Just Started an at-home computer service business(sole-proprietor)

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by ajumbaje, Oct 8, 2012.

  1. ajumbaje macrumors 6502

    ajumbaje

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2005
    Location:
    VA
    #1
    I've always been a guy that people ask their random tech questions to and I have been able to respond. I decided to take that further and get all the necessities in place to do at home computer servicing. What do you all think is fair pricing? That is, if you have done this work.

    Right now, I charge 40/hr and 40 is my base charge. That is if someone needs work done and it only takes 15 minutes, I will see if they have any other issues, but if they dont, they still have to pay 40$.

    I won't be stocking inventory. The way I plan that is have the customer buy the part(with my advice, guidance) then have me come back and install said part, then charge after the work is done in full.

    Not sure if I should charge separate repair fees. Located in Richmond, VA btw.

    Any other suggestions about business startup like this? I have cards coming in the mail, etc.

    Also, does anyone use intuit go payment? Thought about having that as an option.
     
  2. TedM macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2012
    Location:
    California
    #2
    sounds like a decent idea. the only problem is when charging you need to provide a real solution and typically you have to do it. People who go to others for computer help aren't going to be able to figure it out with your instruction. You might have to figure out a 3rd party way to control their computer.
     
  3. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2007
    Location:
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    #3
    I'm a self-employed, work from the house, photographer. There are some differences and some similarities.

    I can't speak for the specifics of your business, of course.

    I charge people an hourly fee, with a two hour minimum. Which is the same idea as your base fee. There is more physical setup in my case, so I'm not suggesting that you move to a 2 hour minimum.... so stick with the 1 hour. However, I think it sounds better to say "$40/hr with a one hour minimum". People will think to themselves that they have a whole hour to get a bunch of stuff done with you. A 'Base Fee' simply means that they are paying you $40 for a quarter of an hour. Sounds more expensive.

    Take advantage of all of your (legal!) tax breaks as a small business. Carve out a section of your home for the exclusive use of the business, and you can claim a ratio of all of your home expenses. So, heat, power, etc etc. In Canada (and I assume the US) even a portion of the property taxes and the interest on any mortgages or rent you are paying.

    There are a bunch of other things you can do to minimize your taxes, get some good tax advice. One of the things that I finally figured out is that the income tax people don't care if you make good business decisions - just that it is legitimately tied to a legitimate business. So, once they are convinced that you are trying to run a legitimate business (as opposed to a hobby or an entity that exists simply to avoid taxes) they don't care if you buy the cheapest or the an expensive computer. As long as the computer is used exclusively by the business, they don't really care.

    Small business organizations run seminars constantly on the basics of setting up a home based business. Initially, there is no need to pay to attend... the free ones will give you the same information, though maybe not packaged as spiffily.

    You may need to register to collect and remit sales taxes. If you do, don't go underground. The tax people are very good at catching people, and in fact they often revel in nailing tax avoiders. They have been figuring out how to catch you for a lot longer than you have been figuring out how to get away it.

    Also, you may need to register for a business license. Check with your municipality.

    Network. Network. Network. Always carry business cards with you. Don't be shy to announce to your friends that you've just started a business. True friends will try to help you out by recommending you.

    Pick a charity or two and do some pro-bono work for them on an ongoing basis. In Canada there is a tax advantage for both the charity and yourself if you invoice them your full rate, and then donate that back to them. (In my case I simply my cheque for the donation in with the invoice.) Virginia may be different, so get some tax advice here too. However, the point is ... you want to be nice to the charity. This is going to sound crass - but welcome to the world of the self-employed: The reason is that the people who run the charity will also need computer support, and they will often use the people who they already know. Like you. Plus... it's a good thing to support your community.

    Whether it's the charity above or some other entity.... offer to do computer training classes for really really cheap. Not quite free because nobody values free. The organization you are teaching for will use their extensive mailing list to fill the room with people for you. You now have a room of people who have already demonstrated that they need help with their computers. Don't market yourself too hard here...it's tacky. But make sure you do a bang-up job. Be generous with your advice. Do this and a bunch of them will take your business card after the class. And a bunch of them will call you when they need help... because they already know you and trust you. My rule of them is to be initially generous with people I've met in a workshop. If the questions pertain specifically to the workshop, I will talk to them on the phone for free. If they need me to visit them, and if it's a short visit I can make while already out, I will also do for free or really cheap. Once. After that they are on the clock. The point is to reinforce the knowledgeable and confident image you projected at the workshop. More than one visit, and they are a black-hole and not a client.

    Set limits on your workweek. If people think they can call you at all times of the day, and on weekends... they will. When you do make an off-hours call, let them know they are getting special attention.

    Hope this helps.

    Good Luck.
     
  4. velocityg4 macrumors 68040

    velocityg4

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2004
    Location:
    Georgia
    #4
    Some tips.

    - Do stock some inventory? People don't want to hear that they have to spend $50 for a power supply and wait a couple days or a week to have a computer. When they could have spent $65 with you and had it done that day. Just the basics like DDR to DDR3 memory, a 2.5" and 3.5" SATA hard drive, decent ATX PSU $40 80plud certified, all types of cables, keyboard, mouse and a $100+ router.

    People are willing to pay a bit more for convenience. Don't go insane with pricing since service is your cash cow.. Add $15 or 10% whichever is greater, $5 for cables. Let them know what they need where they can get it (Newegg) then present them with the part you have and can install right then. They'll buy it since you will guarantee compatibility and have it with you. People getting premium hourly service know that you are stocking for their convenience.

    - Have some fixed rates. Not for on site work but if someone wants to drop the computer off at your home. For some stuff this makes more sense. Like if a part has to be ordered then installed, lots of data needs to be transferred which takes little labor but a lot of time, &c

    - Be pleasant, honest, thorough and personable. Within a year or two 98% of your business will be from repeats and referrals. These people won't know you by your business name but by your name.

    - Set time boundarie for your own sanity. They'll understand you are one person and don't want to make your work your life. Be clear with your hours and only return phone calls, texts and emails during those hours.

    - Get a partnering business with another freelancer. Then if you or they go on vacation clients a voicemail can refer them to the other for emergencies. If you are great most clients will wait for you to return. Agree with each other to not poach clients.

    - Some downsides. The at home market is dying. Computers keep getting easier, cheaper and more reliable. Also more people have someone they know that can help them. As more stuff moves to the cloud this will get worse. Since they won't need a PC setup just turn it on, sign in and have access to everything. Another downside is business will be dead slow at first. It will take a couple years to build a network of faithful clients.
     
  5. Macky-Mac macrumors 68030

    Macky-Mac

    Joined:
    May 18, 2004
    #5
    you'll lose business this way......unless your labor fee is really low, and $40 an hour with an hour minimum might not be low enough
     

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