I own a software start up but I need to make some money in consulting on the side. I have seen many start ups and small businesses that could use help in defining their direction or positioning in this market. Do you think its worth focusing on? I never ran a consulting business where do I start attracting customers?
There are many such consultants, so it can work.
Of course the typical bootstrapped entrepreneur doesn't have any money, so I believe most of those kinds of consultants work with funded companies, often in tight conjunction with a VC firm (who more or less installs them), or with people who are bootstrapping but have gone around the block enough to know that trading money for expertise is valuable.
Even so, you'd better have a resume far superior to theirs (in terms of startup experience), because cash is dear and the entire success of the company might hinge on your advise.
There are a lot of generic "consultants" out there. I think you need to define a niche within which you will focus on for startups. This could be many things, but I think it will be tough to pitch that you simply help startups. Think about your specific skills and go from there.
Is it financing, legal help, marketing, design, web dev, etc..
Consult where the money is. The money is typically not in the start up. Yes some have enough funding but most are scrapping buy and many will not make it. Consulting at established firs that have money and need of bodies on many different problems is a wider area of consulting then the start up. Yes the start up needs expertiese as well but need and willingness to pay are two different things. Just as cash is king for a start up so to is it king when looking to where to consult.
I typically consult with start-ups, but it will be year(s) before most of them have enough money to pay me to make it work my while.
If it's your first start-up I am not sure why I would want your consulting. That's the easiest way to put it. If you already have some experience, then it makes sense for you to be giving consulting. First of all, you should start by looking here. There are probably 100s of questions pouring in every week if not every month on this site. Help people here, then if they ask for more help you can charge them for consulting.
This is just one thing, you can go all out and try to become a hot shot consultant if you wish, but why do that when you can help people who actually need start-up help. :)
I don't think it's worth focusing on... "the fox that chases two rabbits stays hungry". Any business needs work ... a consulting business might need more work than your start-up. However, once your business is operational and systems are in place (and you're free)... then it's a perfect time :)