Category Archives: Starting

Computer Repair Tools Networking Toolbox - How to Start a Computer Repair Business

Computer Repair Tools: Networking Toolbox

As far as computer repair tools go, there are a few items I never leave home (or the office) without when visiting clients.  One of them is my networking tools toolbox – essential for computer repair professionals dealing with networks.  If you’re already dealing with networks, you probably already have something like this.  If not, this is a good starting point.

My box just what I need for the amount, and type, of networking jobs I do.  Basically this toolbox houses my network testers, wire strippers, spare patch cables, punch-down tool, etc.  Everything I need to terminate and test network ports and wiring.

Each tech will have a variation of what sort of networking tools they carry with them.  This is just what I have and is a good guideline to building your own network toolbox.  If you do more networking jobs more often, you might want something more.  For me, this works out nicely.

Aluminum Case

First, the box itself (pictured at the top of this post).  I picked this up at my local Harbor Freight – check it out here.  It’s sturdy, easy to store in my car, easy to carry and doesn’t look half-bad either.  The dividers make it easy to organize everything I carry in it.

Network Cable Tester

Network Cable Tester - How to Start a Computer Repair Business

This is a very basic tester I picked up at Home Depot.  My tester I normally use died after many years of service.  There are some pretty big differences between this $79 tester and my previous $450 tester.  For example, the more expensive tester told you the length of the cable being tested – and if there was a break in the cable, it tells you approximately how many feet down the line the break is, making troubleshooting much easier.  It also had a feature to test the network ports on a network switch and was even able to obtain an IP address for testing purposes.  All of these features come in very handy!

My next cable tester will probably be a Fluke tester, similar to this one.  My old one was made by Ideal, and while it worked great, I think a Fluke will last longer.  It’s a brand I see being used a lot by network technicians.

I don’t have a cable certifier, as my networking jobs don’t require it.  These are more expensive and have features I’ll probably never use.

Wire Stripper and Crimper

 Cable Stripper and Wire Crimper - How to Start a Computer Repair Business

The orange wire stripper is a cinch to use and inexpensive.  The crimper is something I hardly ever use.  I don’t really have the need for it except for the rare occasion.  You should be using keystones/jacks, patch panels and patch cables in your network setup.  If you’re crimping wires, something needs to be fixed or changed in your network…

 

Impact Punch down Tool

Punch Down Tool - How to Start a Computer Repair Business

A punch-down tool will terminate CAT 3/5/5e/6 cable to keystones and patch panels.  Whether doing a new network install or you just need it to re-terminate existing wire, this is the tool to use.  There are less expensive, more basic, tools you can use, but this is nice for the “impact” feature.  It will terminate and cut the end of the wire in one motion.  The blade is interchangeable – use the 110 blade for network patch panels and keystones and use the 66 blade for telephone 66 blocks.

Toner

Cable Toner - How to Start a Computer Repair Business

One of my favorites. I use my toner probably more than any other tool in my box.  There are two parts to a toner kit:  the “wand” and the box that generates a tone – an audible beep you can hear using the wand.  This makes troubleshooting and find network cable runs much easier.  The end of the box that creates the tone has a few different attachments.   One attachment has alligator clips for clipping onto bare (unterminated) wire.  The other click has an RJ-11 plug you can use to plug into phone jacks (RJ-11) or network jacks (RJ-45).

Once you have the tone generator plugged in somewhere, say, in a network jack in your client’s office, you can use the want to “sniff out” the cable run where the wires are terminated.  Usually there is a dedicated closet where all of the network and phone cables are housed.  Simply use stick on the wand in to the mess of wires until you are able to track down the run – the louder the tone gets, the closer you are to the cable you’re searching for.

Drywall Saw

Drywall Saw - How to Start a Computer Repair Business

Pretty basic tool here.  Used to easily cut out hole in drywall for boxes/face plates and getting into walls for pulling wire.

Butt Set

Butt Set - How to Start a Computer Repair Business

If you’re doing phone work, you need this.  It’s a phone with two leads with alligator clips at the end.  The clips can be connected to a 66 block or to an adapter for plugging straight into a phone jack.  They’re usually a few hundred dollars, but this one is inexpensive and looks like it’s getting good reviews.  I ordered one – we’ll see how it holds up to the “traditional” butt set.

This style of butt set is old-school but gets the job done.

Fiberglass Wire Running Kit

Fiber Glass Rods - How to Start a Computer Repair Business

Okay, this won’t fit in your toolbox, but it’s a must-have if you plan on pulling any amount of wire.  These kits usually come with 5 or 6, 6-foot pull/push rods.  They glow in the dark, are unbreakable (I’ve never broken one anyway!), very flexible and can be connected together to make one really long rod.   I’ve never had to use a fish tape because of these rods.  They’re far better!  In ceilings or walls, they make pulling wire a lot easier.  A popular system is called “Creep-Zit” from Labor Saving Devices, Inc.

Other items in the box

 Networking Toolbox - How to Start a Computer Repair Business

Small level
Tape measure
Electrical tape
Wire coathanger (another way to pull wire in tight spots)
Wood screws
Zip ties
Various cable ties
Markers
Label maker
Stud finder
Long drill bit

I’m sure I’m missing something – I’ll update as I remember.

