👋 Hi, I'm James.


I occasionally write about lessons learned on the journey to live a healthier, happier and more intentional life. 


📍 Austin, TX 

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  • James von der Lieth

How to Start a Lucrative Consulting Business with No Experience

Updated: Feb 27, 2020

The title of this post probably sounds too good to be true. But here's why I know for a fact anyone can do this:

I was a moron at age 19 and I started a lucrative consulting business with no experience.

By senior year of college I was making $4000+/month at $75/hr. I got so addicted to making money and helping business owners that I was spending more time in businesses than in college classrooms.

Just before I graduated, a consulting client offered me a percentage of a business and monthly retainer to get their finances in order to sell the business. It was hard work, but it paid off and we sold the business for more than expected, resulting in my first 5 figure check. I rode the wave and decided not to get a normal 9-5 job after college, and to pursue building my own business full time.

I named the business Cleardesk as a nod to the feeling our company was aiming to provide for business owners.

Pretty soon business owners would ask me, "Hey, can I just pay your company XYZ amount per month to outsource our monthly financial reporting to you?". I always said yes and figured out a way to make it work and do a good job.

When I graduated college in 2013, I hired my first 30 hour a week employee to work for me. I was off to the races.

Cleardesk was a true lifestyle business in my early 20's.

Once it was in a good place, I was only working on it 20 hours a week. The business bought me the time to learn through 100's of hours of podcasts and audiobooks, travel, get healthy, and build confidence in myself.

Anyone can do this. Business owners want results.

It doesn't matter how old or experienced you are if you can provide results.

In college, this quote from Mad Men really inspired me and stuck with me:

- Bobbie Barrett from Mad Men

This quote embodies what America is all about. Most people are really just making it up as they go along. You can do it too! You just can't be afraid to be wrong, and be able to roll with the punches.

The information and tools are out there, and a lot of the time free on Youtube and Google.

Consulting Is a Good Place to Start with No Experience

Yes, consulting isn't easily scalable but it's a great way to get paid to find product market fit. While helping to implement existing solutions you hear pain points. By talking with many similar businesses you can spot patterns of real problems that need to be solved in the market.

Consulting is even a good place to start for people with high priced degrees. Think about it: the mega consulting agencies find inexperienced recent grads all over the country, give them some training and throw them in the fire for 60+ hours a week at large corporations.

If recent college grads can go consult for large enterprises with no experience, why can't you go live by your own rules and help small business owners.

Fake It Till You Make It

For the first 20 engagements, I was truly faking it until I made it. If it took me longer to solve a problem than it should have taken a $75/hr consultant, I didn't charge for my time.

After about 20 consulting engagements, I started to get confidence in myself. I'd seen many of the strange situations that come up by then and knew how to handle different objections by stubborn employees who didn't want to embrace the inevitable cloud accounting revolution.

You Make Your Own Luck

I never had to pay one penny in advertising. The only advertising I ever did was a free Facebook Ad that came with my domain. That got me one client. I did a great job for them and he recommended me to 3 other people.Pretty soon I was introduced to my first "channel partner" who recommended me highly to his 500+ customers.

Word of mouth is the most powerful force in business. It can work for you or against you.

Before long I was working with some amazing people. At one point, my clients had 4 private planes. Every time I was in a room helping them, I was also learning. I learned how to speak at their level, get the job done with no excuses, and comport myself in business.

Step-by-step playbook

Now, the cloud accounting trend is past its prime, so you will need to find a different technology to implement. There are plenty of them out there. Generally speaking, here is the high level playbook to start a lucrative consulting business with no experience:

1. Find a new technology trend small businesses are adopting.

2. Study the new technology obsessively. Take an online course, reverse engineer it, play with it, ask lots of questions to an expert.

3. Offer to implement the technology for free in exchange for a reference from a small business owner

4. Do a great job implementing it. Do whatever it takes to get the job done.

5. Create a case study of what you did. Ideally using Wix or Squarespace to build a simple website with a story about you, an explanation of your services and your references.

6. Tell everyone you know "I'm helping small businesses get on this really awesome new XYZ technology."

7. Word of mouth will spread and open new opportunities

8. Come up with a results based package for your services. See if there's a way to create a recurring business model for maintenance or deliverables.

8. Wrote the playbook down

9. Hire your first employee

10. Create a bigger vision for the company. Do you wish to continue this company after college? Do you wish to build a flexible lifestyle business?

Other Pointers

  • Help small businesses. They can take a risk on a 18 or 21 year old. They are usually hustlers and might even like the idea of giving a younger version of themselves a shot

  • Dress the part. Wear a collared shirt, dress pants, and a watch. It will make you look older. As much as I hate dressing up now, those were essentials in the beginning.

  • Act the part. Carry yourself like a professional consultant would. Walk and speak with confidence.

  • If you don't know the answer don't lie, but be confident when you say "To be honest, I'm not sure about that one, but I will find out!". This will build trust

  • Don't get greedy. Don't overcharge someone if you make a mistake or waste their time. That bad karma will come around to bite you.

  • Expand the business past your locale. You can do consulting all over the country, and in some cases the world.

  • Always ask happy clients if there are any other business owners they know that could use help


Reach out to me directly at james.vonderlieth@gmail.com if there is a certain aspect you'd like me to expand on!

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