Research plays an important role in many different industries. The ability to conduct good research is a valuable skill. Often, a skill people will choose to pay for.  

Research consultants are expert researchers – they are professionals who can dig into the deeper and finer details. If you’ve got considerable experience in a certain field of research, then perhaps it’s time to start your own research consulting business. 

As every good researcher knows, it’s important to know all your facts before you jump into action. When starting your research consulting business, it’s vital to have a think about the legal considerations that will impact your business. Not to worry though – we’ve got you covered. Keep reading to learn more. 

What Is A Research Consultant And How Do I Become One?

A research consultant is precisely what the job title suggests. They are expert researchers in a particular field. Typically, a research consultant will be hired for a specific cause or problem and they’ll conduct their research and analytics on the matter. From there, they usually present their findings to their client. Lots of different organisations may hire research consultants for different purposes and they can be utilised across various different industries. 

To become a research consultant, you need to narrow down on a specialisation. It’s important to make sure you have the necessary qualifications – consultants often have a tertiary level education. Along with this, research consultants have usually worked in their field of research for a number of years, gaining the necessary experience prior to moving into a consulting role. 

How Do I Start A Research Consulting Business? 

Starting a research consulting business requires planning and well, research. For any business, it’s important to decide on a number of important factors such as: 

  • The kind of services you will offer
  • What your marketing strategy is
  • The business’s finances 
  • Long-term and short-term goals of the business 
  • The legal factors that impact your business
  • How the business will be managed
  • Core values and beliefs of the business 

The above isn’t an exhaustive list, there’s likely to be a lot more things you’ll need to think about when starting your business. When you’re doing all your planning, it’s a good idea to put everything together in a business plan. A business plan is like a blueprint for your business. Even if you don’t end up following it completely, it can contain important information and help keep your goals on track. 

Once you have a business plan ready, you’ll be in a good position to make important decisions for your research consulting business, such as the kind of legal structure it will have. 

What Legal Structure Is Right For My Research Consulting Business? 

Choosing the legal structure for your research consulting business is one the most important decisions you will make, as this will set the foundations for your business. In Australia, three types of legal structures are the most common. A sole trader, partnership and a company. All of them come with their own advantages and disadvantages, so let’s take a closer look at them below. 

Sole Trader 

As a sole trader, you will need to secure an Australian Business Number (ABN). It’s a pretty simple process that isn’t all that time consuming. Once you have an ABN, your next step is to register a Business Name. Although, you only need to do this if you’re using a name that is different from your personal one. If not, then you can skip this part. After that, you’re all set to start business as a sole trader. 

The fast process and ease of setting up as a sole trader can be appealing to many business owners. However, it’s important to keep in mind that a sole trader business structure does come with setbacks. For starters, a sole trader structure offers little to no legal protection. As a sole trader, your business has no legal separation from you personally, therefore you’ll be liable for everything that happens with the business. 

Furthermore, a sole trader business structure isn’t necessarily made to support long-term business growth. As a result, it can put limitations on any future business expansion opportunities you may be interested in. 

Partnership 

If you were thinking of starting your research consulting business with a partner, then all partners will need to go through the process of attaining their own ABN. The same concept applies with partnerships as with sole traders. The ease of obtaining an ABN needs to be weighed with the drawbacks that come with limited legal protection. 

We highly recommend discussing how the partnership will work with all partners then having everything in a written document, like a Partnership Agreement. This way, there can be more security for the business and the partners involved. 

Company 

Registering A Company is somewhat more time consuming and complex from a sole trader or partnership. However, if your research consulting business is a serious business endeavour then a company structure is the better option. Once a company is properly set up, it functions as a legal entity on its own. 

Due to its legal standing, the company is able to do many things that a legal person would also be able to do. The company can own or sell property, participate in court proceedings, earn a profit or work up a debt. As a result, you have a lot more legal protection as your liability can be limited with a company. Moreover, if you want to expand your research  consulting business in the future, then having a company set up from the start can put you in the best position to do so. 

