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Income estimates: Home Based PC Support

By waybrig ·
I read the entire excellent thread on starting a PC Support Business. The one thing I didn't see covered was what sort of income one could realistically expect from such an operation. I'm trying to convince my wife that this is something worth investigating, but without any idea of how much money I could make, it's an uphill battle.

I know this is extremely dependant on the specific situation, so here goes: We will be living in an area of about 500,000 people within easy driving distance. The population is highly educated, one of the top 5 technical industrial parks in the nation is nearby.

The clientele I would focus on would be home users, home businesses, and small offices.

Assuming I steadily but slowly build a client base over the course of two years, where could I expect to be at that time? I know the first few years will be tough but if the payoff is there it will be worth it.

I would really appreciate any sort of ballpark figures. If anybody would prefer emailing me privately instead of posting this info, you can reach me here: waybrig@yahoo.com

Thanks!
Brad Waybright

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by TomSal In reply to Income estimates: Home Ba ...

"We will be living in an area of about 500,000 people within easy driving distance. The population is highly educated, one of the top 5 technical industrial parks in the nation is nearby."

Um...pardon any moronic tone to this question but..if you are in such a highly educated area, that is one of the top 5 technical industrial parks in the nation....doesn't logic suggest that a home PC support busines might not be that well needed in such an area?

I mean I for one, as most of us in IT, we service and fix our own technology problems/equipment.

I think the better type of client for a support business are those that are LESS educated/knowledgable with technology (ie. Like people who use AOL for their ISP..LOL)

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Education <> computer savvy

by gralfus In reply to

There are hundreds of highly educated people that I support that are not very computer savvy at all. Some have multiple PhDs but have never dealt with computers outside of a laboratory.

The other issues of running such a business have recently been discussed, such as liability for losing data, having a contract reviewed by a lawyer, where the work will be done (your place or theirs), getting people to actually pay the bill, etc.

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Exactly

by waybrig In reply to Education <> computer sav ...

Gralfus: I totally agree. I currently work in an IT organization and at first I was amazed by how many programmers, network experts, etc... were pretty clueless about PC operations. It kind of makes sense the more you think about it though. These positions are becoming so specialized that PC knowledge isn't really required. Unless they work on PC's as a hobby at home, even IT people often need help with general PC operation.

Now, what about income estimates. Somebody......please!

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Perhaps...

by TomSal In reply to Exactly

Perhaps you are right, after some more thought...I can see another factor too -- if you are IT all day long, maybe you don't want to be bothered at NIGHT with your own stuff at home.

As for income that's a tough one -- but I'd do research into your regional area..see what the market will bare. Look up what established companies are charging for similar services, for instance if there is a Best Buy near you -- get a price list for their tech support services, or the prices of local shops..and where ever possible get a full description of what the services include. For example there's a place near me that on their pricing brochure they have a one paragraph description of all you get for that price/service. Including any warrany protection if applicable.

This way you can throw all this research together to find the "average cost", then you have tweak it to what YOU will offer (you offering any MORE or any LESS than these shops you collected pricing from? You offer things "they" don't offer? What about refund/warranty terms on your work or products you sell? Make sure your price includes all these considerations).

Also be prepared to offer discounted pricing at least in the beginning to catch clients (and hopefully steal them from your competition) so don't get too discouraged if you don't turn a profit for a while....many businesses count it a blessing to just break even after a full year.

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Too many variables

by JamesRL In reply to Exactly

There are too many variables to make a guess at your income.

Are you a good self marketer? Is your area saturated with people doing the same thing? Do you have some potentials lined up? Do you have a special skill you could market?

I agree with the poster who mentioned the challenges with a large number of small clients - they often don't pay on time, and chasing them to pay is time consumning. They also like to argue the bill, ask questions out of left field and other time eaters. I have been out of that kind of business since 91, but that posting brought back memories.

I used to partner up with a couple of complimentary consultants - I did all the hardware buying, fixed PCs, sold PCs. Another partner did networking -setting up servers and cabling etc. The third partner did databases - he would create them, set up dial in access and then do custom reports for people over the phone. There was some overlap so we could back each other up when needed. But together we were stronger than we were individually. I could bill $75 an hour for about 30 hours a week, and would spend about 10 - 15 hours a week on non-billables.


James

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Thanks

by waybrig In reply to Too many variables

Thanks James, I know it's impossible to make a prediction of how well somebody can do in their own business. I guess I should have asked the question more like "what sort of rates/billable hours have you seen in your businesses?". You seemed to answer that question, which is a help and the sort of info I'm looking for.

