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The start of my adventure!!

Discussion in 'Employment & Jobs' started by paulwatson5, Feb 22, 2011.

  1. paulwatson5

    paulwatson5 Byte Poster

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    Hello guys, im pretty new here so gonna give you a brief rundown.

    I work for a government department in Newcastle which 12 months ago hit a wall and we were told we were going to be re-deployed. This would affect 500 people in the building but there was 20 "secure" jobs avaliable. Applied and got one but some 10 months later they have now offered voulentary redundancy. I have been there for 8 years and would get a nice sum if i left, but i have a wife and 10 month old son to support so despite the nice cash offer i dont want to take it, until they push me out with compulsary which will happen in about a year if the rumours are anything to go by!!

    So, im 28 and have NO certs but i have just started the MCDST this week. I also have NO previous expereince job wise in IT apart from the stuff i do at home which is building, upgrading, fixing etc and some local work in a few schools etc.

    Just last week i decided that im going to register myself a little business, setup a website and run an computer repair/IT support business on the side on my full time employemnt.

    I'm still hoping to get certs etc and get a full time job in IT, but while im studying etc, im hoping to gain expereince from running this business.

    Anyway, i have just registered by domain name today but have not yet registered as a sole trader as i am not currently setup to trade at the minute.

    Here's hoping the business takes off, it counts towards expereince for future IT roles i apply for and that i get a nice cash lumper in 12 months when im pushed!!
     
    Certifications: CompTIA A+ (220-701 & 220-702)
    WIP: CompTIA Network +
  2. Monkeychops

    Monkeychops Kilobyte Poster

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    All I'd say is with no previous business experience of IT please do not bite off more than you can chew, stick to the simple stuff you know about.

    This kind of work can be a minefield, make sure your pricing etc is adequate and clear to customers, there are loads of other things to think about too so make sure you cover everything.

    And make sure you get your liability insurance sorted out, could be a lifesaver ;)
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2011
  3. paulwatson5

    paulwatson5 Byte Poster

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    Yup, done a LOT of research on it before deciding to take the plunge!!
    I know how to work out my tax, national insurace class 2 and 4, getting some quotes for public liability insurance too. Registered my domain name today but think its going to be about 3-4 months before i start trading as i want to concentrate on MCDST first.

    I have been fixing friends and friends of friends pc's for about 4-5 years now and sick of people saying "ohh you should do this as your main job"

    I'm not dumb enough to think i can have this as my main job, but would be nice to have a little sideline incase the full time job goes tits up and it takes a while to find new employment.
     
    Certifications: CompTIA A+ (220-701 & 220-702)
    WIP: CompTIA Network +
  4. cosway

    cosway Nibble Poster

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    Hello

    I did this in-between jobs, and this is how I started off it ICT support (before that I was a web / apps developer). I made a lot of mistakes when I was first starting out, I never got the recipe spot on but started with nothing and ended up with my own shop and a few employees before I packed it in, this is what I learned....

    Marketing/Advertising

    Business cards cost less than a flyer (even if you print the flyer off yourself), people keep business cards, and throw a flyer. Get about 1000 business cards printed up and spend the day on a new-build housing estate slipping them though letter boxes and generally being friendly to anyone you meet.

    Why a new-build hosing estate?

    The people who live there generally have 3 things in common...

    1. They didn't grow up there so may not know the area to well, and don’t have a close at hand friend/family member who can repair their PC.
    2. They are time poor and have disposable income - ie work long hours and have money to spend.
    3. They are typically 25-40 years old, and are facebook monsters, if their PC goes down they'll pay to get it back up, facebook is their life, its how they stay in touch with their friends and family. Make a point about this on your business cards.

    Spend some time on vista print, you can get some great experimental marketing material on short runs for next to nothing. Also get a facebook page for your business.

    Dealing with customers

    The main thing to remember is that if anything ever goes wrong with their PC once you fixed it, then it’s your fault. You may have only repaired a faulty PSU, but as soon as that pound land game they bought is running slower than it did before it’s your fault, and you’ll have to fix it for free. So make it clear what the issue is and what the repair will do, before you start, offer a discount on a service to check for viruses/spyware whilst you are carrying out the repair (PC world cost £70 – charge an extra £20 or similar, then install AVG or SPYBOT both are free so won’t cost you or your customer anything).

    Get a duplicate book for receipts, and write down the serial numbers of any components you supply (the most unlikely people turn out to be dishonest).

    Get 2 PAYG mobiles, keep one for your office hours and use this number in all marketing, keep the other for any special customers who need (and pay for) a 24hr bat phone, that way at the end of the day you can turn your phone off and let the answer machine take the calls.