Do you already have a toolbox like this?  If so, what tools to you carry?

How to Business Plan for a Computer Repair Business

How to Write a Computer Repair Business Plan

How to Write a Business Plan for a Computer Repair Business

This is a guide on how to write a computer repair business plan.  So, you have decided to open up a new computer repair business, but really are not sure how to proceed. If that is the case, below we are going to tell you everything that you need to do in order to not only make an educated business decision, but also, the steps you need to take to create a comprehensive business plans that will at the very least, provide you an excellent road-map for your new venture.

 There are many different kinds of formats used to create a business plan. In this example, we are going to assume that you will not need an outside financing source and that your computer repair business will only be a local operation, at least initially.

 The concept behind a business plan is relatively simple to understand and execute. Essentially, you want to make sure that what you are thinking about opening is financially viable, and if so, then write down everything that you need to accomplish in order to turn your idea into a profitable endeavor. Below we are going to layout a traditional business plan and let you know precisely how to complete each section.

 # 1 – Executive Summary – You really do not have to work on this section of the business plan if you do not planning on showing it to anybody, or you are not looking for investors or an outside financing source. That being said, if you are really serious about turning your new enterprise into a profitable going concern that has the ability to not only grow, but is also sustainable, you should sit down and spend a few hours writing out the executive summary.

 The executive summary which is also sometimes called the management summary, goes at the very beginning of the report, but should only be written AFTER you have completed the entire business plan. Its intended purpose is to capture the reader’s attention, get them interested in the business, and briefly explain the concept and everything else that is contain in the report.

# 2 – Business Description – This is where the real work starts when you decide it is time to get serious, and begin writing out your business plan. What you want to try and do is to get all of you ideas down on paper so that you can refer back them in the future if you need to.

Please do not be concerned with you writing style at this point, but only the information. Later, after you are sure you have included everything that you want or need, you can go back and clean up the material. Below are some of the things that need to be discussed in this section.

A) Why you believe this is a good business to start.

B) What do you know about this type of business.

C) What skills are you bringing to the table.

D) What skills do you need to acquire.

E) Who is your market.

F) Why is there a need for the service or product you plan on supplying?

G) Why you believe that your business will be able to serve your market better than any of your competitors.

H) What will make your business standout from the competition.

Okay, you get the idea. Please do not limit yourself to the things we discussed above, but also include anything and everything else that you think could be important.

# 3 – Market Analysis – This might be the most important consideration for anybody that is thinking about opening up a new computer repair business. After all, if there are already 14 other similar companies competing in your neighborhood, it would probably be a good idea to think about doing something else.

In all seriousness, you really have to understand your competition at the highest level, know what their fees are, be familiar with the services they provide, and figure out a way to improve on everything that they do. If you are confident you can meet or exceed the stipulations mentioned above, then your new business just might have a chance of succeeding. Below you will find some of the areas you need to research and be familiar with.

A) Write down each and every store or standalone operation that you will be competing against.

B) Note each and every service that they provide.

C) Figure out exactly what they charge for each job.

D) Here is the tough one, ask yourself, now that I know everything about my competition, how am I going to everything they do, better and cheaper?

If you are able to answer that last question, and you are happy with the way you answered it, you just might have a real chance of making it.

# 4 – Organization and Management – More than likely when you first start your computer repair business, you are not going to have any employees. But, there are going to be certain jobs, like setting up a computer network for a large company that could require a little extra manpower. If so, have you thought about who you know that you can bring in at a moment’s notice that would be willing to work part-time.

Next, people that enjoy working on computers are usually very organized and hopefully you happen to be one of them. If not, it is really going to be very hard for you to run a company that is in an industry that is time sensitive. After all, when you tell somebody that you are going to arrive at their home or business at 4 pm, and you show up three hours later, do you really think that they are going to call you the next time they have a computer problem?

Another thing that you need to take into consideration in this section, is as your company grows and you acquire more and more customers, when do you hire another computer technician and who do you hire? Do your hire somebody that already has a great deal of experience and will demand a very high salary? Or, do you hire a novice that you can train that will be less expensive? Below are some of the things you are going to need to ask yourself in order to complete this section of the business plan.

A) Am I organized, and if not, how do I improve in this area?

B) Am I good at training people?

C) Do I have any friends that will part-time work?

D) Do I know how to delegate, or do I have to do everything myself, so that I know it was done correctly?

E) Can I accept other people’s shortcomings and help them improve in those areas?

F) Should I invest my capital in my staff and how much of an investment can I justify?

And, you thought it was going to be easy to open a small computer repair business. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it. If you are not prepared to at the very least to answer some of or all of the question in this section, starting your very own business just might not be a great career choice.

# 5 – Services and Products – This is an area that you really should not have too much trouble with. If you do, then you definitely should not be thinking about starting a computer repair business. In this section, you need to use the information you gathered about your competition and write down all the services or products you plan on promoting, as well as the fees you plan on charging for your services.

# 6 – Marketing, Advertising, and Sales – Computer geeks by their very nature are usually not outgoing people that make good salesman. That being said, your business needs customers and to get them you are going to have to think out of the box and come up with some creative ideas. We are going to provide you a few proven marketing and advertising techniques below, but you really need to figure out what your competition is doing in this area, and then either copy them or come up with better schemes.

