It wasn’t until after I started this blog that I came across the website Technibble.com. I wish I would have found it sooner, because it’s proven to be the single best resource I’ve found for people like me who are just starting to forge their own path in the computer support/repair business field.
The man who started Technibble, Bryce Whitty, created the site because he saw a need for an online resource for independent computer consultants. Not a general “techie” website or a “how to fix windows errors” message board, but a community dedicated specifically to the nerd entrepreneur trying to start his own business.
Technibble offers great resources like an extremely helpful and friendly forum, a blog, and the Computer Business Kit, which is a collection of documents and forms that you’ll need when starting a computer business. I plan on purchasing the CBK for review here on this site in the future.
Bryce himself runs his own one-man computer consulting business which gives him the inspiration for his website. I decided to pick his brain a little and see what approach he took to starting his business. Check out his responses below.
Can you tell us a little about your background?: where you were born, education, work history, etc.
I was born and raised in Melbourne Australia which is a great city to live in. I finished high school and went to a tech college for 2 years earning a Diploma of Multimedia. During high school and tech college I worked a video store while I was trying to grow my business. At this stage, I was only getting 1-2 computer repair jobs a week which is enough to put fuel in the car and perhaps some beer money, but that’s about it.
How long have you been running your own computer repair business?
About 7-8 years now. Its hard for me to know exactly because there wasn’t a big starting event for the business. I earnt money here and there and slowly started getting more clients until it hit a point where you would call say “Hey, I could do this full time”.
What were the biggest obstacles you faced in getting your business off the ground?
I think the hardest part is getting the first few clients. It was even harder for me because I was 17 at the time and I believe people had some trust issues letting a teenager fix their expensive computers. However, eventually I changed that perception as I really looked after my first few clients and they spread the word to their friends. A tip I recommend to help others get their first few clients is to make it easy for your clients to recommend you. Always leave them a few cards and say something like “Here is my card in case you need me again. Ive given a couple extra if any of your friends need some computer help and you are happy with my work”.
What were the biggest factors that motivated you to start your own business?
My grandfather, my father, his 4 brothers and my mother are all self employed so being self-employed was “normal” to me. Perhaps its in my blood.
There were some other factors such as wanting to control my own destiny. For example, back in the 1950s you would go to school, get good grades, get into a good uni and then land a nice job, work hard and get paid well. Now days, companies are downsizing, work is being outsourced to third world countries and many employers really don’t give a damn about you. I’d rather not be in the position where a employer can cut off 100% of my income at the drop of a hat.
What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a business owner?
The biggest challenge for me as a business owner is continually searching for effective advertising. The problem with advertising is that business owners get different results for different areas. You can have a plumber that does great in a certain publication and a technician who does poorly. Ive had times where I put ads in a magazine where I expected to have heaps of calls but didn’t get one. Ive tried cheap ones with small ad slots that I didn’t expect to go well yet worked great. You have to keep experimenting and when you find one that works great, keep advertising in it and try some more advertising somewhere else. Eventually you will end up with a bunch of highly effective advertising.
What personal traits do you feel are necessary for one to have in order to run a successful computer repair business?
The single most important personality trait is the desire to keep on learning. Every single day you will have to face new challenges and a desire to learn how to break through the problems is what will keep you going. If you think you know it all, you stop learning. If you stop learning, that’s the moment you don’t know it all.
What, if any, education or skills are necessary before on should consider starting a computer repair business?
Well, the you’ll obviously need to know how to fix most computer problems before you should consider starting a business. As far as formal education though, I don’t think any of them are necessary to start a business. I do see the value of having certain certifications if you want to specialize in a certain area though, like working with large Cisco networks or something similar.
What is the strangest or most humorous experience you’ve had while working with computers?
I was once at a clients house removing a virus and the husband and wife were in the room watching what I was doing over my shoulder. I started a virus scan and started talking to them while I waited for it to complete. After about 5 minutes of not touching the keyboard or mouse, the “My Pictures” screen saver kicked in where it displays a slide show of the images in the My Pictures folder. The first few pictures that appeared were your typical holiday happy snaps but then a naked picture of the wife showed up. I saw it, they saw it, they saw me see it and there was a few minutes of awkward silence which felt like an eternity. So now you know, don’t store your naked pictures in your My Pictures folder.
How long did it take before you were able to earn a full-time income from your business?
It took me about 2 years for it to become a full time income. As I mentioned earlier, I was working at a video store and studying at the same time so I was only doing a few computer repairs here and there. Once I finished my course though, I could give my computer repair business my full attention during the day and work at the video store at night. I put out proper ads in the local newspaper which made the amount of work pick up significantly. Eventually, it reached a point where I was earning much more as a techie than I was at the video store. I quit the video store and it became full time.
What are some of the challenges and benefits you’ve encountered in running Technibble?
The hardest part was getting visitors who were current or soon-to-be technicians. At the time, there were very few websites specifically for self employed technicians so I couldn’t even buy advertising elsewhere.
The biggest benefit for me is that Technibble makes me a better technician. Although I write the content for the main pages, the forums are full of experienced technicians from all over the world. We all draw upon each others experience and I learn a lot.
What are some things that you know now that you wish you would have known before your started your own business?
1. Keep your business bank accounts and personal accounts separate. Otherwise it makes for a nightmare at tax time.
2. Don’t let an account with any person or business get too much. Ive had a client who is very wealthy and they were always quick to pay so I had no problems letting their account get larger than most. About 4 months later they turned around on me and simply wouldn’t pay. I lost about $1000 on that.
If you had one piece of advice to give to someone who is looking to start their own computer consulting business, what would it be?
I’ll have to agree with that last statement. If you’re considering starting your own computer business, Technibble (along with Y.F.N.C.G. too of course!) is a great place to start out. Even for you seasoned veterans, there’s always helpful information to be found in the forums as well. I spend a good deal of time over at Technibble, so heopfully I’ll see you there!
Previous interviews on YFNCG: