Outsourcing

10 ways techs can make extra cash

If you're searching for opportunities to supplement your income -- or you're in between jobs and need some work to tide you over -- the tech field offers a number of possibilities. Erik Eckel runs down some of your options.

If you're searching for opportunities to supplement your income -- or you're in between jobs and need some work to tide you over -- the tech field offers a number of possibilities. Erik Eckel runs down some of your options.


The economy's tough. Many technology professionals are facing furloughs, or even worse, layoffs. Fortunately, several avenues are available to help generate cash. Here are 10 ways IT pros can earn extra dollars.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Subcontracting

Hire yourself out on a project basis. While full-time jobs may not be plentiful, project work is common. Consulting groups frequently need technicians to deliver qualified service onsite at client locations.

Many small businesses are actually performing well. Headlines incessantly tout draconian layoffs at large enterprises employing tens of thousands of staff, numerous smaller businesses (from gyms to used car dealers to family-focused activity stores) continue marching along, with many experiencing sales increases.

These outlets continue to require computer, networking, and software support. Consulting groups frequently service these organizations' needs, but smaller IT shops often find it difficult to locate qualified, professional contractors to fulfill those services.

Contact these local IT consultancies if you're seeking extra income. Rare are the consultancies that don't appreciate adding qualified names to their Rolodex, and these projects often turn into full-time gigs.

2: National account work

Many national companies serve as subcontractors for large hardware vendors. These companies accept work from the manufacturer and then pass a portion of the payment to the local contractor who actually completes the project.

Consider signing up as an authorized agent for these national providers. While few consultants make a living fulfilling such national account work, resulting projects can help fill scheduling gaps.

911mycomputer, Gurus2Go, and OnForce are three examples of national service providers that send IT consultants small jobs and other projects. All such organizations need techs in the field to complete these projects.

Just be sure you're working with reputable vendors when you accept assignments. Most national service providers are solvent, but some have experienced trouble paying their subcontractors. Research national providers before signing a contract. If a Google search of a prospective organization reveals payment complaints, avoid establishing a relationship with that partner.

3: Database consulting

How often do you hear about businesses and nonprofits having to "do more with less"? A Google search of that string generates more than a million hits.

Organizations everywhere are trying to master client relationships and communications and squeeze every last bit of revenue from customer and contact lists. Databases, often customized to meet proprietary needs, frequently play a critical role in the process.

Yet many organizations don't have the budget necessary for maintaining their own database creation and administration skills. The knowledge/needs gap presents opportunities for database programmers and engineers who want to moonlight or provide these services on the side.

4: Teaching

Layoffs across numerous industries are sending many back to school. As government agencies, nonprofits, and other organizations become increasingly dependent upon computers, networks, and systems, it's a safe bet technical skills will remain in demand. In fact, the 2009 Robert Half International Salary Guide predicts IT will be among the top three fields to yield promising careers in the next year.

Consequently, students will seek the training required to enter the industry. Many schools, training centers, and colleges will need qualified candidates with proven experience to lead technical classes. Since many classes meet after regular business hours, interested IT pros may be able to supplement their day jobs with a teaching role.

5: Software training and instruction

As an independent technology consultant, I've been surprised at the number of clients requesting one-on-one software training. Demand exists, particularly among small businesses, for basic training covering such programs as Act, Access, Word, Excel, photo editing applications, and QuickBooks, not to mention Windows.

IT professionals need not be all-knowing gurus to lead training sessions covering these programs. They simply need to be able to review application fundamentals, provide walk-through demonstrations of an application's features, and answer user questions.

6: The digital living space

Most technology professionals enjoy securing their own wireless networks, solving myriad Windows video codec issues, and memorizing the differences between HDMI, DVI, and VGA technologies. Most homeowners don't.

So as discretionary income trends toward family-focused or "nesting"-related investments, the need for technology professionals to assist in such projects is increasing. Families spending two or three thousand dollars on a new television, streaming media devices, and/or media center PCs will think nothing of paying another few hundred dollars to a technology professional to ensure the devices are properly equipped, connected, and configured.

