Proposed outline for How to Start and Run an Independent Statistical Consulting Business

Steve Simon


There has been a bit of discussion on submitting a proposal to teach a class on running an independent consulting business for an upcoming statistics conference. I think it would be a great idea and I want to suggest a tentative outline.

I should note first, that I have added an adjective “independent” to the proposed course title. Being an independent consultant raises a whole host of issues that other statistical consultants do not have to deal with.

Course outline:

Introduction: Brief biography of all speakers.

Lecture 1. Types of independent consultants (full time versus part time, supplemental source of income versus sole source of income). Differences between an independent statistical consultant and a consultant in part of a larger organization. Advantages and disadvantages of an independent consulting career.

Small group exercise 1. Break into pairs. Interview each other in turn about where you are in your career right now and where you want to be one year from now and five years from now. Compare and contrast your career goals with those of your partner.

Lecture 2. Different business models for an independent consulting company (e.g., sole proprietorship, partnership, Limited Liability Corporation, S corporation).

Lecture 3. Billing. Should you bill by the hour or bill by the project? How much are clients willing to pay?

Small group exercise 2. In a group of 4 to 5 people, read the hypothetical consulting scenario. How much money would you ask for? How many hours would this project take? What further details should you specify before bidding on this work?

Lecture 4. Contracts and accounting. Should you sign a contract before any consulting?
What contract conditions your client might ask for?

Lecture 5. Accounting. Preparing invoices. Tracking deductible expenses. Filing taxes.

Lecture 6. Insurance. Do you need liability insurance? Where can you find insurance coverage?

Lecture 7. Finding new clients. Using “word of mouth” to your advantage. Promoting yourself using social media.

Lecture 8. Keeping your clients happy.

Small group exercise 3. In a group of 4 to 5 people, read the hypothetical consulting scenario of a dissatisfied client. What actions could you have taken to prevent this problem from escalating. What action should you take now?

Lecture 9. Review and summary.

You can find an earlier version of this page on my blog.