In January 2015 I went from working out of my home to opening a storefront. Here are some of the things you should have in place when opening a physical computer repair shop.
Ideally you will have the first three in place before you open. The last two can be done after you make the switch.
State Tax ID Number
If you have been running you business part time you should already have this in place. If not, then you definitely need to get a tax ID number before you start your store front.
In the US, most states require you to have a tax ID in order to collect sales tax on the items you sell. This number will also be required when setting up an account with a wholesale distributor.
Taxes are an area where a lot of small business owners get in trouble. In our business, we transfer the sales tax we collect to a savings account until it’s time to turn it over to our state’s Department of Revenue.
Keep in mind, you are collecting this tax on behalf of your city/state. These funds should not be intermingled with your operating income. Don’t forget to track your use tax if your area requires it.
Credit Card Processing
When you open your storefront, customers are going to expect to be able to pay with a credit card. Up to 90% of our monthly tickets are paid with a credit card.
We started with, and continue to use, Square as our processor (Editor’s note: We also love Square here at YFNCG!). Square is easy to use, and allows you to accept credit cards on mobile devices like a smartphone or tablet.
We also accept PayPal, which has an added benefit where your client can apply for credit to cover the cost of their repair. That way, your customer has access to the funds they need to pay for their repair, and you get paid immediately.
Invoicing and Ticketing System
Up to now, we used a PDF form and Freshbooks for our invoicing and tracking. This has worked great up until we started our store front. Now we are looking at other ticketing options as our business continues to grow.
Regardless of what system you use, make sure you are labeling all equipment that comes through the door: computer, charger, bag, software, etc. Everything gets a label at check-in so it can’t be misplaced. The DYMO LabelWriter 450 Turbo is a popular choice.
It’s best to separate your administrative front-desk computer from your workhorse computers that help run repairs in the back of the shop. We have two high-end PC’s that are both equipped with SSDs, lots of RAM, plenty of USB ports, and docks for hard drives. These machines are used on a daily basis for data recovery, hard drive cloning, component testing, and the like. You don’t want your only computer tied up doing a data recovery in Linux, for example, and keep another customer waiting because you can’t test a hard drive.
When you open a storefront you will want to carry some inventory. When I started I was doing computer repair part time to supplement my day job. I was ordering almost all my parts from Amazon. As we grew into a storefront the need for a wholesaler became apparent.
Initially our cost was higher than what it was on Amazon, but after a few orders our prices started to drop. We’re not saving much over Amazon when you account for Amazon’s free shipping, but having an account rep to reach out to more than makes up the difference.
We try to keep things on the shelf such as thumb drives, cables, Wi-Fi cards & USB dongles, paper reams, laptop bags, etc. For most of our hardware we use D&H as our distributor. For laptop screens we have been using Screen Country.
For those of you with a storefront, what are your must-have items?