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Launching a Consulting Business? Here’s What You Should Know

By Sierra Pawlak

Bill CurryLaunching a consulting business can be a daunting task, but in his September 2023 TAA webinar,  How to Leverage a Textbook or Academic Book to Launch a Consulting Career, textbook author and Public Procurement Consultant Bill Curry shared tips on how to make the process as smooth as possible.

In his presentation, Curry detailed how to set up your consulting business, what to include on your website, and how to use your textbook to promote your consulting services. Part one of this two-part series will cover the initial setup for your new consulting business, including:

  • Company Name Recommendations
  • Registered Trademark
  • Federal Tax Identification Number
  • Business License
  • Registering your Company Online
  • Fictitious Company Name Statement (if necessary)
  • Business checking account
  • Socioeconomic Certifications
  • Company Logo

Part two will delve into how you can self-promote your new business, including how to create your website, write your author pages on Amazon and bookseller’s websites, and find new clients.

Company Name Recommendations and Registered Trademark

When it comes to your new business, your company’s name is the first thing a future client may see (or hear), so Curry recommends that you include “Consulting” and your area of expertise in your name. Because his company’s goal is both consulting and selling his textbooks, he said that better names for his own business, “WSC Consulting” (his initials), would have been “Public Procurement Consulting” or “Public Procurement Books and Consulting,” because they better describe his professional field and the services he can provide to a new client. He also recommends registering your new company’s name, which you can do here. With a registered trademark, he said, you have additional protections as the business owner, such as presumed ownership and diminishing liability if someone else were to practice business using your name. And of course, don’t use the same name as one of your competitors. (Curry is not an attorney, so this should not be construed as legal advice.)

Federal Tax Identification Number

Another important task when setting up your consulting business, is to obtain your Federal Tax ID Number, which you can apply for online through the IRS. Using this number minimizes your social security number exposure, and some public entities may require it to work with them, said Curry. If you don’t wish to apply online, you can fill out an IRS SS-4 form, and either mail or fax it to them.

Business License

States, cities, and other public entities normally require you to have a business license, and you can get one issued from “the city where your company is domiciled,” said Curry. When acquiring your business license, you’ll need:

  • Name[s] of all business owners
  • Name of your company
  • Company’s address
  • Starting date of operations

You will need to pay for your business license at the time of registration, he said, and this license will generally have an annual fee.

Registering Your Company Online

You may need to provide your NIGP, NAICS, APICS, or UNSPSC code(s) when registering online for a prospective client, so it is important to identify which ones are applicable to your business. These codes represent the type of business that you’re in, what goods or services you produce, etc. For example, when Curry was finding out which code(s) were right for his business, he searched ”book” and “consulting” in the dropdown menus because he is promoting both his textbooks and his consulting through his business.

Fictitious Company Name Statement (if necessary) and Business Checking Account

If you were to shorten, or otherwise change, your company’s legal name, for example, by removing “LLC”, it is likely you will need to publish a fictitious business name statement, said Curry. While working with the city to get your business license, you should also ask them whether a fictitious business name statement is applicable to you. These statements, according to Curry, “normally require applications through the county, placing a notice in the local newspaper, and providing a certified copy of the county’s fictitious name statement.” You will need to pay a fee to the newspaper for publishing your statement, and there will be initial and periodic fees to your county as well, he said. There are both certified and standard types of fictitious name statements, and certified generally costs more.

A certified fictitious name statement is typically required to open a bank account. It’s important to have a separate bank account for your business, as your bank may not accept checks made out to a business if you try to deposit them into your personal checking account, said Curry.

Socioeconomic Certifications

Your company may qualify to be certified in one or more categories for socio-economic procurement programs, according to Curry: “This is helpful if your clients are public entities, government contractors, or private companies that have their own socioeconomic procurement goals.” Socioeconomic classifications vary substantially between public entities and large businesses. You will most likely qualify as a small business, and there are other classifications like veteran, service-disabled veteran, disadvantaged, woman-owned, etc. Of course, he said, do not claim one of these if you are not qualified for it.

Company Logo

Curry recommends creating a logo, as well as business cards, for your company. Your logo is a clear representation of your brand, he said, and you can use it on letterhead, invoices, mailing labels, business cards, advertising like on ballpoint pens, and email advertisements, company website, LinkedIn website, or bookseller websites. As for your business cards, Curry recommends including your logo, your name, company name and contact info. You can also include any certifications you might have, as well your website(s). He adds that you could promote the books that you’ve published on the back of your business card.

Curry remarked that he wished he’d had this knowledge prior to starting his business and hopes his advice will prevent others from making the same mistakes he did. You can learn more about starting your own consulting business from Curry’s TAA webinar.

Curry served in the field of public procurement as a researcher, author, practitioner, and consultant. Following his retirement as an Air Force systems procurement officer, Curry worked on NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and on Stanford National Accelerator Laboratory’s Positron Electron Project. He served as the purchasing services manager, deputy administrative officer, and general services director for Butte County in California. He was designated as a Fellow by the National Contract Management Association. He authored three editions of two textbooks in the field of public procurement. He earned an MBA from The Ohio State University and a BS in business management from Florida State University.