As I transition from part-time to full-time computer consulting, I thought it would be interesting and motivational to interview other fellow independent techs who took their passion for computers and entrepreneurship from hobby to career. These folks took a big leap by throwing away a safe 9 to 5 existence for the chance to forge their own path. I enjoy reading about how others got started and became successful. No two stories are alike and something can always be learned from the journey others have taken.
Today I’m speaking with Randy Knowles. He owns his own computer consulting business and also writes the blog Randy the Tech Professor where he provides near daily tech tips, tricks, and news for novices and advanced troubleshooters alike. Randy has been running his business full time for a over a year now. I was curious what led him down this path and what techniques have helped him build a successful consultancy.
Why did you choose to become an independent computer tech?
I chose this line of work because I love all things tech, I like the challenge of diagnosing and then fixing tech problems, I like to help people who are not very tech savvy, I have a “knack” for it!
When did you know it was time to start running your business full time?
As soon as I knew how much I enjoyed it and as soon as I saw that I could earn enough to make a living I decided that I didn’t want to do anything else. My time was being totally taken up with computer repair, and as my client base grew, it was all I could do to keep up. It’s the only job that I’ve ever had that I can spend hours upon hours upon hours and I never get tired of it! I can’t wait to get up in the morning and fix/learn something else!
What were some of the biggest obstacles you faced in getting your business off the ground?
- Finding clients and then gaining their trust.
- Combining a computerrepair business with another full or part time job.
You mentioned one big obstacle is gaining customer’s trust. What things do you find help earn that trust?
Honest evaluation, great fix, fair price, customer support, relate to them in a way that they can understand, kind & courteous relational attitude, explain things to them in a manner in which they can understand and not feel demeaned (these are by and large elderly people).
What advertising method works best for you in your area?
Without a doubt: Word Of Mouth!!
What customer niche (elderly, small business, stay at home moms, etc.) has been your most profitable?
Elderly Residential. Author’s note: I wrote about this profitable niche recently in the article: Finding a Niche: Elderly Computer Users.
Along with your consultancy, you also run a separate daily tech blog, Randy The Tech Professor. How long have you been running that website ?
A little over two years.
It’s tough to find fresh daily content for a blog like that. How do you choose what topics to cover on www.randythetechprofessor.com?
- Repair jobs that I actually have done recently.
- Tech content that is basically of interest to me.
- Up to date tech information that I find on various tech sites (I link to these sites).
On that site, in the “About” section, you have the quote: “To teach is to learn twice”. That’s pretty insightful. Can you explain the reasons you included this quote?
My background is in education and I love to teach. In order to teach something well, you have to learn it twice as well as someone who doesn’t teach it.
How can computer consultants leverage teaching to improve their business?
Offer classes and/or tutorial sessions to their clients and/or to people in the community. Author’s Note: Make these training sessions free. Doing so will mean more students show up who my end up being potential lifelong customers.
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?
Obviously you must know your “stuff” as a technician, but developing ethical and relational skills are even more important. It’s not hard to find a tech who has computer/tech knowledge but it’s very hard to find one who is honest, trustworthy, ethical, and relates well with his customers!
Be sure to visit Randy Knowles at his blog, Randy the Tech Professor!
Have you had success building your consultancy through teaching or training?
Previous interviews on YFNCG: