Consultancy is an extremely versatile field, just like the world of business itself. No one consultant is an expert at everything, so they normally specialize in certain types of consultancy services to help entrepreneurs, leaders, and managers navigate the complexity of their businesses.
If you’re starting a consultancy business, it’s important that you find your niche, depending on your background, and narrow your services to your most relevant target audience. The below consulting areas will give you an idea of what these niches are, to choose from.
If, on the other hand, you’re looking for guidance from a consultant, this article will help you zero in on a specific area you need help with. That way, you’ll find the right expert who can help you meet your objectives.
What Consulting Is (And Isn’t)
Before we dive into all types of consulting areas, let’s define what consulting is. Consultants are experts in a particular area of business, who give advice to their clients on specific subjects such as strategy, technology, operations, and so on. They typically get hired to solve specific challenges and offer solutions and tools for their clients, to help them improve their businesses.
Unlike coaches, they don’t focus on the individual as much but rather on an objective to reach or a problem to tackle in a business or project. While coaches use coaching questions to help their clients reflect and gain insights, consultants ask questions in order to gather information about the present situation and then propose possible solutions to it.
They also differ from trainers and educators who simply transmit knowledge. While consultants can teach you tools and techniques, they primarily aim to give their clients solutions and action plans to solve issues as quickly as possible.
7 Types Of Consultants
These are the 7 types of consultants you’ll find in this field. You’ll probably notice that there’s often an overlap between the different areas of expertise. This is because consultants, by nature, look at the correlations between areas and bring a high-level perspective to their clients. The more experienced they are in execution, the more specific they can get with their advice in a particular department.
Types Of Strategy Consulting
Strategy consultants are some of the highest-paid consultants, who can give a strong perspective on the bird’s-eye view of a business. They provide an overview on how decisions from the top-down affect every facet of an organization. They help align the company’s vision with its long-term and mid-term strategy and goals, in order to make sure it’s headed in the right direction.
- Some strategy consultants focus on the highest level of strategy in a company, while others specialize in key functions such as marketing strategy or recruitment strategy.
- They either help improve an existing strategy in place or introduce completely new areas such as environment strategy or CSR strategy.
- They step in as an outside expert with experience in a particular industry and may guide decision makers on how to enter a new market, namely Market Entry Strategy Consultants.
Strategy consultants can come from all areas of consulting, and they help companies make their objectives more integrated, effective, and ethical.
Types Of Management Consulting
A management consultant makes sure that leaders and key decision makers in a company use resources in the most efficient way to reach objectives. They evaluate current management strategies in place and offer a set of tools and methodologies to improve them.
The most common types of management consultants are:
- Leadership Consultants who help managers and CXOs improve their leadership qualities and supervisory techniques
- Project Management Consultants who advice project managers on achieving higher cost and time efficiency in their work
- Consultants who help companies adapt particular management frameworks and systems, such as OKR (Objectives & Key Results) Consultants
Management consultants may work personally with high-level leaders in the organization on specific issues or train the entire leadership team on the right use of management frameworks.
Types Of Operations Consulting
Operations consultants look for ways companies can improve their daily operation based on key metrics such as cost, efficiency, or quality. They uncover underutilized resources, potential gaps in workflow, and new ways to optimize processes.
Their primary focus may be:
- Process management
- Supply chain management
- Risk management
Based on their area of expertise, they might work as a general Operations Consultant or specialize as:
- ROI Consultants, who aim to increase the return on investment of projects
- Risk and Compliance Consultants who make sure companies comply to regulations and avoid potential legal and financial risks
- Ecommerce Consultants who focus on the production and management of products sold online
Operation consultants often work across functions to systemize processes or design team-specific workflows. For example, an Outsourcing Consultant may have an expertise in both operations and human resources and integrate both to improve the remote hiring strategy of an organization.
Types Of Human Resources Consulting
HR Consultants help human resource professionals improve talent recruitment, management, and development processes in the company. Their primary focus is the people who work in the organization and the team culture that binds them together.
