How should I start Computer Repair/IT Support business from home?

By KoAiren ·
I am a recent college grad that has experience working as a lab tech at my former college, along with years of experience building and repairing computers. I am also in the process of my CompTIA A+ and N+ certification. Since I'm having a hard time finding work a lot of people suggested to me to start a simple computer repair or maintenance business from home. I would love some advice about this.

Do I need a business licenses? What type of paper work should I prepare? How should I arrange the invoice and what to include? Should i include my apartment address or will that be unprofessional? Is it better to make home visit or have people drop their computers of? What legal issues should I watch out for? etc.

Thank you for your time.

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Some advice

by gechurch In reply to How should I start Comput ...

You're lucky that there's a low barrier of entry to this sort of gig. My main advice is not to worry about the details too much yet. Get the core things you need in place and make a start, and if you start to build up some business then it will be obvious which steps you need to take next because they will start limiting you or consuming too much of your time.

I recommend:
* Getting a phone number dedicated for business use. A mobile is fine, or you can get a cheap VoIP number if you prefer. This number you'll want to keep for the lifetime of the business.
* Buy a domain name and get a business email address set up. Office 365 or Google are good options that won't cost much.
* Get some decent-quality business cards printed. I'd avoid the physical address if possible (since if you go well it will change, and you don't want lots of business cards out there with the wrong address. I also think it looks a bit unprofessional, but when you are starting people will come to you either because they know you or because you are cheaper than the competition. I don't think either group of people would be too concerned about you working out of your home). If you're having people drop off their computer to you then you'll have to include it. You may consider offering a cheap callout fee initially to get around this issue. For bigger problems it can be you that takes the computer back to your apartment.
* Consider getting some large magnets printed up for the side of your car listing your phone number and what you do.
* Don't spend much (either time or money) on invoice templates, or job tracking software etc at this stage. You could try making your own basic Excel templates, but I recommend finding a cheap or free bit of software to manage job tracking and invoicing for you. There's no point in re-inventing the wheel. Check out Shockey Monkey first (a free, cloud-based solution). If that doesn't suit you could try Easy Time Tracking (a Windows app, about $100 from memory). You'll definitely outgrow the latter, and possibly the former, if you succeed but the key point is either one will get you up and running quickly, allowing you to spend time fixing computers rather than working out admin stuff.

I'm likely not from the same country as you, and don't know a lot about paperwork etc anyway. Definitely get yourself an accountant. He will be able to help you out on what you need to do, and also advise on things you'll want to know about tax breaks etc that you will be eligible for by running your business from home.

On a practical level, make sure you have basic parts on hand for trouble-shooting. At minimum have a stick or two of RAM, a decent power supply, and a hard drive or two (for replacing faulty ones, and also for cloning drives to before you format and reinstall).

Re rates, don't fall into the trap of trying to be too cheap. People won't respect your time if you do, and you won't make enough money to be worth it. By all means use price to differentiate yourself from established businesses. Just make sure you are 67%-80% of the market rate, not 33% - 50% of it.

Finally from me, here are some things I wouldn't worry about doing initially:
* Liability insurance. I don't know anyone that has ever needed to call upon it.
* A web site. I'm sure a lot of people will disagree, but I have found clients will find you either by referral or some local advertising (poster in local store etc). Get your business on Facebook though. And if you decide you must have a web site start out with a template system like Wix.
* Promoting image (eg. coming up with a logo). By all means find a free stock logo to use, but don't spend time yet on designing one. This can take heaps of time and really doesn't gain you anything at all.

Note I'm not saying you won't ever need these things. Down the track you will want most or all of them, but I would wait until your business is off the ground and you have made some income before spending time or money on these items.

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