Below you will learn the key steps to starting an environmental consulting firm.
10 Steps to Starting an Environmental Consulting Firm
1. Conduct Market Research To Determine Demand
An important step to starting an environmental consulting business is conducting market research. To begin, you must learn what services your clients want and how much they are willing to pay for them. There are two ways you can go about conducting this research:
- Survey your target market. This can be done through surveys, interviews, focus groups, or online forums.
- Review industry trends. You can find this information from industry associations, government agencies, or trade publications.
Once you have analyzed the survey data, determine which types of businesses are likely to hire you and how much they are willing to pay. Use this information to set your consulting prices.
2. Name Your Environmental Consulting Firm
Once you have analyzed your market and determined what services clients want, it’s time to name your environmental consulting firm. While naming a business can be difficult, there are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind:
- Keep it Short: Your business name needs to be short enough for clients to remember and say.
- Keep it Relevant: Your business name should be relevant to the environmental audits and services you offer and your ideal client’s needs.
- Keep it Memorable: Using clever ideas and words, help your audience connect with your business.
- Focus on Your Target Market: Make sure that whoever sees or hears your company name understands who you are targeting as clients.
Read our article about choosing the right business name.
3. Choose Your Business Structure and Set-Up Your Company’s Legal Entity
As with any business, the type of legal entity you set up is critical. After all, you want your company to be treated as a separate entity, not just an extension of yourself. There are several types of structures in which you can start your environmental consulting company. Three popular options are sole proprietorship, S-corporation and LLC (limited liability company).
- Sole Proprietorship: A sole proprietorship is one in which the business and the owner are considered to be one entity. Therefore, you are personally responsible for all debts and liabilities your environmental consulting firm may incur. One benefit of this type of structure is that it’s easy to set up and there are no formal filings required.
- S-Corporation: An S corporation is a type of C Corporation that was designed by the IRS to help small corporations minimize their paperwork while still gaining many of the tax benefits of incorporating. It also offers protection for business owners in case of lawsuits and other liabilities.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC): An LLC is a structure in which the company is considered a separate legal entity from its owners. This means that the company is responsible for its own debts and liabilities. This type of structure offers protection for business owners in case of lawsuits.
Read our article comparing the most common consulting business structures.
4. Write an Environmental Consulting Business Plan
A business plan is a document that outlines your business goals, strategies, and how you plan to achieve them. For an environmental consulting company, your business plan should include the following:
- Business Description: Describe what your company does, who your target market is, and how you will differentiate yourself from the competition.
- Industry & Market Analysis: Detail your research on the industry and what services clients are most likely to want.
- Financial Plan: Outline your estimated income and expenses for the next three to five years.
Other sections of your plan will answer other key questions such as the following:
- What are your areas of expertise?
- What services can you offer your clients?
- Who is your target audience?
- How will you differentiate yourself from the competition?
Your business plan should also include several sections that detail your company’s history, current financial situation, and future goals. These sections will allow an investor to learn more about your company before they commit to investing in it.
Read our article about how to write a consulting business plan.
5. Apply for a Business License and Necessary Permits
You must register your environmental consulting business as a legal entity with the state in which you plan to do business.
To file your business with the state, obtain the necessary forms from the Secretary of State’s website or local County Clerk’s office. You will be required to pay a small fee for filing your business with the state.
Registering with the federal government may or may not be required. You can register your business on the federal level by obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS.
Read our article about obtaining the proper consulting business licenses.
6. Determine Your Budget & Apply for Funding as Needed
As with any business, you will need to use your own capital to finance the initial stages of your envrionmental consulting company. Your budget may also include several other costs including marketing expenses and the salary you wish to pay yourself.
After determining how much money you will invest in starting your business, review some options for financing your business. Here are several financing options that may be available to you:
- SBA Loans: The Small Business Administration (SBA) is a government agency that provides financial assistance to small businesses in the U.S.
- Bank Loans: Many small business owners are able to secure loans from their local banks. Often, you can borrow money for any purpose that relates to the growth of your company.
- Friends and Family: You can consider getting loans and/or equity investments from friends and family members..
- Angel investors: Angel investors may provide debt or equity funding to you.
Read our article about the costs associated with starting a consulting business to help you determine if funding is needed.
7. Get the Technology & Software Needed to Run Your Environmental Consulting Company Efficiently
As an environmental consulting firm, you will need different types of technology to complete projects and keep track of your company’s operations. To simplify the process of starting a consulting business, we’ve provided a list below detailing some items that you’ll need:
Computers: Even if most of your work is done remotely with clients on the other side of the country or world, you will need at least one computer that is dedicated to your environmental consulting company.
Software: Software is an essential component of any consulting business. The right software can help you manage projects, track expenses, and communicate with clients more effectively.
Here are some popular software platforms that may be beneficial to your business:
- Microsoft Office: This software suite includes a variety of applications that can help you manage your company, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
- QuickBooks: This software is designed for small businesses and can help you track income and expenses, create invoices, and manage payroll.
