Posted: Sun Jul 06, 2008 11:19 pm Post subject: How to start a Digital Forensics Consulting Business.
As far as specfics are concerned, I can only speak to my geographical area. However, some things are pretty universal.
If you want to start a forensics consulting business, I believe I can offer some advice, since I have been in business for ten years, and specifically in the forensics consulting business for the last six years.
Since I live and operate in the US, I will be referring to states. You can translate that into the international equivilent.
There is a lot to cover, so bear with me.
There are three elements to being in a consulting business, independent of the type.
The most important thing you must realize is that you are starting a business and must approach it like any business.
Part I: The basic business setup.
1. What are the licensing and insurance requirements to operate in my state?
2. What business form is going to offer me the best tax advantages: Limited Liability Corp, S-Corp, Sole Proprietorship, etc.
3. Out side of the state required insurance, for a consulting business you must carry Errors and Omissions insurance, in additional to general liability insurance to protect yourself and your clients.
4. Will I need a business license?
5. Must I qualify for a professional license?
6. Where will I operate?
7. What equipment, software, office supplies, vehicle, etc will I need?
8. What will my business name be? Do I have to register it with the state?
9. What Tax-ID numbers must I get? A federal tax number? A state sales tax number?
10. Will I have employees?
Part II: The business plan.
Now that you have worked out the basics you need to operate your business from a entity, facility and insurance standpoint, you must work out how and what you will be marketing.
1. Exactly what services will I be offering? You can't just say, well, that's easy: Computer Forensics Services. There are a number of services covered under that umbrella.
2. Who will I be marketing to? Where are they? How many of them are there? How will I let them know about me?
3. How will I package my services so the market can easily understand what I am selling?
4. How big and active is the market? How do I segment the market so I can reach it?
5. What sales collaterals do I need? Brochures? Web site? Business cards? In the case of forensics, you will also need a statement of qualifications, i.e. a CV or a resume.
6. Will I be advertising? What vehicles will reach the market I am targeting? Trade journals? The newspaper?
7. How much should I charge for my services? What is the going rate in my area?
Part III: The money.
1. Develop a pro-forma financial plan for your business.
a. Am I starting out full time or part time?
b. How much money do I need for capital assets; Equipment, software, office equipment, phones, etc.
c. What will be my baseline operating costs: rent, web hosting, insurance, payroll, annual software fees, etc.
d. What will be my running variable expenses? Utilities, communications, advertising, fuel, office supplies, printing, postage, etc.
e. How much income can I expect?
f. How fast or slow do I expect my sales to grow?
g. How many months will it take to hit breakeven?
Now for the part nobody likes, but it has to be done: Self-Assessment.
First, a little preamble: You are entering a consulting field, specifically computer forensics and as such, you will not be selling a technology product.
Consulting is first and foremost a people business. You clients will be buying you, not your service.
Having said that, here are the self-assessment questions you must honestly answer:
1. Do I present a professional image to prospective clients? The reality of it, is that people are going to pre-judge the book by its cover.
2. How good am I at selling? Have you ever sold anything in the past? Can you quickly establish a rapport with people that makes them want to do business with you?
3. Do you project competence? Will your client, after spending a few minutes with you, feel strongly that you can do the work?
4. Can you speak regular people speak? Nothing puts off a non-techincal client faster than geek-speak they don't understand.
5. Can you deliver on time and on budget?
6. Can you deal with sticking it out over the long term? If you get into litigation cases, they can take up to over a year from initial contract to you getting paid.
In addition to your technical skills, to operate successfully in this area as a consultant to stay out of trouble, you need to really have a solid understand of the law that impacts your field. Do you understand the laws regarding privacy issues, government versus private searches, who can give permission to search a computer, ownership issues, what is covered by attorney work product and what is discoverable, and all the other legal stuff you must understand.
In the US, do you have a firm grasp of the intercept laws, wireless communications act and the electronic communnications act?
Sure you can hire an attorney for this, but day to day, you will run into attorneys who don't understand these areas as well as you would think.
I know this was long, but I hope it helps some of you thinking about getting into this business.
You cannot post new topics in this forum You cannot reply to topics in this forum You cannot edit your posts in this forum You cannot delete your posts in this forum You cannot vote in polls in this forum