A – Website – Of course you are going to have to build a website, after all, you are in the computer business. Hopefully, you know how to properly SEO your new site, if not, find somebody that does before you waste your time, effort, and money by creating a site that nobody is ever going to see.

The good thing about a computer repair businesses is that virtually every one of them is a local operation. That means that your competition on the internet for highly targeted traffic will not be that fierce. In other words, if you correctly onsite and offsite SEO your new website, there is a very good chance that it will move up the search engine rankings extremely quickly and you will get to Google’s first page, and just maybe, the top spot on that page in only a couple of months.

TIP # 1 – Remember this is a local business, and when you select your URL it is critical that you choose a local name. What we mean by that is, if the name of your new business is “Joe’s Computer Repairs”, that is not what you want to use for its URL. Instead, you want to use your towns name in the URL.

That means if you live in Dallas for example, you want your URL to be “DallasComputerRepair.com”. The reason you want to do this is very simple to understand, all of the search engines will move your site up their rankings whenever somebody in Dallas types in the search term “Computer Repair”.

TIP # 2 – For any new business, it is absolutely critical that when somebody does find your website, you get them to either give you a call or send you an email. To do this, you really have to offer a great deal that everybody who visits your site, is sure to see. A few examples you could use are the following.

I – Second repair visit FREE.

II – Half price on service calls for all new customers.

III – Free antivirus and malware software for all new customers on first service call.

B – Low Cost or Free Advertising – All new businesses have the same problem, which is they are not generating any cash. Thus, they cannot afford to spend too much on marketing or advertising. So, you have to find ways to promote your business that are either totally free, or cost very little. Below we are going to provide a few suggestions, but you know your local market far better than we ever could, and you need to come up with your own marketing ideas.

I – Craigslist’s – If you are not familiar with this site, it allows you to place classified ads for free, so use it. In addition, there are quite a few other sites that provide the same free service, so please find them, and use them.

II – Social Media – Almost everybody has heard of the following websites FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube. These types of sites are called social media and they allow their users to interact with one another. If you were able to build up a strong local following on anyone of these sites, almost assuredly, your business would eventually turn into a huge success story.

111 – Flyers – Printing out 10,000 flyers is not that expensive and they can be a fantastic marketing tool. Not only can you hand them out in your neighborhood, you can also distribute them to the local businesses and put them up on bulletin boards at grocery stores.

IV – Neighborhood Newspapers – If you are fortunate enough to live in an area that receives a free neighborhood newspaper delivered to your door each week, you might want to think about advertising in it. Their advertising fees are very reasonable, and your ads just might be able to generate enough leads to get your new business off the ground.

It really does not matter if you are the very best computer repair engineer in the world, if nobody knows about you, your business will surely fail. In reality, this might be the most important section in your business plan, because if you do not develop a marketing and advertising program that is going to work in your local market, almost assuredly your new business will not be around for more than a year, if that long.

# 7 – Financial Projections – The great thing about starting a computer repair business, is that in most cases, you will not have to spend a great deal of money to get it up and running. You do not have to rent a store, more than likely you already have a car, computer, and some, if not most of the software that you need. In addition, you do not have to put anybody on the payroll right away. So, other than your advertising expense, you really do not have any cash flowing out of the business.

The most important thing for you to note in the financial projection section of your business plan are the capital expenditures you need to make to open the business. These could include but are not limited to a new laptop computer, more software, a better cell phone plan, and your advertising expenses.

As for your income projections, you should definitely set goals for yourself using realistic figures. After all, you do not want to set your goals so high, that you later become discouraged when you don’t achieve them, and you do not want to set them so low, so as to not challenged yourself.

Conclusion

For the most part, the people that do well in business not only had a great idea to start with, but were also committed to their company and were willing to put in the time and effort that was required to make their firm a success. Working for yourself requires far more determination and discipline than just about anything else you can do in life.

That being said, starting a new computer repair business is not without its risks. But, then again, it is not without its rewards either. If you feel the time is right and you have all the skills that are required to run this type of business, then why not go for it? After all, what is the worst that can happen; you lose a little bit of time and money, and end up having to get a job working for somebody else if your business does not make it.

Start a Computer Repair Business - Business Cards

Your Number 1 Marketing Tool – Business Cards

If you haven’t done so already head over to 123 Print and order business cards now.  Even if you don’t have a business name, logo, website or domain name picked out.  You can always order different cards later when you have these other items in place.

Business cards are the number one tool to getting new clients.  You should always keep cards in your wallet and in your car.  Keep your business cards easy to read and straight-forward.  You don’t need a fancy business name or colors.  All you need is a card with your name, email, phone number and a list of services you offer.  When you list your services on your card, be sure to use language non-techie people will understand.  Be sure to list ALL of the services you offer.  You’d be surprised how many times I’ve heard “Oh, I didn’t know you removed viruses…I thought you just fixed computers.”  Well, to me fixing computers includes virus removal.  But “fixing” can mean something different to everyone.

Below is an example of a (basic) business card you can reference.  It’s simple, easy to read and has a list of services so people know exactly what you do.

