Computer installation and repair is a great home business, whether in an urban, suburban or rural area. As a consultant, you will travel to houses and businesses to remove viruses, install a new switch or upgrade computers. Network installation and configuration is also a common task for the computer consultant.
It is almost impossible to find a business or household in the western world that doesn’t use a computer. From the local Starbucks, the neighbor next door to local school systems, modern society depends on computers and related technology. The market niche is huge and growing daily as new technology becomes available.
As a computer consultant, you will need to know general hardware, software, and network terms and options. Knowing local Internet Service Providers (ISP) is valuable; many calls to clients will involve configuring networks. You will also be asked for recommendations for cost-effective products and solutions. Good knowledge of the industry makes you a valuable and trustworthy resource. Excellent customer service is also very important in this field. Be able to speak at the level of the customer and don’t confuse or embarrass them with highly technical terms.
You can learn about computers and how to install and repair through classes at a local community college or through independent training offered by providers like CompTIA. Many vendors – Microsoft, HP, Dell, Apple, and Cisco, et al – also offer classes and certification paths.
Research the marketplace to discover the competition and potential customer base. Small and mid-size business can be a lucrative customer base. These companies often don’t have staff that takes care of computing issues, but call for assistance when service or installation is required.
Residential service is another potential set of customers, but the pricing will probably need to be lower than what you’d charge a business. Identify a target market or geographic area and put out a questionnaire and ask potential customers what they want in a consulting service. This will also give an idea of the pricing structure.
Need to Have
A computer tool kit with nut driver and multiple heads, needle nose pliers, small flashlight, PC screws, network cables, USB flash drives and external hard drives and data backup, a multi-plug outlet adapter, and a small hub for connection testing. Common software utilities and drivers are helpful including: emergency anti-virus programs, boot CDs, network diagnosis software (e.g. WireShark) for network speed problems and analysis. A note book and pen for note taking or diagramming is a big plus. A digital camera may be helpful in situations where visual reminders are needed.
If you are going to repair computers at home, have a separate room that is clean and dust free, and away from children and pets. Have plastic containers labeled with spare parts and software utility CDs. Keep your repair tools organized and always in the same place. Maintaining a home network is helpful for testing and troubleshooting computers, switches, and routers. A server is useful for backing up data on customer computers and for a client database with invoices and client configuration data.
Discuss with an accountant the tax consequences of having a business in your home. Many tax deductions may be available.
Your reputation as a knowledgeable and reliable computer consultant is most important. Being able to respond quickly to customer outages and issues is a bonus, especially for business clients. Superior customer service and competitive pricing is desirable and needed. Business cards with contact information are very helpful. Follow-up phone calls in a week or two should be a standard part of the service call.
If you have certifications in particular areas of computing, add those on your cards and other literature, digital or paper. Registering with the Better Business Bureau and local Chambers-of-Commerce can also be a plus. Sponsor a local sports team or put ads in local newspapers or on community billboards. Be sure the information is consistent in all areas.
Computer consulting is like any other consulting business. Provide excellent service at great rates, be efficient and responsive. Your customer bases will grow via word of mouth. Providing useful tips on a blog or website to help customers solve some problems is a nice touch. Classes at a local high school or community college on computers get you known and yields additional clients.
Fluency in another language – especially Spanish – is another big plus. Extra or extended hours – especially on weekends is appealing. These should be part of your marketing plan too. Be upfront about charges for off-hour or emergency service. Creating a remote support system with certain clients saves time and money for both you and the customer.
Setting up a monthly or quarterly wellness check or routine maintenance is another feature that many clients will appreciate. Plan a specific day for the business client to address any of their concerns or issues. If they sign up for this kind of plan, agree to a frequent customer discount.
By Dion D. Shaw
Dion D. Shaw is the founder and owner of Homepreneurs
Homepreneurs. New Day. New Opportunity.
Homepreneurs does not endorse nor have any relationships with any of the services listed. Homepreneurs receives no compensation or consideration for its suggestions. Homepreneurs strongly urges all interested parties to conduct research and accepts no responsibility for any losses incurred.
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