Do you need a business license to be a consultant? Probably. In fact, you may need more than one, depending on what field you're in. How can you find out what licenses are needed? Contact governmental offices and professional organizations.
Local Business Licenses
Once you've determined exactly where your consulting office will be located, you will need to check with local and state governments to see what licenses are required. “Local” may mean your town, township, community, city, county, or regional government. Most require some type of business license application and fee. They want to have a record of your business in case there are complaints from clients or neighbors. Of course, they also want the business license fee.
In addition, most licensing bodies require that you pay some form of tax on your income or your assets. Income taxes will be covered in Chapter 10, which covers keeping good records.
Most local governments have zoning laws that your business must comply with. The government doesn't want a noisy or high-traffic business setting up in a residential zone. Some zoning laws prohibit any home-based businesses, though many communities look the other way if there are no traffic or noise issues.
To find out about local business zoning requirements, contact your local government office. Make sure your business will comply before deciding to set it up. Many local governments have a one-stop office where businesses can find out about local licensing, zoning, and regulations. Check your local telephone book for appropriate offices.
Some types of businesses, especially those in financial fields, require professional licenses. You can find out about these from trade associations in your field. In addition, contact the Small Business Administration regarding licenses and permits. In Canada, contact Canada Business Services for Entrepreneurs.
A certification is an earned credential. For example, the Business Marketing Association offers a certified business communicator designation to applicants who meet training and experience requirements and pass a comprehensive test. Other trades have similar certificates available.
Certificates aren't required for most consulting businesses, but they do add credibility to your qualifications. Once you've defined your consulting business, seek out certifications that can help clients recognize your qualifications.