    Presentation

    Your reputation is your biggest asset, if you’ve got a good enough reputation customer will find you, if you get a bad one, customers will avoid you…

    Look the part – this is very important get a couple of polo shirts made up with your logo on it, or wear a shirt and tie (don’t wear a t-shirt with a clever or vulgar slogan, you don’t know who you’ll meet today), keep your shoes clean and don’t wear trainers. You many know your stuff but if you look like your about to rob them or have been sleeping rough, you wont get any recommendations, also leave about 10 business cards with every customer and invite them to pass on to friends/family.

    Always carry a can of air in your tool box, whenever you open a PC give it a blast of air and explain the importance of regular maintenance, recommend a service (PC World Price - £70) once a year , when the customer sees the dust they’ll book you in for a service every year. Get some small labels printed up (return address labels from vistaprint are great for this) with your contact details and a space for the date, then stick them to the side of the PC when you’ve done a job, it allows you to see if you’ve repaired a PC before, and gives the customer your contact details (useful for the annual service business).

    Keep your car clean and tidy, it doesn’t have to be new or sign written, but not covered in dirt, stickers or last month’s take-a-way wrappers. You car is your final impression, it’s the last time most customers will see you (as you leave) and how they will remember you (I used to drive a distinct black MGF 2 seat convertible, all sign written, not too good for carrying PCs but got me noticed and remembered).

    On-site Repair or take-a-way?

    Keep a couple of old PCs in your car, you can use them for diagnostics (swapping parts out) or leave one with a customer whilst you take theirs away for repair, you can spend a whole evening in a person’s house looking like a fool and getting in the way or work on a few PCs at the same time back home (and have the internet to check forums).

    About 80% of all issues where virus/spyware related, 15% where PSU failures, about 4% where HDD failures and the rest where a mixture. So keep a few PSUs in your car. Laptops are a whole different kettle of fish after the virus/spyware came cracked screens (where someone closes the laptop with a pen or similar on the keyboard) – these are write offs, unless you can get a 2nd hand screen of ebay then a screen will cost about £150 and take a few weeks for delivery, buy the time you get the correct one the customer would have changed their mind or bought a new laptop, the next issue with laptops is the PSU charger connector has come loose from the MOBO (you can usually solder this back on).

    Troublesome customers who wont leave you alone

    And finally keep this nugget for those know-it-all customers who think you are their personal PC slave

    :twisted: “There are a lot of virus that have infected your PC, I checked your intenet history to see how you became infected, and your computer has been accessing a lot of disturbing adult websites, I also found a lot of disturbing and possibly illegal photos on your hard-drive, they may have something to do with the virus, so I’ve removed all these, and installed some antivirus software. Do you know if anyone has been using your PC whilst you are out? As long as your PC is not exposed to such websites you should be fine, but if you do become re-infected I can send your HDD off to a computer forensics lab and that should help you get to the bottom of the infections”. :twisted:

    They’ll never call you again.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2011
    Certifications: MCDST, MCSA, A+
    WIP: MCSE
  5. Mariusz

    Mariusz Byte Poster

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    cosway - why did you shut the shop/service?
    I was thinking about a shop, but I am afraid
    in town 85.000 people there are about 5 shops plus PC World/Currys and similar "bargain" markets. I was thinking about a shop for a year, but am afraid to loose my savings. Rent for small shop close to town centre costs about 10k a year, and there are much more spendings. to be competitive on market I'd have to sell 1 pc a day.
    any advices? is it worth?
     
    Certifications: ECDL Extra, ITQ Lvl2, CompTIA A+, N+, S+
    WIP: MCTS 70-680 Win7
  6. alexdc12

    alexdc12 Kilobyte Poster

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    EXCELLENT! Very imformative post +rep for you my man! this will help me a lot!
     
    Certifications: GNVQ Advanced IT, CompTIA A+, CompTIA N+, 70-680
    WIP: 70-685, ITIL v3 Foundation
  7. cosway

    cosway Nibble Poster

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    Hi Mariusz – I gave up the shop and business mainly because it was difficult to find good techs, I would spend 6 months training them up and they would leave and set up on their own, or get a job on a service desk. Also the forms, and cost of employing someone is ridiculous (I was paying 3 techs £15k each and paying another £20k in NI, Employers Liability, etc...).

    I stopped replacing techs as they left and for a while it worked out great (it was quicker for me to do the repair than train someone to do it) but I was working late into the night and turning away work.

    One evening I was in the shop on my own and a job came in, I locked up the shop and went, when I came back the shop had been burgled. I lost over £30k worth of stock, I couldn’t afford to replace the stock and I couldn’t borrow the money to replace the stock, so my cash flow dried up and I started falling behind with my rent and rates, after a few months the insurance offered £10k, which allowed me to settle all my rent and rate arrears, so rather than start again I gave up and took a job for my local council working 2nd line support.