Start a Computer Repair Business - Business Cards

 

 

 

 

 

It doesn’t have to be anything more than this, especially if you’re just getting started.  Later you can add more content as you get it – website, business phone number, tagline, logo, etc.

Listing the services you offer is important (and easy to do).  You don’t want your clients guessing as to what you can do for them.

123 Print let’s you either upload your own custom design or choose from one of their templates.  I design my own in Photoshop and upload it to their site as a PNG file.  But for your first cards it easy enough to just use their online design software.

The back of my cards are blank, but this could be a great place to put client testimonials or special offers.

One important aspect that I never overlook is the weight, or thickness, of the card.  This is huge with first impressions.  People notice what your cards feel like.  They can can tell if you printed them out at home on cheap, thin paper.  Be sure to get at least 80 lb weight – but 100 lb is even better.

So get busy and order business cards!  It won’t take long create a design and get it ordered.   I will be uploading a free PSD template for business cards in the near future for you to download – so check back often!

How to Get a Free Business Phone Number

For a the last five years or so, I have had a dedicated, free business phone number for my computer repair business.  It’s not my cell phone number and it’s not an expensive phone number through a local carrier.  I use Google Voice.

I was pretty hesitant to start using an internet-based phone number for my business.  But it’s turned out to be an excellent and very flexible resource for running and growing my business.  It’s still a local area code and clients who call have no clue it’s a Google Voice number.

Google Voice isn’t your typical phone service.  It’s basically a single phone number you can forward to other phones you already have – like your cell phone or land-line at work or home.  There’s nothing to download or install.  When someone calls your Google Voice number, it rings whatever phones you have specified in your account.  You can also use it for texting.

Forwarding

Mine is set up to ring four different cell phones.  When someone calls, each phone rings and can either display my Google Voice number through caller ID or the actual number of the person who is calling.  This is a setting within Google Voice you can specify.  I always have mine set to display my Google Voice number.  That way we know that it’s a business call coming in and can answer it as such.

If down the road you decide to hire a computer repair contractor, an employee or (like I do) have a dedicated person answering the phone, it’s very easy to add another number and configure individual options for each.

Messaging

If you have an Android or iOS phone you can download the Google Voice app to see missed calls, access your voicemail, etc. You don’t need the app to access these features but it’s easier than going through your mobile web browser.

When somebody leaves a voicemail, Google Voice will transcribe the message to text automatically.  From there you can have it sent as a text message to any cell phones you have configured in your settings

You can also text from the app.  The text message will show your Google Voice number as the sender.

Calling

I don’t call out much from my business number but it can come in handy.  Each time I make an outgoing call from my cell phone, the app gives me the option to call out using either my mobile number or my Google Voice number.  My business number will appear on the receiver’s caller ID if I choose to call via my Google Voice account.  To call out from a landline you simply call your Google Voice number, press 2 and then enter the number you want to call.

This phone number is on my website, my business cards, magnets and advertisements.  It’s a great way to have a centralized number without the expense.  It’s also great if I want to forward my number to someone covering my business while on vacation!  I can still see calls coming in and keep an eye on what’s going on.

Sign up and test it yourself

Head over to www.google.com/voice and get your account.  You will need to use your existing Google account or you can sign up for a new one.  There are a lot more features that I haven’t covered here you can explore.  Get an account and start testing it out for yourself!

Overall, this has been a great service for my business.  I don’t have to put my personal cell phone on the web and I can have a single phone number that multiple people can access and answer incoming calls.

Start Your Computer Repair Business Today - Why Discounts are a Big Mistake

Why Discounting Your Services is a Big Mistake

This topic can apply to any business owner in any industry.  Plumbers, electricians, hair salons, a handyman, painters, etc.

Discounted services are something you see all the time, whether someone is promoting new a product or service, just opening up a new shop, or just trying to drum up more business.  While this might sound like a great idea, it can hurt you more than help.

Now, I’m not talking about not reducing the number of hours you’re going to bill a client.  For example – maybe you quoted a client setting up two computers would take two hours and instead it ended up being four.  Take off two hours (or maybe one, depending on what you can work out with the client) and send the invoice.  Show on the invoice the time you removed – but the hours you charged for should still be billed at your normal rate.  Don’t reduce your rate from $100 per hour to $50.  Your rate should always stay consistent for your sake and for the clients’.  Your rates are set in stone!

You’re Setting a Precedent

If you are discounting your rates, clients will get used to it.  At some point, if you want to stay in business and maybe even make a little money, you will have to raise your rates.  How many clients based their decision on using your services solely on price?  You’ll find out after your raise your rates.

And depending on how deeply discounted your rates are, bringing them up to a more realistic level could take time.  And along the way you could lose some clients (which is actually a good thing if they don’t want to pay a higher rate).

This is the one time where referrals might be bad!  If your client, whom you’ve been providing service for at a discounted rate, refers your to a friend, they will tell them how great your prices are.  Then you’re stuck giving them the same discounted rate.

You Can’t Make Any Money

Not only that, but you’ll have a hard time breaking even.  Right now, I don’t have a retail repair shop.  But I still have overhead.  Advertising, fuel, insurance, tires, car maintenance, tools, software, computers, business cards, magnets – anything related to running this business.

