners | September 7, 2022

consultant working

Key Points

Consider any restrictions you have with your current employer before starting to consult on the side.

Take time to establish clear goals before taking on your first project.

Keeping your full-time job while starting a business will give you a good idea about what the life of an independent professional is like.

If you are not ready to make the transition to full time self-employment, a good way to get started and test the waters is to start a consulting business on the side. This will give you an opportunity to not only see if working for yourself is something you enjoy but where gaps in skills may exist and how to prepare yourself better for full time self employment if you decide it’s right for you. 

Here are four considerations to keep in mind as you test the waters and consider consulting as a part-time or full-time career.

1. Ensure Your Employee Agreement Allows It

Any agreements you signed when you came on board with your current employer may include provisions that restrict or limit your ability to freelance as an independent consultant. These restrictions could include non-compete agreements, conflict of interest guidelines, or requirements that mandate disclosure of all outside employment. In some cases, employment agreements may outright prohibit additional employment, or even retain rights to any projects or work you do while employed—even if they are done outside of work. 

Before launching your consultancy or taking on a project, obtain a copy of this agreement along with any other restrictions from your company’s HR department so you can make sure you are complying. You may also consider consulting an attorney to go over any agreements or language to ensure full understanding. 

Learn more: 7 Steps to Start a Consulting Business 

2. Review and Define Your Business Goals

Part-time independent consultants may have unique goals to consider regarding their dual-employment status. While some part-time consultants may plan to moonlight indefinitely, many view their situation as temporary as they transition into full-time independence or as they decide whether to commit to consulting or to their current employer. 

From the outset, it’s important to clearly determine what your goals are. These goals should also include a timeline and list of criteria. For example, if you’re planning on transitioning to full-time independence, outline the standards you will use to signal each phase of your transition such as a certain sustained income or number of clients needed to leave your current job. If you’re testing out independent consulting before deciding whether to commit, creating objectives as markers of success or failure can help you determine where to focus your career efforts. 

Try this: 10 Ways to Get New Consulting Clients 

3. Manage Your Time Carefully

Starting your own business and landing your first clients can be arduous and time-consuming, particularly if your hours are limited by another job. Make sure to keep the working hours for your two jobs separate. Clearly communicate your availability to any current or potential clients so they understand when you are and are not available. Also, take great care to ensure you don’t inadvertently use any resources—time or otherwise—from your current employer in pursuit of your consultancy. In many cases, this may be grounds for termination. 

In addition, for any independent worker, maintaining a healthy work-life balance requires a conscious effort. For part-time independents who are also holding down a full-time job, this balance becomes even more difficult. With more hours spent working and fewer hours for yourself, family, and friends, the potential for stress and burnout increases. During this time, be sure to define boundaries and use free time to stay mentally and physically healthy. 

Check out: How to Achieve Work Life Balance When You’re Self-Employed 

4. Join a Marketplace to Find Consulting Jobs

If you believe you have skills that would be valuable to enterprises looking for highly skilled independent talent, start your moonlighting career by joining online job marketplaces like MBO’s marketplace.   

More and more enterprises are using marketplaces to get direct access to qualified independent talent and often create talent networks, so they have a pool of talent available when they need someone for project-based work. 

Up next: How to Transition from Full Time Worker to Self Employed

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