Should you pay a consultant for advice when starting up?

An emerging mumpreneur emailed me the other day, looking for advice on her start-up. She said she had a brilliant idea, and wanted assistance to go to market.


She then wrote, in scathing tones, that she had talked to a business consultant – but they wanted to charge her for advice*.


In the early stages of a start-up, this is a common dilemma. When you most need advice from someone who has experience in navigating the often-treacherous waters of a start-up, the idea of spending precious cash for comment is not a compelling value proposition.


I see this way of thinking as a false economy, as the money you will save by getting some expert opinions before you commit to a course of action will often be many times the multiplier of what you spend.


In my experience, good and straight-up consultants and business advisors will always have a consultation for free to find out if they can help you.


Then you will be given an idea of the costs or the hourly fee.


There are good reasons to seek independent counsel – the principal one being that an external person can often see the flaws and risks that the love you have for your start-up has blinded you to.


An expert is usually that – someone who has been there and done that, so can give you the short cut and the savings that go with it. Often if they are in your industry they will also have great networks and contacts they can share with you.


In the mix of premium paid advice, there is also the invaluable advice of your peers.


Join a start-up group, or a meet-up group, and go along and talk to others in your space and stage. It is highly likely they are just like you and can give support, advice and collaboration.


Of course, the massive heaving repository of information for start-ups lies on the web, with millions of pages devoted to all things start-up in all sectors and jurisdictions.


Of course, you need to exercise some discretion in what you use and what you discard, but the truth, or a version that will suit you, is definitely out there.


Finally, use your social networks to seek out advice and test the waters of your ideas.


Twitter is a fantastic resource for tracking down business advice in your field and then asking questions. Do a search on keywords relevant to your start-up on Twitter, then follow those who appear to be in your sector.


Many consultants, bloggers and advisors give away oodles of great advice as they tweet happily away, and you can get some, if not most, of your questions answered for the cost of your time at the computer.


* In the interests of transparency, as a business consultant, you know I have a bias!


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