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Old 07-28-2003, 09:54 PM   #1 (permalink)
Psychopathic Akimbo Action Pirate
 
Location: ...between Christ and Belial.
I need some business advice

I have recently decided to try another experiment in business.

The idea is simple, and if it fails I won't be at much of a loss. Only small amounts of capital and time investment will be gone.

My new experiment is that of me trying my hand at some freelance on-site computer tech work. I'll post fliers around campus and around town. Probably put out an ad in the local paper and in the university periodical.

Here are my more detailed plans:

Initial investment - This is the only thing that would really count as loss in this venture. I require some starting capital for advertising, business cards, a few tools (mostly for appearance), and some decent clothes (I haven't purchased new clothes in 4 years. Most of my clothing is quite ragged.)

Business model - I will be working alone (at least in the beginning). The idea is that people call me at home and I make an appointment for on-site support. I will offer tutorials, hardware repair, software installation/configuration, virus removal, networking, upgrading, and eventually will probably include custom building of computers.

Pricing - For typical house calls I will charge a flat fee. I have yet to decide on the price, though. I will probably offer the option of same-day service for an added fee. For hardware and software, I will charge the price of the product (which I will pick up at a retail store) plus (I'm thinking) 20% for labor.

Difficulties - I have two primary concerns for the success of this experiment. My first worry is that of time. I will be juggling school, my part-time job, being an officer of my academic fraternity, kung fu, my personal life, and this new venture all at the same time. It certainly won't be easy, but we'll see if I can handle it. The second concern is that of location, really. I'm not entirely sure a gig like this will have enough demand in this location. I'm thinking it will work, though.

Timing - I am nearing the node, as The Art of War tells me. The time is nearly ripe and I must take action accordingly. This town will be bloated with people 30 days from now.

Other dangers - My biggest concern here is that of jerks. Some customers are going to be rude and difficult to work with. I kind of know how this goes since I've done some tech help over the phone. People just get really aggressive/defensive when they are ignorant in a certain area.
I now have new considerations though, since I will be dealing with these folks in person. For one, they may try to stiff me. I'm not exactly sure what I would do in such a situation. Secondly, a person may attempt to physically harm me. I am quite wary of such situations and attentive to my surroundings, so I doubt this will ever really be a problem. My skills in reading body language will also help minimize the danger here, too. Oh, and not to mention that my physical height tends to intimidate people.
----------------

So any solutions to being stiffed for money?

Any other considerations or ideas?
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Last edited by Antagony; 07-28-2003 at 11:14 PM..
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Old 07-28-2003, 10:08 PM   #2 (permalink)
Crazy
 
Could'nt hurt. Be careful about liability, and low-key it as a home-consultant.
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Old 07-29-2003, 05:12 AM   #3 (permalink)
Essen meine kurze Hosen
 
Location: NY Burbs
Carry some kind of liability insurance.

Get a phone line specifically for this business and put an answering machine on it. I know this increases you initial investment costs, but you don't want customers calling you on your home line.

How do you plan to receive payment? At time of service? By cash or check? You will probably need to get set up to handle credit cards.

When you fix a problem, write up a charge ticket/receipt describing the problem you fixed. Keep a log of this information on your laptop (you really should carry one with you). You need a record of problems you've found and fixed for each customer. This info is invaluable when the customer stuffs up his system again and calls to complain and blame you for it.

You will often need to connect to the internet while at a customer's site (to download drivers, etc.). If the customer doesn't have a connection, or his firewall restricts your access, a wifi card in your laptop could save the day. Unless you're out in the boonies, it shouldn't be hard to find an open network. (There are several in my small office building alone.) If you have to, drive to a Starbucks and park outside.

Best of luck.
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Old 07-29-2003, 05:55 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Location: Springford, ON, Canada
Insurance is necessary. If, for some reason, data is lost in the process of fixing something they may get it in their head to sue you.

Also, have them sign some sort of workorder notifying them that you aren't responsible for lost information etc etc.

The time you can devote to this is important. If you want this to be successful, you need to put in *alot* of time.
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Old 07-29-2003, 06:56 AM   #5 (permalink)
Psychopathic Akimbo Action Pirate
 
Location: ...between Christ and Belial.
platypus,
Good suggestions, but most of them aren't feasible.

In response as to how I'll be handling money, I will expect payment immediately after service is delivered (there on the site). This will be clearly stated so the customer will know they must pay that very day with cash or check. Gaining something to handle credit cards would be far too expensive and I don't think this job will be generating that much traffic anyway.