7: Telecommunications

I'm one of those "computer" consultants who has resisted providing clients with "phone services." However, I'm rethinking that strategy.

Why? For one thing, clients are increasingly inquiring about telephone support. And as VoIP gains steam, telecommunications are increasingly crossing over into the network administration arena. Even Dell is now selling phone systems on its Web site.

Considering that organizations of all sizes are flocking to VoIP technologies to reduce costs, there's ample opportunity for technology professionals to add telephone installation and support services to their skill set. Telecommunications services add an entire new niche to a technology professional's arsenal that can generate significant new revenue streams.

8: Financial software consulting

The word is getting out. Intuit, which markets the popular QuickBooks line of financial software, is weathering the economic downturn rather well. Demand for its products, from its point-of-sale software to its enterprise financial management platform, is growing.

Again, business owners everywhere are seeking to do more with less. That means most companies are working to obtain the utmost productivity and efficiency from the programs in which they invest.

Intuit's QuickBooks software provides many opportunities for business owners to do just that. And Intuit's ProAdvisor certification program presents IT pros with a well-structured program to not only obtain instruction and training but to tap into Intuit's considerable lead-generation capabilities.

9: Security/DVR integration

Just as telephones used to be differentiated from PCs, servers, and networks, so did security and alarm systems used to be viewed as wholly separate from IT. But that, too, is changing.

Many security systems consist of digital video recorders (DVR). Essentially, these devices are nothing more than Windows XP systems with a special video card installed. Cables run from cameras mounted in various locations to that video card, and the captured images or video is then stored on the system's massive hard disks. Included software tools make it possible to even access the security footage using a Web interface.

As companies further seek to cut costs, reduce shrinkage, eliminate burglaries, and otherwise secure their operations, security system sales are likely to grow. Adding these services to one's repertoire offers yet another potent opportunity for generating extra cash. Best of all, most of the technologies involved (desktop systems, Ethernet interfaces, and hard disk data storage) are right in line with the other skills technology professionals typically wield.

10: Online expert

IT consultants seeking additional clients can grow their reputations online. Fixya.com and CrossLoop.com are just two Web sites in a growing category that pay technology experts to either answer users' questions or provide opportunities to answer user questions and receive advertising space in return. While these projects aren't likely to generate significant income, combined with other initiatives, becoming an online expert can position a consultant as an expert and help drive new client calls.


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About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

28 comments
lynnkauppi2
lynnkauppi2

If you are good with words and grammar, consider technical publishing: writing articles on a freelance basis or being a freelance IT editor, copyeditor, or proofreader. Publishing industry freelancers are hurting right now, but for technical fields such as IT, the demand and the decent pay is still there.

rmazzeo
rmazzeo

Have we left out sales on purpose? Many of the ideas posted here are really good, but let's add sales to the mix. I have just started my own printer ink business locally, & while getting started with potential clients is time consuming & doesn't generate much income as of now, the profit potential, which actually lies in tones sales & ink cartridge volume, is there. The idea is to build a strong customer base with local businesses who use laser printers, slightly undersell the competition, be very dependable, offer a good product with a guarantee should anything go wrong, & build your profits while also providing a secondary service to inkjet printer (mostly residential) clients. So far, so good...

inedion
inedion

Hi I liked this article - Thanks for writing it. I actually work as a software/database support analyst and am constantly trying to build on my skills as well as earn more money -can you elaborate more on the DB consulting section thanks Ighi

dalestockstill
dalestockstill

I am a self taught tech. Do you folks think I could sell my services? Dale

Richard.gless
Richard.gless

Contracting work is scam to all working force. All contracting firms charge at least double the amount they pay to the contracted person. Is true the subcontractor needs to make money but is not fair to slave techs and pay as low as they can. I seen Manpower, SIS, Robert Half Technology, Kfoce and others. They charge the company for your service Helpdesk $35 to $40 an hour and pay 15 to 21 max. Desktop Support 40 to 55 and pay 17 to 25 max DB admin 50 to 100 and pay 20 to 45 max. They should be stop from become rich from other people jobs That is monopoly and is illegal but those companies are owned by politicians and multimillionaires.