HR Consultants might specialize in:
- Employee wellbeing and satisfaction, for example company perks or relocation support for international talent
- Company culture, defining key values and principles that team members share and embody
- Recruitment and its main areas, such as talent pipeline management, interview processes, or remote talent management
- Employer branding as a cross-functional area shared with marketing consultancy
Some HR consultants work on introducing specific platforms to organizations and help teams bring the most out of them. An example might be Upwork Consultants who help recruiters integrate the giant outsourcing platform in their recruitment strategy.
Types Of IT Consulting
IT Consultants have the ability to bridge the gap between the practical applications of technology and the strategic objectives they were meant to solve. They can identify systemic issues and opportunities for optimization in the technology certain departments use or in the company as a whole.
You might come across them as:
- Cyber Security Consultants who protect companies from the risk of data breach
- System Admin Consultants who improve database management procedures
- UX/UI Consultants who help companies improve the usability of their products
IT Consultants have a very unique skill set. They blend strategic thinking with software engineering, a combination that’s particularly valuable given the rapidly evolving technological demand in the business world today. They are often brought in-house or contracted for an extended period of time to oversee complex transitions and more nuanced tech challenges in an organization.
Types Of Financial Consulting
Financial Consultants help companies and individuals make better financial decisions and improve their financial planning processes. It’s a versatile field that can range from advising individuals on their personal accounting, to working with multinational corporations on their capital efficiency.
Financial Consultants can specialize in:
- Investment advice, helping companies and individual investors optimize their portfolios
- Insurance consultancy, helping their clients choose the best investment package based on their needs
- Accounting, where they might focus on budget optimisation, taxation, or improving the compensation strategy of a company
- Corporate finance, in other words: raising capital, increasing shareholder value, or overseeing mergers and acquisitions
A large part of financial consulting is conducting analysis on the financial health of an account and forecasting the risks and gains of potential financial decisions. Professionals in this field provide key information for decision makers to rely on for their long-term financial decisions.
Types Of Marketing Consulting
Marketing consultants help companies improve their brand recognition and increase their revenue by optimizing their marketing strategy. They help their clients choose the right channels for their campaigns and advise on making their marketing processes more cost-efficient.
It’s one of the most versatile consulting fields that may be narrowed down to:
- Brand consultancy, focusing on the public image and reputation of a brand or personal brand
- PR consultancy, generating more media appearances for brands
- SEO consultancy, helping businesses improve their ranking in search engines
- Conversion funnel consultancy, improving the multi-channel strategy of businesses in order to increase their revenue
- Sales consultancy, optimizing the sales pipeline and ROI of sales departments
- Social media consultancy, growing the following and engagement of brands on social platforms and advising on their influencer strategy
Some marketing consultants simply charge for giving advice, while others get involved to the point of planning every inch of the company’s marketing plan, or even hiring contractors to execute it. Their work needs to be in alignment with the high-level strategy of the business, so it often intertwines with strategy consulting.
Some consultants may work across various areas and strategically align two or more different departments. Some cross-functional consultancy niches are:
- Outsourcing: a bridge between HR and operations
- Employer Branding: connecting marketing and HR
- ROI Consultancy: covering finance and either operations or marketing
- Leadership Consultancy: that often involves both strategy and management consulting
- Marketing Strategy: connecting strategy consultancy with marketing
Usually the smaller the business, the more key functions overlap. Consultants can also specialize according to the size of the business they are working with, i.e. Small Business Consultants, Corporate Consultants, or Startup Consultants.
Unconventional Consultancy Services
If you’re an expert in any specific area that people seek advice on, that means you can build a consultancy career out of it. There are less conventional consultants who have become widely successful outside of the 7 main areas of consulting. For example:
- Tidying Consultants, think Marie Kondo
- Style Consultants like Tan France
- Feng Shui Consultants, such as Marie Diamond
It’s important to note that knowing a lot about a subject is not the same as giving professional advice on it. Being a consultant means developing effective frameworks and tools that consistently bring results to all clients in your niche. It requires vast experience and the ability to communicate your advice effectively.