A laptop is a great idea, but I don't have one and cannot afford one. I'm trying to get this started with a bare minimum investment. A laptop may be a good investment once I've generated some income to invest from doing this work.

As for downloading drivers and what-not, I plan to do that from home. I'm going to burn some CDs of drivers and updates and carry those with me to the sites. WiFi is still very rare in this town, and we don't have a Starbucks to speak of

Thanks for the suggestions, they're very logical.

tinfoil,
I was hoping to cover the liability with just a big fat disclaimer. Maybe I'll draw one up and have them "read" and sign it before I begin working on their computers.

Thanks a lot guys, and keep it coming!
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Old 07-29-2003, 07:24 AM   #6 (permalink)
Fucking Hostile
 
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Location: Springford, ON, Canada
You should still have some form of insurance, especially if you are working on business machines. I won't let a contractor in the door unless he can prove he has insurance. This not only covers his ass, but mine as well, should there actually be an irrecoverable loss. Disclaimers on the bottom of a work order tend to have loopholes.
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Old 07-29-2003, 01:26 PM   #7 (permalink)
no one special
 
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Location: Charlotte, NC
I would restrict it to home customers only definately disclaimer yourself to death. (if your machine blows up after I place a bomb in it, it is your fault not mine.)

On a different note, I would download the different versions of windows (or burn copies) just to have access to them when it asks for the windows CD. Also pcdrivers.com is a lifesaver
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Old 07-29-2003, 09:53 PM   #8 (permalink)
Know Where!
 
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yes you have to have a disclaimer, cause of anything that could happen to their computer and also add whatever you want in the fine print; no one is going to read it anyway

ill repeat my suggestions from the chat,

45$ for home visits, flat fee. or 25$ upto 90 minutes and 20 more for the rest of the time ($45 total for jobs more than 90 minutes)

there are lots of inexpensive places with decent presentable clothes (target)
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Old 07-30-2003, 08:39 PM   #9 (permalink)
Psycho
 
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Location: Philly
A few suggestions from a businessman:

In response to your concerns about being stiffed/dealing with jerks- you may want to selectively cultivate more of a business clientele. If there are many small businesses in your area, they undoubtably have computers which have constant problems- usually just from lack of routine maintenance(antiviral,defragging,etc) which are easy fixes. Price out the comp, then underprice them slightly and play on that. Many businesses have been burned by high priced repair guys. You'll have to be acessable though, and businesses are used to paying either by invoice or by credit card.
A credit card account can be cheap. A monthly fee of $6-8 dollars and a small percentage of your total charges. No expensive eqip needed as the slips can be deposited at your bank.
Finally, visit every doctors office in town. Federal HIPPA regulations require all medical claims to be sent electronically by october. Most docs are not very computer literate and are scrambling to get connected. Alot of companies out there are making fortunes selling doctors computer networks that are ridiculously overpriced. Tell them you'll set up a small network that is HIPAA compliant with online access or debug their current systems, or do regular maintenance, and if you charge a reasonable fee, you'll get lots of business
One final hint- If you visit the docs offices, don't expect to talk to the doc. Be REAL nice to the receptionist(flirty) and give her a professional looking flyer to give to the doc describing your services then stop back in about a week and pump her for what the doc needs
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Last edited by gonadman; 07-30-2003 at 08:43 PM..
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Old 07-31-2003, 09:23 AM   #10 (permalink)
Amplitude Modulator
 
Location: US
All above are great suggestions. I am in the business you want to start and time is a major problem. You will find that after you have some customers, they will call you and demand you come over right away....this always happens when you are just meeting a new customer. You will find yourself making up stories about why you can't be there at that moment and it will have to be a good one to keep that customer. I service mostly business customers now because home users are known to write bad checks or cancel the check later if they think you didn't give them what they paid for. Business people are more inclined to pay their bills and pay better, too. Treat a business right and word of mouth gets around. Downside is you will work some 24-36 hour days, your on call 24/7 and you better find a cheap place to buy your hardware and mark it up slightly to the end user or you will find working long hours for the money you get is not worth it.

Later you can hire someone to work with you, call him and let him handle the call and get a percentage off of his labor hours plus the parts markup when you provide the parts....Also gives you time to have a life!

Note: Have alot of network experience before going into this job and know how to properly setup a firewall, configure users passwords, email accounts and permissions. Most of my users are using Win2K Pro, some are still using Windows NT.
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Last edited by ssander9; 07-31-2003 at 09:27 AM..
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