Whether you’re wondering how to start your own financial consulting business and have years of experience and loyal clients, or you’re new to the field, you still need to be prepared. Keep reading to learn how to switch from working for someone to starting your own business.
The demand for financial consultants
According to financial advisory services market research performed by Allied Market, financial industry services are going to experience a compound annual growth rate of 5.8% by 2030. Moreover, the research indicates a growing demand for financial advisory among medium-sized enterprises and high-net-worth individuals that are interested in using independent financial consulting services.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone starting as a financial consultant will be successful. Most of those who start a financial consulting business fail in the first three years. Being a successful professional within a financial consulting firm also doesn’t necessarily mean you will know how to market your services and build your own business. What does it take to succeed in financial consulting? Let’s find out.
Who can start a financial consulting business?
“Can I start my own financial advising business?” is the question that many financial consultants working in a firm ask themselves once they develop and feel confident with their client base. Before starting your own business, you first have to ensure you are eligible to provide financial consulting services independently. Let’s check the requirements you will have to meet before choosing a solo financial consultant career.
Like many other professionals working in the finance and banking industries, financial consultants and advisors usually possess at least a bachelor's degree in any subject, though most choose majors related to business (e.g., a Master of Business Administration degree).
Prior experience and certifications
It is vitally important to have relevant experience before you start to build your own business. Training for a career as a financial consultant usually happens on the job and through a professional certification process offered by various recognized organizations, such as the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. Requirements for professional certification vary between organizations, but most require candidates to have a bachelor's degree.
Though optional in many cases, a certification like the Certified Financial Planner (CFP), administered by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, is often required for employees that work with major investment firms. There are also other certification alternatives you might want to get, such as Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Personal Financial Specialist (PFS).
These certificates will help you build your professional reputation so that you will support your expertise not only with an immaculate portfolio but also with a well-known certificate.
The pros and cons of starting a financial consulting business
Many financial consultants and advisors refuse to start their own business due to the many challenges that could outweigh the possible benefits. There’s nothing wrong with having concerns, as starting your own business can be difficult. Let’s check out the pros and cons of independent financial consulting.
The downsides of independent financial consulting are:
- The overcrowded market. It’s difficult to stand out from other consulting solopreneurs, especially if you haven’t decided which niche you are going to choose yet.
- The long client acquisition process. The longer the client acquisition process, the higher its cost. It’s difficult to break even during the first several years as you are building your client base.
- Inconsistency in your work schedule. You become your own boss, and, naturally, you become involved in client acquisition and retention in addition to your regular consulting work.
- There are no employee benefits. When you work for someone, you can expect a certain amount of vacation days and an insurance policy. When you work for yourself, you have to take care of benefits on your own.
- Paying taxes. Although you might hire an accountant for these tasks at some point, you still have to know how to do your taxes for your business yourself.
- There is no safety net. Independent financial consultants and advisors know that if there is an emergency, they have to rely only on their own funds.
- Financial obligations and commitments. For example, according to the Fiduciary Rule, financial consultants and advisors have to put the financial interests of their clients above their own.
- The learning curve is high. Operating within a financial consulting firm can’t teach you everything about the financial consulting process. There is always something to learn, and the industry is very volatile.
But if everything is so complicated, why would anyone want to become an independent financial consultant in the first place? Of course, the industry has undeniable benefits. Let’s check them out.
- You can work from home. There is no need to rent an office if your services are mostly provided online, so there are no overhead costs.
- Your work is rewarding. With each year, you will gain more satisfied clients, and your referral network will keep growing.
- Having large start-up capital isn’t necessary. This kind of business requires minimal initial investments.
- Financial consulting is scalable. After building your client base in a certain niche, you can enter into a new one and easily boost your income. Referrals will also help you scale.
- You pick your clients. You are free to decide whether you want to work with a certain person or not.
- You are in charge of your workload. If you want to take a vacation or have an extra long weekend, you can easily do so.
- Your income reflects your work. Generally, the better you work, the higher your income.
As you can see, starting your own financial consulting business can be worth it if you’re not afraid of navigating challenges.
Starting out as an independent financial consultant
If you are wondering how to start your own financial consulting business without minimal start-up costs, perhaps starting a business isn’t for you at this time. Having a license and expertise won’t necessarily be translated into income right away. You will have to make investments to make progress. Let’s learn about the ways to forecast spending and ensure you set your services’ prices accordingly.
1. Counting financial consulting start-up costs
If you choose to work from home, there are no overhead costs. However, you will still need to pay for the hardware and software you use and cover marketing costs.
Hardware for online financial consultants
Online consultations require your hardware to be in top condition. You will have to ensure you have everything you might need before you start providing online services.
Make sure to have:
- a fast and secure Internet connection
- a laptop that can handle all necessary tasks
- a webcam for quality video communication
- a headset that reduces surrounding noise
- power supply
- an ergonomic keyboard (optional)
Below is a list of products with their average prices to help you better understand what costs you may have when starting your business.
|$435 – $1200
|$30 – $270
|$16 – $350
|A power station or a power bank
|$100 – $650
Also, keep in mind that your workplace has to be comfortable because you will spend a significant amount of time there. Check if you have a functional desk, an office chair that will help you maintain good posture, and proper lighting.