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Good Clients :>

by admin In reply to

"I think the better type of client for a support business are those that are LESS educated/knowledgable with technology (ie. Like people who use AOL for their ISP..LOL)"

Yes, but boy is it more fun to work for the businesses that understand what you do a little more and don't balk at a retainer!

Seems like that AOL crowd can have incredibly unreasonable expectations and sometimes checks that don't clear to boot! LoL :)

Definately takes time to build up a good clientle though... and it is cool to help people be successful with computers.

I live in a tech area to some extent, and I know the last thing many engineers want to do is work on their (or especially their spouses) home computer. The admins might do it themselves, but some people would rather be boating. :)

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I wish I could be of more help

by admin In reply to Income estimates: Home Ba ...

but the honest answer from me would have to be: It Depends.

It really depends a lot on your skill level and marketing ability IMO. To me the ideal is to have several (less than a dozen) clients on retainer in medium to large businesses. The going rates for knowledgable independant network people is from $60 to $125 an hour. The market is a bit flooded though, and many of those, including myself, rely on a primary employer for benefits and stable income. I know a number of people that have a cut of their consulting fee going to their primary employer even.

Contrast that with people who advertise locally at $25 to fix ANY PC problem, or there are a number of people charging $10 an hour. These are the people going after home PC users, and I started doing this some years back, found it difficult to get steady income and working a lot of extra hours just to get people to actually pay me. I moved on to small medical offices, which I found more realistic and better at paying me regularly. I also started to actually make 25-35$ and hour instead of the 2-8$ an hour I would end up making after all the extra time driving and dealing with people who all wanted a "break" or couldn't pay that month or bounced a check etc. Personally, after getting small business clients I never looked back. An understanding of HIPAA is essential for the medical crowd though, and looking back I should of charged more to start, I had way to many clients, and when you are charging on the cheap side you tend to not get the best clients, but it does get the word out and is a good starting point.

A specialty like CNC or Medical or Custom DataBases etc. helps a lot in my opinion.

The thing that is making it extra hard to give you any idea is what your skill level, experience, and training are. If you have a ton of certs and 10 years in a specialized area that is available there, you should be able to make a good living with average marketing\accounting skills or even hiring out for these. If you are A+ certified and have a working knowledge of how to do things in Network Neighborhood mainly then the going rate here will be about $25.00 per incident or 10.00$ an hour here. A good way to find out how much you could make in your area for home users is to hit up the bench repair guys in your area. Ask them how much their rates are over the phone to repair something, hourly and\or flat fee. Then go in and talk to them about being a bench tech. Here a shop that charges about $65 an hour starts their techs at about $7.00 an hour. You will find as you go in business for yourself that there are costs that make this not as unreasonable as it first appears.

I hope that is helpful. :)

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Thanks

by waybrig In reply to I wish I could be of more ...

All of what you said makes sense. My question probably should have been phrased: "For those of you running a home based PC support business, what sort of hourly rates and billable hours are typical?" That would give me an idea of probably the best I can expect which would be a help.

To answer your question about experience, etc... I've been working in PC Support for seven years. The last 3 have involved setting up a regional Help Desk which now covers 7 states and ~4000 users. This isn't your "ticket taking" help desk however. We solve ~80% of the problems directly on the phone. I'm used to constantly figuring out more efficient, cheaper ways to support users.

If I jumped into this I would spend the slow times early on brushing up on my networking skills and certifications to attract more small businesses.

From my experience dealing with all sorts of service providers, it seems really rare to find somebody who is competent, has the ability to listen, follows through, and (in the tech field)is able to speak English to non-technical people.

I feel like somebody able to do all those things will always be in demand regardless of how many others are offering the same service.

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Area plus your mindset make the key.

by saphil In reply to Thanks

I am in a metro area with a million people within 20 minutes of my office. In the area closest to me the median income is $100,000 or more. I am a network engineer who does support as well. My hourly charge is $125.00. This is at the high end of the spectrum nationally speaking, but is not the highest.

People will pay what they think you are worth. If your marketing and appearance are not of the highest quality, they will not care what your skill level is. You can bank on this. Market your services as if you were a star lawyer, and the response will be gratifying. If you charge $25.00 to fix ANYTHING, not only will you go broke slowly, you portray an image of a cheapie service. You studied and worked for years to get your knowledge. The reason why I charge more is that the $25 per hour guy might well take over 5 times as long to fix the problem, if they can fix it at all. I can guarantee I won't make matters worse, and the $25 per hour guy can't. If you have a self-image of the guy who isn't worth $50 per hour, you are billing yourself as less skilled than the guy working in CompUSA, who is probably billing at around $80 per hour. They don't pay him that much, but they use the rest to pay for infrastructure. You as a self-employed person, have infrastructure as well.

Good luck!
Wolf Halton

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