Registering a company involves following the regulations set out by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). You’ll need to do things like figure out who your company directors and shareholders will be, determine how the company will be run, be prepared to keep up with ongoing obligations and much more. After you’ve made the proper arrangements for everything you will be all set to register your company with ASIC. 

Registering a company can get a bit confusing, as there’s a number of different factors to consider. It’s best to get a legal expert to help out with the process – Our Sprintlaw experts can make sure your company set up is completed as smoothly and effectively as possible. 

When deciding on the legal structure for your research consulting business, carefully consider your options before you make a commitment. To learn more about business structures, you can access a chapter from our free guide here

Will I Need Any Legal Agreements To Start A Research Consulting Business? 

Yes, legal agreements are what will keep your business secured and protected. There’s a number of legal documents that will serve different purposes, such as limiting your liabilities, securing your revenue streams, protecting private information and ensuring everyone involved with the business is on the same page. We’ve listed some that you might want to consider looking to here: 

Of course, that exact legal agreement you need will depend on your unique business operations. It’s best to get in touch with a legal expert and they can help you work out what legal agreements you’ll be needing for your research consulting business. 

Are There Any Laws That Will Impact My Research Consulting Business? 

Learning how to navigate the legal landscape will play a crucial role in your research consulting business’s success. A Regulatory Compliance expert can provide more information on the exact laws that will apply to you. For now, we’ve listed a few key legal considerations for you. 

Australian Consumer Law (ACL)

Having business practices that are in line with the ACL is crucial. The ACLprotects consumer rights  and prohibits practices that are unfair, misleading or deceptive. However, the ACL isn’t just there to set rules for businesses, they also have implemented measures to prevent small businesses from being taken advantage of. Getting familiar with the ACL can help you learn more about both your rights and responsibilities as a research consulting business. 

Data And Privacy Law 

Protecting the information of your clients is critical. When you decide to work with clients, there’s a good chance you’ll have access to a lot of personal information about them. If clients  are trusting you with their information, then it’s important to take reasonable measures to secure their information. Data and Privacy experts can help you work out what legal measures are available for you to ensure that all your data has been properly secured. 

Employment Law 

Getting staff to help out with the business is an exciting step, however it’s important to remember the responsibilities that come with being an employer. As an employer, you’ll need to make sure your workplace is a safe and harm- free environment. You may want to look into getting some important documents like a Staff Handbook or Workplace Policy drafted to help create a positive workplace culture. Not to mention, you’ll need to ensure your employees are also receiving the correct awards and entitlements. Talking to an expert in Employment Law can help you get a better idea of your obligations as an employer.  

Next Steps 

Starting a research consulting business is an exciting next step in your career. However, to set your business up for success, it’s vital to take care of all the legal considerations – don’t hesitate to seek help from experts during this process. To summarise what we’ve discussed: 

  • Research consultants are professionals who conduct in-depth research in specific fields and offer their findings to clients for various purposes
  • To become a research consultant, one needs specialised education and several years of experience in the chosen field 
  • Starting a research consulting business involves careful planning, including determining services, marketing strategy, finances, short-term and long-term goals, legal factors, management and core values 
  • Choosing the right legal structure for the business is crucial, with options such as sole trader, partnership, and company, each having its advantages and disadvantages
  • Legal agreements, including consultancy agreements, privacy policies, disclaimers, website terms and conditions, employment agreements and shareholders agreements, are essential for securing and protecting the business 
  • Understanding and complying with key legal considerations, such as Australian consumer law, data and privacy laws and employment laws, is crucial for the success of the research consulting business 
  • Seeking help from legal experts is recommended throughout the process of starting and running a research consulting business to ensure legal compliance and success

If you would like a consultation on starting a research consulting business, you can reach us at 1800 730 617 or team@sprintlaw.com.au for a free, no-obligations chat

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