The Horse
The Horse

Try www.fieldsolutions.com ... They're a pretty solid outfit. I was able to go in and get free DCSE testing with Dell, and other training. Good for occasional extra work in your area, via bidding, etc. I like'm.

Guitockey
Guitockey

...whether it's wired or wireless, all these devices need some way to "talk" to each other. Supplementing income by going back to basics and doing "cable dog" work is always going to be pretty solid. Knowing how to run and terminate voice and data copper, coax, and fiber cable, interface to a commercial network, install and configure wireless access points, and other physical-layer needs can be profitable. It's not always clean (you may have to make friends with Boris the Spider under a house while running a phone line), but it will always be necessary.

jeffhbell
jeffhbell

This is an interesting post. I would have liked to see more details. (2: National account work) This section really needed to list more potential national service companies.

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

Out the door is gone forever.Protect your idea.

Rhinofart
Rhinofart

I have been doing this for about 2 years now. I'm employed full time as an I.T. Manager, and on the evenings and weekends, I'm a mobile DJ for weddings, Social Gatherings, School Dances, etc. It's close to the point where, I'm about ready to drop I.T. all together, and concentrate on the entertainment portion of things. Soooo little stress, and a heck of a good time everytime I go do a gig.

rony
rony

The answer is yes. I am in the same boat, although over the years I have finished my degree and taken advantage of any training I could find. I found a user group and networked that way to find a guy who also was consulting. He brought me on because he thought I was good with people. That is the important thing...the people. If you lose sight of that, they don't ask you back. I mentioned that I may be giving up the extra work to one of my clients and he asked if I thought to raise my rates to thin out the business indicating that he would pay any price to keep me. They have a tech consulting business right across the parking lot, but will not use them.

gas
gas

Richard, I have started a company that allows knowledge people like yourself keep their independence but still benefit from the association with a recognizable brand that does all of the non-productive work mentioned in this discussion for you. Would you mind sharing some thoughts with me? Here is my email address. Regards, Gregg

kmoore
kmoore

that Cal. is sinking into the pit of financial doom. Does anyone in your state understand the free market? Maybe not. That may be why you are bankrupt. I, too, have been a contractor with some of the companies you listed. They did all of the things that I cannot do - marketing, sales, financial arrangments. It was a win-win-win deal for me, them, and the customer. And, I was paid quite well. Ken

Bad Boys Drive Audi
Bad Boys Drive Audi

Let's go through the benefits the subcontractor/employee of general contractor is getting in this relationship: 1. The general contractor is responsible for securing work. They line up all the projects for you while you simply focus in on the work. I believe you don't fully appreciate the value in this. When you're spending time marketing yourself (cold calling, following up, etc) to generate business, that's time that you're not billing anyone (billable hours) - hence not generating income. It's nice to be able to roll off one project and move right on to the next. 2. Marketing/Public Relations is handled for you. Many times - especially when you're in the infancy of your career - most companies wouldn't give you the time of day. Working under the proxy of a large consulting firm gives you more credibility than if you were going it on your own. 3. Backoffice related items (invoicing, collection of accounts receivable, etc.) are handled for you. Again, those are hours where you aren't doing any billable work. It's also nice to have staff trained to handle those items. That staff has to be paid. 4. Experience. Quite simply, you have the ability to gather a vast amount of experience with different projects for different clients. Again, when you're in the infancy of your career, this is valuable and should be considered as part of the tradeoff with respect to the difference in salary. Imagine being able to experience all sorts of projects in order to decide what you like best, what you do best, where you want to focus, and not being pigeon-holed. 5. Future benefits. When you become a good consultant, there are always offers from clients where they'll want to retain you through the general contractor or even bring you in as an employee because they value your work. This can be used to your advantage. Each of those items have a certain amount of value tied to it that goes into justifying the difference in what a general contractor charges and what they pay their employees/subcontractors. The rest is composed of them taking a cut for profit to compensate themselves for taking the risks of entering into an agreement such as this. Why would they do it if they couldn't earn any money in the deal?