You need to be able to cover your business expenses as well as take money home for yourself.  In addition, you need to factor in what the market is like in your area.  What are other repair companies (your competitors) charging?  If you find you are significantly lower, it’s time to get your rates up where they need to be.

If you’re in business already, or thinking about going into business, you probably want to be profitable – or at least I would hope so.  Discounting is going the opposite direction.  Doing good work at reasonable rates (for both you and your client base) sets you on a path to profits.

It Hurts Your Industry

I keep an eye on local competition and see discounted computer repair companies come and go.  There could be lots of reasons they go out of business.  But when I see “$19 Virus Removal!  We’ll come to you!”  or “I’ll repair anything and give you a free copy of Windows all for $39!” that’s a red flag.  Just check out your local craigslist ads.  Look for computer repair and then look at the ridiculous prices.  This isn’t good for them (how can they pay their bills?!) and it’s definitely not good for you.

When people see these ads, they expect those prices from you as well.  So when they ask what your rates are, they’re surprised at your response.  What they don’t know is the reason why they can offer such discounted services is because of the shortcuts they take in repairing PCs.  A lot of times their “fix” is to wipe the hard drive and reinstall Windows (which is fine in some cases, but not as a fix-all solution).  They then proceed to install bootleg copies of Windows, Office, Adobe products, etc. – offering “value” to their services.  This is a bad way of doing business because it puts not only the computer repair tech at risk but the client as well.

Proficient, responsible, professional computer services are worth every penny.  Guys who charge significantly less than the norm will sometimes trash the competition as being over-priced and a rip-off.  These are the guys who don’t stay in business long.  If they botch a repair, are they going to fix it again?  If they do fix it again, are they going to fix it right this time? (and without losing client files and without installing bootleg software?)  Usually these guys have a full-time job and are looking for extra money doing one-off side jobs.  They don’t end up doing good work or make themselves available when needed.  I don’t have a problem with starting out doing side jobs while working full-time, but the services still need to be priced appropriately and jobs done correctly.

It Kills Your Business

I’m never surprised at the rate of which I see computer repair companies go out of business.  From the very beginning it’s like they were treating it as a hobby.  Big mistake.  Giving huge discounts + “repairing” computers the short-cut way = no money and a bad reputation.  How can anyone stay in business doing this?  They can’t.

The clients you want will 1) recognize good work and customer service and 2) won’t have a problem paying your rates.  If they don’t, they’re not your client.  Move on.

Charge What You Are Worth and Stick to It

Your clients are getting more than just your time.  They’re getting your knowledge and experience.  The value of your work should be taken into consideration when helping a client.  A repair or a service call is not just about how much time you spent working on the problem.  It’s about knowing what the problem is and solving it for them.  Whether it takes five minutes or an hour, you still need to charge your rate.  They’re hiring you because of your technological skill-set – something they’re lacking.

Some people fall hard for sob stories.  A little old lady who gasps at your prices is enough for some to give huge discounts and turn what was going to be a profitable service call into a big money loser.  This is one reason why I clearly quote my prices over the phone or email before heading out to see a new client.  In the case of the little old ladies (or anyone else with a sob story) I try to remind myself that they had no problem buying the PC in the first place, paying $40/month ($480 a year!) for internet access, $50-100/month for cell phone services, McDonald’s for lunch etc.  Heck, fast food restaurants don’t give discounts based on how much money each customer has in the bank, so why you should you?

Now, I DO plenty of work for free.  Giving away services and time is something I think is great to do at times. But, I do it for free, never a discount.

Hopefully I made my case.  This seems to be a topic that comes up often in any business.  The bottom line is: you need to charge what the going rate is (and what you’re worth), do great work, give great customer service and don’t undercut yourself.  This will be the basis of a profitable business.  Set your prices based on value…not costs.

Choosing a Computer Repair Business Name

Choosing a Computer Repair Business Name

Choosing a good computer repair business name is important.  My original business name wasn’t a very good one.  People didn’t understand it, didn’t know what my business was about and what it’s purpose was, couldn’t remember it and were always confusing it with a nationwide cellphone carrier.  To pick it, I literally put a handful of names in a hat and drew one out – and that became my business name.  Big mistake.

After six years (six!) I finally decided to change it.  I had about 5 potential names in mind.  I sent the names out to friends, family and clients to see which one they liked best.  I thought this would be a great way to narrow it down.  Wrong again.  Everyone had their favorite.  There wasn’t one that stood out.  I quickly found out I couldn’t please everyone and I was never going to find my “perfect” name.  So I picked my favorite and moved on.

Pick a Name that Makes Sense

Changing my business name to something more simple and generic really helped a lot.  It helped my website on search engines and it helped my current and potential clients understand what my business was about.  An easy way to get a name is to have three parts:

“City” + Computer + “Description”

For example, “Phoenix Computer Repair”.  “Orlando Computer Maintenance”.  “Lakewood Computer Services”.  Search engines seem to like it and people can easily understand what your business is about.  Additionally, you can add a tagline to add more description:

“Small Business Computer Specialists” or “On-site Computer Repair and Networking”

One reason why this is better is you don’t have to educate your client base as to what your business name means.  It’s too expensive to brand a name that doesn’t already explain what the business is about.

A good way to see if a name is available is to see if the domain name is already taken.  You’ll need a website eventually and you definitely want your business name and domain name to match.





