A consultant is a professional who provides advice and specialized knowledge to clients. While no industry is exclusive to consultants, many consulting businesses focus on a specific industry or area of expertise.
As a consultant, your clients will be relying on your experience and recommendations. You may also be asked to provide services related to your area of expertise such as training sessions or project implementation. Be clear about the services that you will offer, and make sure you are knowledgeable about the industry you will be working in.
Note: If you are working exclusively for one organization, contact the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for a ruling on whether you are legally considered an employee or a self-employed individual.
RC4110 Employee or Self-employed?
When you start a business there are several things to consider before you can sell your product or service. Most businesses in Ontario need to complete a minimum of three basic steps:
Our business start-up guide will give you more information on these steps and other basic requirements for starting a business in Ontario.
Business Start-Up Guide
Your business may need licences and permits from the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government.
In addition to the information you will find in this guide, you can use BizPaL—an online search tool—to find licences and regulations that may affect your business. You can also contact the Business Info Line to speak to someone about starting your business.
Permits and Licences Wizard
Contact the Business Info Line:
If you have legal questions, contact a lawyer who deals with business regulations. The Law Society of Upper Canada's Lawyer Referral Service may be able to assist you in finding a lawyer, based on your needs.
Contact the Law Society of Upper Canada:
Law Society of Upper Canada's Lawyer Referral Service
Depending on your location and the type of products or services being offered, federal, provincial and/or municipal business taxes may apply.
If you sell goods and services in Ontario, you may need a business number to collect and remit the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). Most businesses that make less than $30,000 in any 12 month period are not required to charge HST; however, you can register voluntarily and claim input tax credits. Speak with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for more information.
Canada Revenue Agency – Business
Canada Business can help you find government financing options for your business. There are programs that apply to businesses across Canada, and others that apply only to businesses in Ontario. Use the Canada Business financing search tool or browse by type of financing.
You can also access Canada Business information through the ONe-Source online financing wizard. The wizard guides you through 3 easy steps to create a personalized list of results for Ontario business financing programs.
Contact the Business Info Line:
You can find Ontario-specific assistance for your business including advice, financing options, tax incentive programs and more using the Ontario government’s free online directory of support programs for business.
The OBPG provides:
Ontario Business Program Guide
The success of any business starts by setting goals and managing the ups and downs of daily operations. Here are some key factors to consider when starting a consulting business:
Having the correct business insurance can provide peace of mind. Contact an insurance agent to discuss your business insurance options, or to develop a plan that is right for your business.
You may also wish to contact your local chamber of commerce or industry association, as some organizations offer members lower rates on their business insurance.
The following list is included to remind you not to overlook the complex areas of business insurance. It is best, however, to discuss your specific requirements with your insurance agent.
Insurance for Your Small Business
Marketing can help you determine the value of your product or service and communicate that information to customers. Depending on your market and its size, you can consider using flyers, business cards, brochures, newspapers, radio, TV, the phone book or the Internet. Keep in mind, a satisfied customer or a positive referral is often the best form of advertising.
When preparing your marketing and/or advertising material, there are regulations to follow. When you promote a product or service, your customers need to have enough information to make informed choices. You can get more information on advertising requirements from the Competition Bureau.
Contact the Competition Bureau:
Misleading Advertising and Labelling
The use of business support services can be essential to the success of a small business. Professionals can provide knowledge and expertise to ensure your business is operating efficiently.
As an entrepreneur, there are several types of professional business services you can consult:
For most businesses, choosing an appropriate location is critical. Your ideal location will depend on your business needs, zoning restrictions and where your customers and competitors are. Taxes, noise and the local business environment are also important factors to consider when reviewing your options.
If you are considering setting up your business in your home, make sure you know what regulations and restrictions will apply to your home-based business before you start.
Negotiating is part of doing business. You negotiate with suppliers, distributors and customers. Good negotiations can lead to prosperity, while bad negotiations can damage your business profitability. Before you start your business you may want to learn about negotiating.
A contract is a legally enforceable agreement between two or more parties. Your contracts will vary based on the nature and the complexity of your projects. They can help you outline the terms of payment, ensure understanding of the project and protect you in case of disagreements. When dealing with legal documents like contracts, you may also want to speak with a qualified lawyer for advice.
The federal, provincial and municipal governments can be important clients for your consulting business. To find government procurement opportunities, you can search the electronic tendering services online through MERX.
MERX – Electronic Tendering
Whether you are responding to a call for proposals from the public, the private or the non-profit sector, there will be selection procedures to follow. These procedures will vary from one organization to the next, so gather all the required information before submitting your proposal. You may also consider getting help from professionals such as accountants or lawyers.
How to prepare a bid
Setting the right price is important in ensuring the success of your business. Here are a few questions you may want to consider:
When determining your fees, make sure you include the cost of your labour, the overhead and the expenses that will be incurred.
In the end, the right price for the service is the price that the consumer is willing to pay. Correct pricing decisions are often key to successful business management.
There are many associations that may be of interest to you. It is not necessary to join an association, but some of the advantages include:
Examples of associations for a consulting business include:
The AIC connects you with educational networking meetings and workshops, opportunities and assignments with other companies, and online articles. You can also network with other consultants using their online discussion board and searchable database.
Association of Independent Consultants
You can join more than 100,000 owners of small and medium-sized businesses, distributed across all industry sectors and all regions of Canada, who are members of the CFIB. Advocacy is based on the strong feedback from members, and the organization has a high profile in government, business and among the general public.
Canadian Federation of Independent Business
For other information that relates to starting your business, you can read the following guides:
Additional resources that may be of interest to you include:
You can also find books, magazines and other relevant print material at business service organizations in your community. To locate a Canada Business Ontario (CBO) community partner, contact us through the Business Info Line at 1-888-745-8888.
Information contained in this document is of a general nature only and is not intended to constitute advice for any specific situation. Users concerned about the reliability of the information should consult directly with the source, or seek legal counsel.
Some of the organizations listed above are not subject to the federal Official Languages Act or the French Language Services Act of Ontario. Their services may not be available in both official languages.