- Basecamp: This project management software can help you manage multiple projects simultaneously and keep track of deadlines and milestones.
- Gmail: Google’s email platform offers several features that can be helpful for businesses, including the ability to access the same email from multiple devices.
- CRM: Customer relationship management software can help you track customer communication, manage leads, and create reports that detail your sales activities.
There may be additional software that is specific to your field of work. It’s important to research the latest technologies and find software that will help you run your environmental consulting company more efficiently.
Read our article about the technology and software you need to run a consulting business.
8. Market Your Environmental Consulting Firm to Potential Clients
Once you’ve established your environmental consulting company, the next step is to market it to potential clients.
Here are some common marketing strategies used for environmental consulting firms:
- Networking: One of the best ways to market your company is by meeting people in person and establishing relationships. Attend industry events, meet-ups, and networking groups to get in front of potential clients.
- Online marketing: Marketing your business online, such as through a business website and pay-per-click and/or social media marketing, can help you reach a larger audience looking for your services.
- Public Relations: Develop relationships with reporters and journalists in your industry and send them press releases about your company or new projects you’re working on.
- Sales: Generate leads through telemarketing, email marketing, and personal visits, then follow up with a proposal that outlines the services you can provide.
It’s important to tailor your marketing strategy to fit your company’s unique strengths and the needs of your target audience. Do your research, then create a plan that will help you reach your goals.
You should also consider ways to incentivize potential clients to choose you over another environmental consulting company. Some incentives that work well include:
- Lower rates: Many consulting businesses offer lower rates on their services to attract new clients.
- Discounts on services: Offering discounts on certain projects may help you win bids against other companies.
- Free consultation: Providing potential clients with a free consultation can help them determine if your company is the best one for their needs.
Learn more about how to market your consulting business.
9. Establish a Price Structure and Billing System
There are a few factors to consider when establishing your price structure:
- Hourly rates: Charging by the hour is a common way to price consulting services. This allows clients to budget for your services and gives you the flexibility to charge more for complex projects.
- Project rates: Charging a flat fee for a project can be beneficial for both the client and the consultant. It ensures that the client knows what they are paying up front, and it allows the consultant to charge more for more complex projects.
- Retainers: A retainer is a set amount of money that the client pays upfront for services. This can be a good option for clients who need regular consulting services.
No matter which pricing structure you choose, be sure to clearly communicate it to your clients. Additionally, have a detailed invoice template that includes all the environmental services you provided so the client knows exactly what they are paying for.
10. Manage Client Relationships and Deliver Projects
After finding new clients and marketing your environmental consultancy business, you should begin delivering the projects and getting paid. This means managing client relationships and making sure that clients are happy with your work. Some of the ways to manage relationships with your environmental clients include:
- Regular communication: Stay in touch with your clients through regular communication, such as emails, phone calls, or face-to-face meetings.
- Keeping track of goals: Make sure you understand the goals of each project and keep track of how you are helping the client meet those goals.
- Being proactive: If you see a potential problem with a project, address it as soon as possible. This will help reduce tension and ensure that the project stays on track.
- Delivering projects on time: Make sure you deliver projects on time and within budget. This will help keep your clients happy and may lead to future business opportunities.
Delivering projects on time and within budget is essential for an environmental consulting business. It can be beneficial to create a project management plan that outlines how each project will be completed. This will help ensure that all deadlines are met and that the client is happy with the final product.
Learn more about how to effectively manage client relationships.
Starting an Environmental Consulting Business FAQs
There are many reasons to start an environmental consulting business, but some of the most common reasons are:
- To help businesses and organizations comply with environmental laws and government regulations
- To help clients reduce their environmental impact
- To provide expert advice on how to protect the environment
There are a few things you will need to start an environmental consulting business, including:
- Strong knowledge of environmental regulations
- Expertise in environmental assessment and remediation
- Business acumen
- Strong marketing skills
The following tips can help you to start an environmental consulting business:
- Do your research: It is important to understand the environmental consulting industry before starting your business. This includes learning about the regulations that apply to your area, as well as the services that are offered by other businesses in the industry.
- Establish yourself as an expert: To be successful, you need to be known as an expert in environmental consulting. This means developing a strong knowledge of the industry and providing quality services to your clients. Publishing articles and speaking at events can further establish your credibility.
- Build a strong network: A strong network is essential for any business. It can help you find new clients, get referrals, and learn about new opportunities.
- Market your business: Marketing is key to any successful business. You need to identify your target market and create a marketing strategy that will reach these potential customers.
- Set up a good system for invoicing: It is important to have a good system in place for invoicing clients. This will help ensure that you are paid for the services you provide.
- Keep track of your expenses: It is important to keep track of your expenses, so you know how much money you are making (or losing) on each project.
- Stay up to date with environmental regulations: Regulations change over time, so it is important to keep up with the latest changes and ensure that your business is compliant.