Help me grow my small computer repair business?!?!
February 16, 2006 7:55 PM   Subscribe

I need advice about taking my side business to the next level.

I have been repairing peoples computers for a while now and earning some extra cash and I am ready to start turning it into my full time job. Wanna know why? I work construction by day and I hate it. I am pretty much self taught on computers and i have no certifications but i know a lot about hardware and software and a little programming/web design. What should i do to start taking it to the next level? I have gotten a DBA (assumed name) in the name i use for the company. I want to start advertising. I have set up a website.

Is there anything i should know before i start advertising? I think my best bet is doing a PC Tune Up type of thing where I remove adware/spyware, clean up the registry and optimize the startup programs and such. Any other suggestions?

I am a home owner and am getting married later this year. I want to be out of the construction field before i get stuck having to stay at the job i am in because i have to support my family so i can't take any chances. I am confident in myself but I really am not sure what the best move is. Any advice from business owners would be appreciated.
posted by Bjkokenos to Work & Money (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: We're in the same market (self link to my company). I concentrate on small business, you seem to be concentrating on residential work. That's good, but knowing the market, let me point some things out:

The Michigan IT market is very soft. People aren't buying right now. Your big season will be back-to-school. There is a need for your services, but it's pretty competitive.

- Your rates are low if you're going to flat rate the work. In my experience, a great deal of time will be spent in chit-chat with the client. 60 bucks doesn't go far when Ms. Homeowner keeps asking how to keep her daughter off AIM and watching over your shoulder, plus wants to be trained in setting margins in Word. So start with your rates as they are, expect to bump them up - don't print anything you can't reprint cheaply. Or cap the time you're going to take on a cleanup at 1 hour or something.

- Your biggest hurdle in marketing will be the following argument: "You're going to do all that in an hour? That's not possible. I can't even boot the computer in 10 minutes, how are you going to get all that done?" So expect to market to that mentality.

- Your competition is Geek Squad. You already know this, but they have reasonably competent techs, reasonable rates, and marketing dollars behind them. If I may recommend, it might be fun to go work for them for a couple of months to see what your typical customer will be like. Your eyes will be opened to the vast, diverse audience that are your potential clients.

- The SE Michigan market has a real need for Mac pros, especially for the residential market. The Mac people here in town are way too expensive and have unreasonable expectations of their clients.

Don't resell hardware unless you can reasonably deal with managing sales tax. Michigan is pretty strict about enforcing sales tax collection. Also, don't resell hardware unless you have a relationship with a discount house like Synnex or Ingram Micro. Otherwise, there's no margin in it - 15% is a very good margin for stuff you can buy at Microcenter. For those two reasons, I actually think you should let your customers buy their own hardware, at your recommendation - you spec it, find it, get it ready to buy, then use their credit card to transact it.

Daunting? Then get a job fixing PC's for a while, freelancing and at Compusa or even Geek Squad.

Email me if you want to talk more. My address is in my profile.
posted by Slap Incognito at 8:55 PM on February 16, 2006

Could you get your services bundled with products?

Years ago I used to do computer training for a small company here in Australia. Basically, when customers bought new PCs from a large electronics chain store they'd get a voucher for an hour of free computer training. They make an appointment and I'd rock up and show them how to connect to the net, setup their printer etc etc.

AFAIK the company was doing great .. and one of the only problems was people asking trainers like me to come back and train them 'on the side' so they could pay me directly and get a discount.

So perhaps you could find some local computer sellers and get them to bundle your services with new PCs. You'll definitely pick up a lot of potential customers.
posted by bruceyeah at 10:35 PM on February 16, 2006

Just a few thoughts.

1. I think almost exactly the same question was asked a month or so ago. I don't know if the answers were any good, but you should seek it out.

2. Look into structuring your business as something other than a DBA, something that will limit your personal liability if someone decides to sue you because they say your lost their data or something.

3. Consider specializing in home-entertainment related computing. Customers will probably be a bit higher end, and the interaction between PCs and consumer electronics is a complete tangle -- try playing back a macrovision protected DVD on a 720p HDTV set via component video on Windows (MCE, or otherwise). There is also a new wave of home automation technologies coming down the pike that will bring their own insufferable headaches.

What's better, you might be able to work your construction contacts to get work in this area. People building new homes or doing remodels might want to upgrade some of their systems.

4. Take that google add off your site. You are advertising YOUR services. Don't distract potential customers who have managed to find your site with advertisements for other people's services (competing, or not).
posted by Good Brain at 11:21 PM on February 16, 2006

Mod note: links removed from post, put them in your profile if you want people to check them out
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:43 AM on February 17, 2006

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