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Don’t Name the Business After Yourself

Naming your business after yourself has the same problems as picking a random name and creates more problems:

1 – Your name still wont’ describe what your business does.

2 – Your name could be hard to pronounce, especially if you combine it with another word.

3 – When clients call for service, they will expect to talk to the owner and will only want the owner do the work needed.  This might be fine at first, but if you ever want to expand, it could be a problem.

4 – Selling your business down the road won’t be as easy if it’s named after you.  If you ever want to sell, and the business is named after you, you leave your name behind along with your reputation.

While picking out a name that works is important, don’t let it slow down your effort on starting your business.  Get one picked out on move on to other parts of your business.  Once you have a name picked out it’s time for the next step:

Protect Yourself and Your Business – Get Insurance

Setting Up Your Computer Repair Business Website

How much to charge for computer repair - Start Your Computer Repair Business

How Much to Charge for Computer Repair Part 1

Also see:  How to Get Recurring Revenue for Your Computer Repair Business

This is the first part of a How Much to Charge for Computer Repair series.  This post pertains to hourly work.  This is, for the most part, how I bill for my services to all of my clients.  Hopefully this will give you a good start to figuring out what you should charge in your own business.

Initially I struggled with this issue.  I didn’t wan to charge “too much” for fear of losing business, but I also had bills to pay and a small amount of overhead.  I quickly found out that if a client thought I was charging too much, they weren’t the client for me – and there were plenty of other people out there who knew I was worth my hourly rate.

Markets will vary and figuring what to charge will depend on where you plan to start your business.  I live in a large city with a large metropolitan area.  My market will support higher rates.  Smaller cities might not.  The first place to check is your competition – either by checking their websites or giving them a call.  This will give you a good starting point.

Charging by the Hour

I’ve found that charging around $100 per hour is a good place to be.  Right now, I’m at $110 for the first hour (1 hour minimum) plus a trip charge.  That trip charge $20.  So the first hour is $130.  Depending on the client and the length of time it takes to get to their office, I may bump it up to 1.5 hours minimum which includes the trip charge.  This helps a lot with gas and the time it takes to get there.

If it takes me a half-hour to drive to a client, then a half hour to fix their problem, that’s an hour fee – $130.   I hardly ever charge only a half hour for an on-site service call.  Each time you go on a call, it takes your time, expertise, gas, car maintenance, etc. to be able to go on that call.

Another service I charge for is picking up hardware.  If the client needs a router ASAP to get their business back online, and they call me wanting a fix right away, they won’t have time to wait for an online order to arrive.  Once again, it takes gas, time and the knowledge to be able to get a router that will get the business up and running.  This fee can vary, but typically it’s an hour service fee (15-20 minute drive to the store, buying the hardware, 15-20 minute drive back, depending on how close a store is.)  Of course, if I happen to be at the store already, I won’t charge a fee.

For the most part, I don’t purchase hardware for clients.  The reason is because there have been numerous occasions where I was never reimbursed for the purchase.  This is especially bad when you are first starting out on your own.  Money is tight enough already and you don’t need to be financing somebody else’s business!  I like to find the hardware they want online, send them the link, and let them buy it themselves.  This also relieves you from the burden of having to warranty or guaranty the hardware – which can turn into a money pit in no time!  As always, there can be exceptions.  I have long-time clients that I know are not going to stiff me for the cost of a new PC and so I have no problem extending them credit.  Also, if you have a sales tax license, you can mark-up hardware and add another revenue stream.

My rates go up depending on the type of job.  More complicated work demands a higher rate.  One example of this is working on an Exchange (email) server.  Not every computer tech knows how to work on Exchange – it’s more specialized.  Also, at times, I’ve had to hire contractors to handle more complicated situations.  Charging more ensures that you get paid and your contractor (more on contractors later) gets paid too.  Rates for more complicated work come in at about $150 – $200 per hour.  Instead of a 1 hour minimum, it bumps up to a two-hour minimum for on-site service.  Clients with more complicated networks will typically be larger and won’t have a problem paying this rate.

If you have more technical experience, have knowledge of more specific technologies or have degrees or certificates, then you have another reason to charge more – and in fact you should charge more.  You’re cutting yourself short if you don’t.

How much to charge for computer repair - Start Your Computer Repair Business

How Much to Charge for Computer Repair Part 2 – Flat Rates

This is the second part on How Much to Charge for Computer Repair.  See part 1 here.

Bid/Estimate – Up-front Pricing

This is where home user clients come into play (although I have using this pricing model with business clients).  In my experience, home users like to have an upfront price.  They call and want to know what the final price will be.  Because I usually bill by the hour, I give a range of time I think it might take – say 2-4 hours to remove a virus.  But, it’s hard to give them a price over the phone without seeing the computer in person.  And sometimes all they’re looking for is a diagnosis.

In this case, I charge a $99 service call & diagnosis fee.  This covers my time and fuel it takes to diagnose the situation and give the client a better idea of what it will take to resolve their issue.  This is a diagnosis only!  After that, I can give them a solid price.  This is based on what I discover while diagnosing and a “suggested” set-price list I use.  This price is subjective and is based on my skillset alone.  If I’m not entirely sure I can get the job done as fast I’d like, I may raise the bid price.  The more complicated the issue(s), the more you might have to charge.

