16 Types of Consulting and How to Start Your Consulting Business

Thinking of starting a consulting job? There are countless types of consulting roles in dozens of different industries that, with the right experience, you could offer your expertise to!

Whether it’s a full-time job or a side hustle that generates some extra cash, consulting can be a gratifying and lucrative job. It allows you to:

  • Be your own boss
  • Target an industry you’re passionate about (and have experience in)
  • Keep things interesting by tackling diverse challenges

We’ll go a little more into the pros and cons of being a consultant below. First, let’s identify what consultants really do and why they’re important.

What is consulting?

Consultants are people who specialize in helping clients resolve their company’s most urgent problems, issues, or projects. They work across a huge range of roles and industries and share their gift of analyzing information and identifying the best path for each company to take.

Consultants tend to be individuals with at least a few years of experience under their belts in a particular field or focus. It’s this insight that they then sell as a service to other companies.

Consultants may work with multiple companies at one time, only spending a few hours a week on each. Or, they might be brought in full-time for 6 months to solve a bigger problem. It all depends on the company and the issue they’re trying to tackle.

Overall, a consultant’s job is to solve the issue they’re being hired for, and then move on to the next company.

women discussing consulting

What are the pros and cons of becoming a consultant?

Like any career, consultant jobs come with highs and lows. Every business you work with will provide you with different, and often contrasting, experiences.

The pros

It’s challenging and rewarding

When you’re a consultant, no two days are the same. Every day may throw new challenges your way!

These challenges pay off, though. There’s nothing that really compares to dragging a business out of a slump and setting it up for the future. Plus, the success you have with each project contributes directly to your personal brand.

It’s fast-paced and you get a sense of freedom

Consultants are often hired in desperate times to rectify a serious situation. Working in such a fast-paced career is perfect for someone who enjoys a challenge, and a sense of freedom — traveling from one business to the next.

You’ll constantly be learning

Consultants are experts in their field. To maintain this badge, they must always be learning and adapting to new trends in their industry. This enables them to help businesses develop techniques to stay ahead of their competitors.

The cons

Income instability

There is a certain air of instability when working as a consultant. You never really know when or where your services are going to be required next. For people who rely on very steady income, being a consultant full-time may lead to some stressful days.

There’s constant change

You might be required to uproot and move across state, or even across the country at short notice. If you’ve got other responsibilities, like children, this might not be a realistic option for you.

Weighing the pros and cons should allow you to understand if a consulting role is best for you. If you’re not sure, you can always try it out as a side gig first!

man in airport with suitcase

16 types of consulting jobs

Below are 16 different types of consulting jobs, along with example roles in each category where applicable.

1. Strategy consulting

Starting at one of the broadest types of consulting, strategic consultants assist with the upper-level decision making in a business.

This is definitely a big-picture-thinking type of job, generally advising at the highest level within a company (think C-Suite, Directors, and Senior Managers).

Since this is a broad role, it can fit in a variety of sectors. The more specific the role, the more the title will change. Some examples are:

  • Financial Strategy Consultant
  • Environmental Strategy Consultant
  • Business Strategy Consultant

Depending on what task or issues a strategy consultant is tackling, the prerequisites will vary. Having an MBA or Bachelor of Commerce/Business is a great first step, along with 5+ years of strategy experience.

creating a consulting plan - tablet with chart

2. Marketing consulting

Marketing is a very broad field of work, making it a bountiful option for consultants. From email marketing to paid acquisition, to content production, there are a ton of areas that marketing consultants can assist with. Overall, these consultants will develop new strategies to help companies better target or convert their key demographic.

For example, maybe a company needs to restructure its email onboarding campaigns to increase conversions. Or, it’s been running ads for months and hasn’t been able to reduce the Cost-Per-Click (CPC), creating a desperate need to rework ongoing ad campaigns. Below are a few examples of marketing consulting roles that may peak your interest:

Having a Bachelor in Marketing/Communications is the ideal first step in becoming a marketing consultant, but it often comes down to your work experience. In the world we live in today, your degree, diploma, or certificate is often outweighed by your experience and drive to learn. As long as you have the required prior marketing experience (with examples to point to), you’ll be set up for success.

3. Operations consulting

Another broad type of consulting is operations. An operational consultant uses data and research to help an organization streamline its operations, and/or enhance its operational performance.

For example, they could be tasked to help reduce costs, increase business efficiency, or improve company productivity. They may also be brought in to focus on the operations of individual teams. A few operations consulting roles are:

  • Marketing Operations Consultant
  • Sales Operations Consultant
  • HR Operations Consultant

It’s critical for people in this line of consulting to have a proven record of improving operations within a company — ideally multiple companies. You must also be very comfortable with research and data analytics, so coming from an Economics, Finance, or Business background will likely be helpful.

4. Financial consulting

Helping businesses manage their finances more effectively is a highly sought out service. People in this role might be tasked with identifying cutbacks to improve profit, or simply protecting, restructuring, or maximizing a company’s bottom line.

Often, small businesses won’t have the need, or budget, to hire a full-time finance manager, and thus require a professional financial consultant to fill in the gap. On the flip side, larger corporations may get into a sticky situation and need outside finance advice to help set them on the right path.

A few specific financial consulting roles are:

  • Economic Consultant
  • Foreclosure Consultant
  • Fundraising Consultant

Unlike some of the other roles mentioned above, anyone in financial consulting will need to have some sort of educational foundation, such as a Bachelor or Masters in Finance, or their CFA accreditation.

consulting analysis - computer monitor with complex excel chart

5. HR consulting

Human resources consultants support businesses in a number of ways including: training and development, maintaining employee satisfaction, and conflict resolution techniques. Sometimes people in this line of consulting are also brought on to recruit or hire new employees.

