I received the following email from a YFNCG reader. I’ll call her Sally. Sally wants to earn some extra money for college (she’s an Information Systems major) by repairing computers. She goes on to say:
I have been cleaning my friends and families computers for years now and just haven’t charged. I am emailing to get some tips about how I should go about this and how to present it to people. I am not yet A+ certified (because of cost) but have taken a detailed class on it. I just want to tell people that I am not certified but can do those basic things. Also what are your ideas about advertising and prices for repair and cleaning. I am going to continue this when I get to school as well so basically any help that you can give me for home and for school would be great.
First of all, thanks for writing in! One of the biggest recommendations I can make is to learn from others who have done the same thing you plan to do, so kudos for taking the steps to contact folks like me who have “been there, done that”. It’s great that you want to take the skills you’re good at and use them to make some extra money for school.
My first piece of advice is to just go for it! It’s easy to over analyze and try to work through every possible detail in your mind before starting. I think you have a good foundation of knowledge to work with. You’ve also had some experience fixing your friend’s computers. Now you just need to take that extra step to start charging people. I understand, however, that it’s a tough step to take.
I recommend starting with people you know and asking them to spread the word for you. Tell all your friends and family that live near by that you plan on charging for computer repair and to send anyone they know your way. There’s no need to start a formal business at this stage until you know for sure that this is something you want to do for a living, but I would come up with a name to use like “YourLastName Computer Repair”. I’d also get a separate email address for your business, like firstname.lastname@example.org. That will make it easy to cut off things if you decide computer repair isn’t right for you.
Next I would definitely recommend being honest with people up front. If you plan on advertising on Craigslist or on fliers (two of the first places I would start), you should definitely be honest about the fact that you’re a college student looking to practice your skills. Even though this means you will miss out on some work because people might not like your inexperience, you’ll avoid bad experiences when you show up to your customers place and you aren’t what they were expecting. Make sure you do, however, list all of your skills and areas of knowledge on your ads. Highlight what you know how to do well.
Finally, because you will most likely have less experience and knowledge than your major competition, you’ll have to compete on price. Do some research (Google and the phone book are good places to look) to find out how much other computer repair businesses in the area are charging. Then I would try to undercut them by as much as you possibly can. This will be the best way for you to get business in your situation.
This blog is actually an excellent resource for people in Sally’s shoes, if I do say so myself. I’ve been writing ever since I first had the idea to start a computer business and I’ve covered many of the topics Sally asks about. Here are some posts she can check out to get some more specific and in-depth information related to the topics mentioned in her email.
Breaking in to Tech: Experience vs. Education vs. Certification – This series of posts present my take on which areas to focus on if your goals are to start a computer business or simply to find work in the corporate IT world.
Make Money Fixing Computers Part Time – Another great path to take to make some extra money is to sign up with a National 3rd Party Service Provider. My article is specifically about ComputerAssistant.com, but over at Technibble Bryce wrote a great post about the good and the bad points of National Service Providers.
5 Ultra Cheap Advertising Methods – Some good ways to start getting your name out there.
How Much Are You Worth? – The process I went through to figure out how much to charge for my services.
I’d like to thank Sally for her email and remind all my readers that my door here at YFNCG is wide open for any questions you may have about starting or running a computer repair business. Just hit me up on my contact form and I will definitely get back to you (or may feature your question on the blog).
Please feel free to chime in with your advice for Sally in the comments below!