This does a few things for you.  One, this gives your customer a good feeling about you performing work on their PC – they know it’s a “set” price.  Second, you can basically raise your hourly rate if you can efficiently solve their problem in a shorter amount of time.  With bid pricing, you can make more money in an 8 hour workday than you would with hourly rates.  One reason is because you can combine multiple services into one flat-rate service call.  When I combine services, I discount the services as sort of a package deal.

Here are the pricing guidelines I use for on-site service (includes trip fee):

Virus and Spyware Removal

  • Troubleshoot affected computer
  • Complete Removal of Viruses, Spyware, Malware, etc.
  • Repair related issues (boot problems, blue screens)
  • Verify anti-virus software is installed and updated (install if nothing is already there)
  • Install important updates
  • Verify PC is in working order – and suggest additional repairs/upgrades and preventative maintenance
  • $299

Computer Hookup

  • Setup one PC or Mac computer for your use (including monitor, keyboard, mouse and speakers)
  • Verify you can access internet and setup one email account
  • Install and configure one external device – printer/scanner/external hard drive (hardware not included)
  • Install one software package (software not included in price)
  • $199

Computer Tune-Up

  • Clean up temporary files including (internet and system temp files) using specialized software
  • Verify anti-virus is installed and updated
  • Disable unneeded/unwanted startup programs to speed up boot time
  • Clean dust from inside PC
  • Verify PC hardware is functioning correctly per your request
  • $199

Data Backup and Transfer

  • Transfer all data from your old PC to your new PC (programs not included, must be installed and software discs provided by user).  Includes documents, pictures, music, favorites/bookmarks, email)
  • Backup data to external hard drive or DVD (up to 9GB on DVD, hard drive not included)
  • Configure data backup schedule to external device (additional backup software may be extra)
  • Optional – Off-Site Data Backup setup.  Schedule your important files to be backed up online to our secure server.  Setup fee and monthly fees extra.
  • $199

Email Setup

  • Setup and configure one existing email account on a computer or mobile device
  • User must have password available
  • Working internet connection is required
  • Troubleshoot existing email account
  • Service includes setup and repair of email client if necessary
  • $199

Operating System Install (this is a tough one, hourly would probably be better)

  • Install one operating system on a working PC – client must supply disc and valid license key
  • Install drivers
  • Install critical updates
  • Test
  • $299

Printer Setup

  • Setup, configure and test local printer (client supplies printer and necessary cables)
  • Help with any questions you have
  • $199

Printer Maintenance and Troubleshooting

  • Troubleshoot printer problems (page feeds, ink lines, etc.) and clean if necessary
  • Local, network or wireless printers
  • Suggest parts or additional repairs if necessary
  • $199

Software Install

  • Evaluate software system requirements and your PC specs
  • Install updates to software if needed
  • Create desktop shortcuts
  • Software not included and must be provided by client
  • $149

Wireless Network Setup

  • Install/Configure wireless router – secure wireless signal from intruders
  • Install/Configure wireless devices – PC, laptop, TV, game console, etc. (up to 3)
  • Secure network
  • Add an additional device during initial setup – $49
  • Add device after initial setup – $79
  • $149

Of course, bidding has risks.  A virus removal call or printer setup could turn out to take a lot more time than anticipated.  If you know your skill level and can assess the situation appropriately you can minimize the risk.

If the problem turns out to be much easier than I initially thought, I sometimes switch back to my hourly rate to save the client some money.  I don’t always do this.  It depends on the client and the situation.

Another thing that comes into play here is combining services.  For some business owners this can be difficult because it means asking for more money or “up-selling”.  If you see an issue that clearly needs to be addressed (security problem, updates, lack of backup or anti-virus, etc.) you should let the client know what it will take to fix the problems and let them decide from there.  Once again your pricing can be flexible as you see fit.

This is simply a guideline – you can adjust the prices, add services, and combine others – whatever works for you and your business.

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Setting Up Your Computer Repair Website - How to Start a Computer Repair Business

Setting Up Your Computer Repair Business Website

Getting online with a website for your computer repair business is a must.  I’m always surprised when I meet a computer consultant who either doesn’t have a website at all or has one, but hasn’t updated it since 1999.  Clearly their way of getting new business doesn’t include a website, which is fine, but I think they’re missing out on potential business.

All of the sites I have for myself, and what I recommend to all of my clients, runs on a platform called WordPress.  WordPress is a free, open-source Content Management System.  It’s extremely flexible and expandable.  It uses “Plugins” to further enhance its already great features.  There are hundreds if not thousands of plugins available you can install to easily add new features to your WordPress site.

Another great feature of WordPress are Themes.  Themes are what makes your WordPress site look the way it does – where the menu is located, the header, footer, the colors, etc.  While some themes can be downloaded and install free of charge, there are paid themes as well.  Also, themes are highly customizable.  You can have a completely custom WordPress site if you want.

The first step is to purchase a domain and web hosting plan.

Go to Blue Host right now to get your domain and hosting plan.

For only $6.95 per month, you will get an excellent hosting provider with first-class customer service – it’s an inexpensive yet important investment.  I have used them for my own sites (and various sites for clients) for about 5 years and have had a great experience with them.  Their customer service and reliability have been great.