Overall, this type of consultant is dealing with people — hence, “human” resources. A few examples of HR consulting roles are:

  • Healthcare Management Consultant
  • Compensation Consultant
  • Recruitment Consultant

Depending on the type of HR consulting that a company is hiring for, the requirements of the candidate will vary. Not all individuals in this line of work will have an educational background in HR, but many end up taking courses and training to build up their knowledge and certifications.

6. Compliance consulting

Ensuring your business is adhering to federal and local laws and regulations is an important part of being a business owner. A wealth of knowledge of local and federal laws is a must for any compliance consultant.

Sure, it sounds a little boring, but it’s super important for businesses to be set up for success when it comes to complying with laws! A lawsuit is no laughing matter.

People who want to get into compliance consulting are usually required to have a Bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as business administration or law.

7. Technology / IT consulting

A technology consultant is hired to ensure a company’s software and technology aren’t hindering their productivity in any way. If it is, the consultant will recommend and implement changes to improve things. IT consultants could be hired for anything from software management to data analytics.

Individuals in these roles may also be responsible for ensuring devices and programs are secure so that private information cannot be hacked or breached. Some example IT consultant / Technology consultant roles are:

  • Software Implementation Consultant
  • Cyber Security Consultant
  • Field Technical Consultant

Since IT and technology consulting is a technical field, those in this line of work have educational backgrounds in computer technology. Overall, these consultants need to have vast experience and knowledge of computers and software.

server farm or server warehouse

8. Legal consultant

Larger companies will usually have their own internal lawyers or a law firm on contract, while many medium and small businesses don’t have the need for someone full time.
Whatever the reason, when a legal consultant is called in, it’s their job to ensure the company is aware of all legalities, and present a solution on how to move forward. It requires a lot of research, focus, and experience to provide the best information to their clients.

Due to the nature of this role, a person with a degree in business law is required to ensure their clients don’t fall foul of any laws surrounding their business.

9. Social media consultant

A part of the larger marketing category, social media consultants are a relatively new area of consultancy. A social media consultant ensures a business is doing all it can to drive potential customers to its website via its social media channels.

Unlike some of the other roles mentioned above, social media consultants are often self-made, or have gained their experience from work.

Since the social media landscape—and the algorithms that define it— are constantly changing, someone looking to get into this line of consulting should always have their finger on the pulse of each platform. In other words, they need to keep informed of the newest updates and strategies.

social media consulting

10. Sustainability consultant

These days, businesses must ensure they meet all manner of environmental regulations. A sustainability consultant might be someone with a Bachelor in Environmental Science who can help a business identify ways to reduce its carbon footprint and take on more sustainable practices.

11. Sales consultant

Sales consultants have a wide range of skills that help drive a business’s revenue. This can range from helping incentivize the sales team to improving the sales process on the customer’s side. A sales consultant is a relationship and negotiation expert.

Similar to marketing, securing a sales consultant role requires proven experience and records of surpassing sales targets, and maintaining large books of business. In this role, experience outweighs a formal sales education.

12. Wellness/Fitness consultant

A fitness consultant is so much more than a personal trainer. They often hold degrees in nutrition or sports science and can help their clients implement fitness programs on a company-wide or personal level.

Generally speaking, wellness consultants need to hold a certificate in their specialty —  be it nutrition, personal training, or health coaching.

wellness consultant leading group through yoga class

13. Growth marketing consultant

A newer type of consulting that falls within the marketing umbrella is the growth marketing consultant. This is a relatively new term, but the premise is simple: these consultants help to grow and scale a company through “growth marketing” efforts.

Examples would be, finding and scaling new channels for acquisition, or finding ways to improve the overall marketing funnel to increase conversions.

Securing a growth marketing consultant role requires a proven record and at least 3+ years of experience in the field.

14. Career coaching consultancy

Sometimes people hit walls in their life and end up stuck in a job or career path they don’t want to be in. A career coaching consultant can help people identify their skills and what type of job they’d flourish in.

Personal development consultants work closely with their clients and help them develop strategies and techniques to improve aspects of their personal life.

15. PR consultancy

A PR consultant can help extend the reach of a company’s presence and improve the public’s view of a company. They help shape what people think about a business’s products or services, employees, or ownership.

PR consultants are usually tasked with writing and pitching press releases, building campaigns, working with media and influencer partners, conducting or setting up interviews, etc.

A degree or diploma in public relations is helpful, but public relations is largely about who you know. So, the stronger your network within in a given industry, the more strings you have to pull in spreading awareness, and thus the more successful you’ll be as a PR consultant.

public relations is a type of consulting

What type of consultant should I be?

To decide what type of consulting to pursue, you should first identify what you’re best at and most interested in!

In order to be the best consultant ever, you’ll need to be adept at the following:

  • Commercial awareness: To be a successful consultant, you need to know what’s commercially successful in your area of choice.
  • Clear communication: You should be fluent in your niche’s jargon. If you’re unable to communicate with people at every level of the business using industry-specific terms, it’s not the right niche for you.
  • Integration at all levels: A good consultant can offer support at every level of the business, so, in-depth knowledge of the industry is essential.

Ready to start your own consultancy career?

If you’ve read through this guide, and have found a type of consulting that fits, you need to start thinking about branding and setting up your business. It’s not official until you make it official!

Below are some next steps for launching your consulting business, with a few helpful links to get you started.

  1. Come up with a business name
  2. Create a consulting logo
  3. Set up a website or portfolio
  4. Start promoting your services!

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