rony
rony

Hey, somebody has to make contact with the companies, cover liability, and find a tech. I subcontracted to a guy for years while I kept a full time job. He followed leads, billed the customer, took their calls, and I did most of the work for half to two-thirds the money that he billed. In the process, I got experience, paid my bills and vacationed on the money he paid me. In the beginning, nobody would have trusted me with the work that he gave me the opportunity to do. I own the business now! It has paid off nicely!

rafaelapolinario
rafaelapolinario

With our latest global economic financial crunch that we are facing everybody else wants to know some ways how to make an extra income.

Blau67
Blau67

There's always... "Male Prostitute"....the second oldest profession in the world! Talk about 'client services'!! I did not forget about you ladies in the IT field but I just did not want to offend or get a flame started! But, seriously(another of the 10 most irritating phrases), the medical field is booming! Teching for anything to do with Hospitals, Doctors & their practices, Drugs etc.. is hot right now!! Get busy reading and go for it!! Good Luck,, Blau

nick
nick

Or other body part that you have 2 of. Donate sperm. Take part in (paid) medical experiments. Advertise home handyman services. Got a lawnmower? Advertise lawnmowing services. Stop fixing your friends PC's for free and ask for an hourly or per job fee. Ok some of those are tongue in cheek but there are still lots of opportunities rather than sitting at home and hoping for a job to walk through the door. I agree with the author and others, you have to forget that you are a highly paid expert and generate what you can. 5 months ago I was a highly paid IT Manager, today I am writing purchase orders. I don't enjoy it but the money is still rolling in, albeit not as fast as it was last year.

Snuffy09
Snuffy09

why not put your name on craigslist or newspaper? Offer your PC Services. Thats what I have done. Its a good way to pick up extra cash on weekends or idle evenings. If its only a part-time thing you can really save a customer high consultant prices.

Bad Boys Drive Audi
Bad Boys Drive Audi

I completely agree. I also think it's nice that you have a general contractor willing to teach you the ropes of business. In essense, what he told you was that at the rate you were charging, he could farm you out on a number of projects, but if your rates were higher, that project list would get smaller (as some clients couldn't afford you as a resource). I'm sure he'd offer to pay you any price you want, just as long as (a) he could bill a client and recoup the costs while (b) still maintaining a sufficient profit for himself. He is responsible after all for taking care of finding business, invoicing the client, collecting the accts receivable and other administrative tasks. What would help you determine what number to give him is if you knew if (a) he charged a flat-rate price or had one established pricing structure that was offered to all clients and (b) what were the numbers of the pricing structure. I'd bet he has an established structure that he offers to everyone and then adjusts/negotiates the pricing structure up/down as needed for specific clients.

camainc
camainc

I would add that unless the subcontractor is 1099 (self-employed) then the general contractor has to pay -- unemployment taxes -- social security taxes (the other 7.5%) -- insurance (liability, etc.) -- employee benefits costs (including eating those holidays and vacation days) -- facilities overhead (rent, phone lines, property insurance, etc.) -- Lots of other misc stuff In short, it costs a lot of money to be a general contractor. They aren't getting 100% of your mark-up.

john.funk
john.funk

Something I do to make extra money is ref. I'm a high school soccer ref here in South Carolina. I enjoy it because it gives me exercise, and keeps me close to a sport that I love. Plus it always helps to have a little extra $. Yeah, I'm sorry, this has nothing to do w/ your tech skills, but if you are really financially strapped, sometimes thinking outside the box can help you generate some added income.

pworlton
pworlton

Me, as a male prostitute, would be a losing proposition because I'd have to pay the client...

RFink
RFink

I agree. I just started a new job on March 9th. During my layoff I reffed anything I could get my hands on (Volleyball and basketball). The extra income was a life saver.

dryflies
dryflies

Except I do softball, Baseball and ValleyBall. It keeps me busy, and with all of the flex hours I earn from off hours maintenance it is easy to take off an hour early to go call a game

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