How to Build an Urban Planning Consulting Business

Urban planners seeking independence through consultancy have an equal likelihood of success as a longstanding business. Here's how to get started.

4 minute read

February 14, 2023, 8:00 AM PST

By Devin Partida

It's time to embark on an entrepreneurial consulting endeavor within urban planning. Urban planners seeking independence through consultancy have an equal likelihood of success as a longstanding business. Every sector is laden with wishful individuals wanting to be their own boss and to have complete autonomy over their professional advancement. All planners must do is plan thoroughly and have realistic expectations to draft the ideal urban planning consulting firm.

Outline the Brand Using Market Analysis

You may have a company name and urban planning and business licenses at the ready, but these are merely foundational cogs in the consultancy machine. Independent consultants in the modern era, including urban planners, depend on online presence and brand identity for successful advertising. Traditional advertising methods also require brands to stand out among competitors.

To ensure your brand is distinctive, perform competitive research to understand the market. Analyze other urban planning consultants' websites and advertising campaigns, and ask yourself:

  • What are their services areas, and how could I reach more customers?
  • What does their brand image, including colors and imagery, consist of, so my designs stand apart?
  • What is the extent of their services, and how are they described?
  • What gaps do I notice in competitor offerings that would increase my consultancy's value?

After visualizing what your business can do with available resources, create business cards, a website, social media channels, and brand mood boards to create a cohesive identity that will entice customers. These efforts will have a stronger impact if you know what your competitors are offering.

Determine Service Offerings Based on Expertise

Developers and city planners reach out to consultants because they need to fill knowledge gaps. You could start the business solo or with a small team. In both scenarios, you and your team may only be able to consult on specific topics. Eventually, you could branch out into urban planning-adjacent areas like urban design or public policy. 

Analyze the firm's strengths to create an initial list of service offerings, such as:

  • Optimizing for a growing population.
  • Redesigning for sustainability.
  • Incorporating Internet of Things (IoT) technology to build smart cities.
  • Retrofitting old buildings for urban revitalization. 
  • Preparing budgets for urban projects.
  • Incorporating more parks or greenery into urban heat islands.
  • Proposing new structures or building types to encourage business or individual emigration. 

Urban planning encompasses a lot of minutiae about city optimization and technological advancements. Consulting opportunities are as limitless as what you choose to pursue educationally. 

Maintain Growth Within Your Budget

It's essential to stick to what you know until your budget allows for expansion. It's better to provide urban planning consultancy in one subject with expertise than in 10 subjects with mediocrity. Becoming known for a niche is just as valuable because customers will become familiar with that unique skillset. Returning customers will trust any services the consultancy adds to their offerings later because they know the company wouldn't offer them if they didn't match quality expectations.

After analyzing what urban planning topics you could consult on, consider growth within your budget. Highlight where the business might expand based on what you don't already offer. These areas will act as touchpoints for planned company development. As profit margins increase, you can implement new services smartly. This will help valuations for tax purposes and keep profit margins gradual over time instead of having drastic peaks and valleys.

You could hire experts in subject areas the team isn't familiar with, diversifying consulting coverage. It also reduces stress among the team because they're not spread too thin. 

Alternatively, growth extends outside financial gains and team expansion. It could lead to training opportunities for existing staff to deepen their knowledge in topics they're enthusiastic about exploring. Investing in continued education opportunities will be paramount to long-term company resilience, especially because urban planning is constantly developing alongside sustainability concerns and innovations in construction. These strategies will increase the consultancy's authoritative stance in the field. 

Creating a Successful Urban Planning Consultancy

Urban planning consultancy allows you to embrace challenges with enthusiasm as you enter a new world of self-motivated, independent professionalism. If aspiring consultants understand the market intimately, choose service offerings carefully, and grow according to budgets wisely, success will follow as urban areas develop with the knowledge you provide.

Devin Partida

Devin Partida writes about current events, technology, and science. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of

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