Software for financial consulting
Some financial consultants use free web-based software to start their business, reducing start-up costs. However, this isn’t a good idea long term because, at some point, you will want to scale your business. The longer you use separate software with limited functionality, the more time it will take to manually maintain and transfer data from databases, adjust your schedule, and build workflows. Many financial consultants get stuck and don’t become profitable because they can’t automate client relationship management processes and, in general, work more inefficiently.
The categories of software financial consultants often need in their business are listed below, and we have included examples of software that many financial consultants already use.
|Average price per user/month
|$29.95 – $65
|Financial planning tools
|$125 – $179
|Free – $29.95
|Risk assessment tools
|$59 – $295
|Free – $29.99
|$9.99 – $31
|Account aggregation tools
|Provided on demand
Marketing costs for financial consultants
The success of any business depends a lot on its ability to grow a client base and scale over time. In financial consulting, there are several main sources that help in client acquisition.
You will have to create a website and start posting content on social media to organically build your brand and acquire clients.
The minimum costs needed to create and maintain your website include:
- the cost of the domain name
- the cost of the hosting server (per year)
- the cost of the template or web development services
Alternatively, you can start building an audience using the free blogging tools that are indexed by Google (e.g., Medium). However, it is better to bring traffic to your own domain right from the start.
As you may know, your website’s traffic, which consists of those who have found you on the web, is a constant source of potential new clients. However, it takes some time to get consistent traffic. That’s why you need to allocate for launching paid campaigns using Google ads, Google Display, and LinkedIn. The costs of your paid marketing campaign will depend a lot on the price of the keywords you’ve chosen, the type of campaign you want to launch, and sometimes on the goal action you set (e.g., the cost per campaign with the goal of collecting an audience who have watched a video and were interested in it is much lower than the cost of the conversion).
Additionally, participating in conferences and events that your audience might be interested in can also help you acquire more clients, so make sure you include the cost of conference tickets and travel in your budget.
2. Choosing a business model
Choosing a business model draws a line between success and failure because if you pick the incorrect one, you will most likely fail to become profitable. That’s why all financial consultants and advisors need to carefully weigh out the pros and cons of their chosen business model and take them into consideration when creating a business plan.
This model depends on the assets you manage, so the better you do your job, the higher your income.
- The pros: the price is self-explanatory for the client, and clients always know what they have paid for.
- The cons: this model is difficult to manage, and it’s even more difficult to forecast profitability with market volatility. For AUM-based models, it's better if you already have a client database from your previous work. If you don't have clients, this model may not be the best fit for you.
The hourly model
This model allows you to set a fixed hourly price for your services.
- The pros: it is easy to implement and manage, as well as forecast future profitability.
- The cons: this model doesn’t fit everyone. Your clients might feel confused as the price doesn’t depend on the results they receive, and they may demand detailed reports of your work.
The pay-per-service model
For this model you charge your clients for each service you provide.
- The pros: the payment is fixed, and the model fits one-time services.
- The cons: this model makes it difficult to retain clients. Consider using one-time services only as a part of the funnel that leads clients to a long-term relationship with your business.
3. Business plan creation
The main purpose of any business plan is to help you focus on important tasks and avoid distractions. Even though it seems like an easy thing to do, practice shows that it’s not. However, as a financial consultant starting your own business, you don’t need an extensive description of all the potential business processes. A one-page business plan will be enough.
Ensure your business plan includes information such as:
- who your clients will be
- what you will do for them
- how you will reach them
- how you will measure success
- where you will focus your time
- how you intend to scale your business
Be precise in the metrics you use, and set benchmarks that will let you know you have succeeded.
4. Client base building & marketing
The longer your clients use your services, the more valuable they are for your business. However, when you start providing financial consulting services, you will rarely get long-term clients immediately. That’s why you have to pay attention to the ways you can acquire clients and the quality of clients the sources you use provide you with.
At the start of your solopreneur financial consulting career, you might get clients from:
- using social media
- finding underserved markets and proposing services to them
- using referrals
- hosting webinars or offering free one-time services
- becoming involved in local communities and charity events
- implementing marketing campaigns
What you need to pay attention to in regards to these client sources is:
- the average cost per client
- the average lifetime value of the client
By comparing these factors you will have an idea of what source is best to use. You should then mainly concentrate on this client acquisition method in the future.
Now that you know how to start your own financial advising business and are ready to implement the tips from this article in practice, you will see results in only a matter of time. Remember that every successful financial consultant, advisor, or planner has been in your shoes. The difference between you and them is that they kept working and did what was required to be successful.
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Starting your own financial consulting business has its upsides. Let’s learn about them:
- you can work from home
- your work is rewarding
- having large start-up capital isn’t necessary
- financial consulting is scalable
- minimum overhead costs
- you pick your clients
- you are in charge of your workload
- your income reflects your work
Before starting a financial consulting business, take the following into consideration:
- the overcrowded market
- the long client acquisition process
- work schedule inconsistency
- there are no benefits
- the need to pay taxes
- there is no safety net
- financial obligations and commitments
- the learning curve is high
Starting a financial consulting business doesn't require huge start-up investments. The minimum costs needed can be divided into categories such as:
- one-time hardware purchases
- software costs
- marketing costs
Those who want to start providing financial consulting services need to have at least a major related to business. After that, they will need to increase their expertise with one or several of the following certificates:
- Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
- Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
- Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)