So you want to be a computer consultant? You have dreams of starting your own business so you can work on your own, make lots of money, and be your own boss?
Computer consulting is a great field to be in, and will be in demand for the foreseeable future. But setting realistic expectations is a key component to getting your business started on the right foot.
I spend a decent amount of time browsing forums related to the computer consulting business and I find that many people who are just starting out can have similar misconceptions about exactly what it takes to be in this line of work.
Here are some of the myths I see most often, in no particular order:
Myth 1 - If I can fix a computer, I can be a computer consultant
Fixing computers is an important part of being a successful consultant, but not the only part. Other skills you need to have include patience, people skills, business savvy, and excellent work ethic. In fact, all of these skills are required in near equal parts in order to be successful. Make sure you have these traits before getting started. If you feel you’re lacking in one area, get more practice at it and work at it before starting your business.
Myth 2 – I’ll make most of my money selling custom-built computers
Many people think that because they built their own computer, and maybe built one for their parents, that it’s a viable business model. The reality is that the overhead, margins, and time it takes to build custom computers mean that you need to charge a lot more to sell them in order to make a profit. While this may be a good service to offer, it is not going to be your most profitable. Finding reliable suppliers is a headache, and most average people would rather buy the flashy pre-built systems at Best Buy for much cheaper. Would you rather spend all day building a computer for maybe $100 profit, or consult for 3 customers in 4 hours for $300 profit? Morris Rosenthol covers this topic well in his book: Start Your Own Computer Business.
Myth 3 – I have to be a jack of all trades and master of none
Many computer consultants try to offer every possible service that they can think of: virus removal, data recovery, custom computers, cabling, home theater repair, server management, etc. While this is fine if you have a large company with many employees that each specialize in one given niche, it is not practical for the solitary sole-proprietor. Instead it is better to offer a few core services in a niche that is under serviced in your area. You can also spend some time to figure out what you’re best at and concentrate on that.
Myth 4 - I’ll be profitable by undercutting all the competition
While keeping your prices competitive is important, being the lowest price in town is probably not the best way to sustain your business. Although overhead costs are low in this line of work, especially if you work from home, you still need to make enough money to sustain yourself and your business while not working 12 hour days 7 days a week. There’s always going to be some college kid on Craigslist that will be cheaper than you, because he’s doing repair work for beer money and has no experience. Don’t put yourself in his league by charging his prices. Charge what you’re worth and people will gladly pay you.
Myth 5 - I’ll just throw up a website and customers will come flocking
While having a web presence is extremely important, don’t just throw together some html and expect to get customers. Your website is the public face of your company, always accessible and on display. Make sure you put in the time to not only make your website pleasing to the eye, but also make it easy to navigate and informative for your customers. Finally, in order to get customers coming to your site from google and other search engines, take the time to learn basic SEO (search engine optimization) so your site can be found among your competitors when people search for local computer help.
What other myths about computer consulting have you found to be proliferating themselves among your peers?