With only one hosting plan you can have multiple domains and websites.

On Blue Hosts’ homepage you can search for available domain names.  Once you’ve found one that’s available you can purchase it and reserve it for your business.  While you’re there, add on a hosting package.

Here are the steps:

1 – Purchase domain name.  Try to get a .com.  The next best domain is a .net.  All of the domains I have are .com.  I stick with .com domains because they are typically more search engine friendly and many people assume I’ll have a .com domain name and use that when searching for my site.

2 – Sign up for a hosting account.  A domain name probably won’t do you much good if you don’t have website for people to see.  BlueHost makes it very easy to install WordPress so that you can use it for your site.

3 – Once signed up, Blue Host will require you to create a password for your account.  Once you’re finished with that click on “CPanel” in the blue menu bar.  CPanel is where you will manage your website.  From there, click on the blue WordPress icon.  This will bring you to a page where you can setup WordPress.  Simply click the green “Start” button to install WordPress.

4 – When WordPress is installed, you’ll be able to access your site by typing in your domain name in the address bar in your browser.  Your site will have the default WordPress theme.

5 – To customize and add content to your site, go to http://www.yourdomainname.com/wp-admin. This is how you access the back-end of WordPress.  From here you can add posts, pages, change your theme, edit the navigation menu, install plugins, change your header/logo, etc.

Once you have your account setup, you’re ready to start using WordPress and customizing it for your business website.  Easy!

Get a Ready-Made WordPress Theme

You can save a ton of time setting up your website by getting a Premium WordPress Theme – no need to hire a designer or programmer.

The Genesis framework and premium themes from StudioPress is a great product to check out.  Everything is optimized for security, search engine optimization, mobile (responsive) design and a whole lot more.

After getting your domain and hosting account, get your premium theme and get your business online!

Next Step:  Protect Yourself and Your Business – Get Insurance

Start Your Computer Repair Business - Who Are Your Clients

Who are your Clients?

You need to determine who your clients are.  This is usually small businesses or home users and their related demographics.  I’ve found that small businesses are great clients.  I like to target businesses with 10 or less PCs (some of my clients have ~20 PCs, including the server).

While I do have a few home user clients, the bulk of my business is done with small business clients.  Small business clients know that they need specialized service for their business and are happy to pay a fair price.  Sometimes home users don’t see it that way.  A lot of them are used to having the neighbor kid work on their PC for free or at a huge discount.  This is fine, but small business clients know that they need someone more familiar with the technology needs of a small business – namely networking, servers, printer and file sharing, security, etc.

A small business client can be a real estate agent (working from home or an office), a real estate firm, appraisal Company, lawyer or small law firm, manufacturing facility, small doctor’s office, hospital, mortgage Company – anyone in business is your potential client.
The size of client depends on how familiar you are with the technology required to support and run that business.  Some small businesses don’t need a server.  They have a few laptops, a printer and DSL line and that’s all they need.  Others have an email server, multiple printers, remote users who work from home or on the road and need more attention and expertise when their technology goes wrong.

If you’re not yet familiar with a type of technology in use at a potential client’s office, they might not be the client for you.  If you are familiar, then you need to determine how much time and attention a client like that will need.  One way to find this out is with an initial meeting with them.  You can ask them their expectations, needs, etc. to get a feel for the level of service they will be expecting.

One thing I’ve seen is an IT/computer tech getting in over their head.  It’s important to know exactly what you can handle.  If you come across a potential client using a Linux server, and you have know clue how to even log in to a Linux box, let them know.  Messing up someone’s server is far costlier than simply turning down the client.

So sit down and define exactly who your ideal client is.

1) What profession are they in? (if that even matters to you)

2) How many computers, per client, can you comfortably handle?  Usually the more workstations, the more attention they’ll need.  Also, they’ll likely already have some sort of dedicated server – so be sure you’re able to take care of the server too.

3) Location – define where your service area is.  How far will you travel?  Are you willing to travel outside of your area if a job comes up?  If so, will there be an additional travel fee?

4) How much you charge will automatically filter out a lot of people.  Whom is you rate appropriate for?

I have a wide variety of clients.  I don’t really specialize in any area – I’m more of a “jack of all trades”.  The family doctor as apposed to the podiatrist (the foot doctor).

But specializing is a great way to go.  I know someone who has a small IT firm that only takes care of doctor’s offices.  Everything from their name to their logo says it.  They know exactly who their target client is.  Plus, they are very familiar with all of the technologies doctor’s offices use.

Other guys only serve law firms – they usually have software and systems you only see with lawyers.

When it comes to my rates (what I bill per hour or service), I never lower them.  What I charge is set in stone.   If a client says I’m “too expensive” or “more then than my last computer guy” – and they don’t want to pay my rate – they’re not my client.  My clients who do pay my rate know that I’m worth it and don’t have any issues with it.  Lowering my rate is the last thing I want to do.  My work experience and the amount of time and money I save my clients more than justifies it.

It’s good to get this figured out before heading out and getting clients.  Keep in mind your availability (if you’re doing this part-time, when can you see clients?  Weekends and evenings only?) and your skill set.

If the potential client isn’t a good fit, to be afraid to turn them down.

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