    You can't run a shop on your own, and the cost of employing someone is ridiculous (if you can find someone suitable).
     
    Certifications: MCDST, MCSA, A+
    WIP: MCSE
  8. Mariusz

    Mariusz Byte Poster

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    any suggestions about starting costs and potential profits? any more advices, situations etc?
    what other services would you recommend?
    I keep thinking about it, but still afraid. If I fail then my few years savings are gone.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2011
    Certifications: ECDL Extra, ITQ Lvl2, CompTIA A+, N+, S+
    WIP: MCTS 70-680 Win7
  9. paulwatson5

    paulwatson5 Byte Poster

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    cosway........

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Your post was amazing and has gave me so many tips on what to do and what not to do, for this im very grateful.

    The idea on business cards instead of flyers is great and makes perfect sense though something i would never have thought.

    Also the stickers for pc's so they know who fixed it and know your number etc, VERY nice!!!

    I already have my name which i think is a good name, im based in Newcastle in the north east and the business name is "Northern IT" with my website www.northernit.co.uk.

    Got my bank account setup and a few accounts spreadsheets etc, skype name is northernit also, if anyone feel's the need to add. :)

    Going to spend some time on vista print to see how much business cards etc are..

    Thanks again, you have all been a massive help!!

    Ohhhh, and jujst got an old nokia phone for a PAYG mobile for the business. IDEAL
     
    Certifications: CompTIA A+ (220-701 & 220-702)
    WIP: CompTIA Network +
  10. cosway

    cosway Nibble Poster

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    Mariuaz - I would avoid setting up a shop again, but if you feel you want to here’s a few tips.

    Clearly I didn’t do it right (or I’d be rich and still have a shop right now) so don’t take this advice as the best you can get, this is just what I learned whilst I was doing it.

    Stock up on some Epson printers and compatible inks, when your customers see the price of the compatibles they’ll usually buy the printer of you and throw their Lexmark away. I used to do a deal where you pay £X for printer + 5 sets of ink.

    When you source your stock don’t use the cheapest, you don’t want to spend all day or evening comparing prices and specs, find 2 or 3 reliable reasonable suppliers and stick with them. I remember buying a load of stock from a traveling sales rep, it seemed too good to be true and it was – it turned out to have fallen of the back of a lorry, I handed it over to the police and lost the stock and payment.

    Ink cartridge refill
    Make it clear that using the refill service will void their printers guarantee, and it may cause damage to printer/carpet, etc…, if they still want their cartridges re-filled then do it. Stock up on bulk ink, syringes and plugs (I had a chip re-setter also). This was actually a good income provider, you can charge quite a lot for very little ink. If you do this you will get someone who comes back saying you ruined their printer, you can usually pacify them by taking their old printer in part ex for a new Epson deal (you’ll still make money on the deal). You can also stock the DIY kits and sell these for £10.

    Photo on a mug/t-shirt etc..
    Get a sublime package and away you go, a mug costs about £1.50 to produce and sell for £10 in tesco, you charge £6-8. T-shirts the same, you can also offer photo restoration and digital photo printing, you can even set up a PC for customers to use themselves.

    Cyber Café
    If you have the space set up 5-10 PCs as a cyber café, you can run course on using the internet/photoshop/ebay during the evening.

    Consumables
    USB Cables – these are like rocking horse manure, you can sell them for £2 - £5 and if you buy them in bulk they only cost 20p or so.

    Photo paper – again Tesco charge £10 per pack for Kodak, look at mid range brands such as phoenix, these only cost you about £1 for 100 sheet pack, sell for about £5-£6. Open a pack and invite customers to take a sheet home and compare a print off.

    Memory sticks – buy a few good quality usb sticks, and a few cheap usb sticks, people will come to you expecting you to be cheaper than PC world, or to have better quality items, either way you can accommodate.

    Mice – No idea why but people just keep buying mice (I think if their computer is running out of ram and has no dedicated graphics card the phenomena of slow mouse response makes them think their mouse is failing).

    Mouse mats – again with optical mice there are no need for these, but get some nasty photo mouse mats (kittens, puppies, meerkats, dolphins, etc…) people will pay £2-£4 each, again they only cost a few pence.

    CDR-S/DVD-Rs/Cases, etc… - Boxes and boxes of these, people will want to buy those 100 at a time, you won’t make much money, but whilst they are in your shop they may buy something else.

    Antivirus Software
    Forget buying them in, take some cheap USB sticks, copy AVG/SPYBOT setup files to them and sell them for £10 or so. Your selling the USB stick not the program, the program is free. Make that clear. And keep a nice display of them (a basket on the counter is a good place to display them).

    Hardware
    Keep a small selection of RAM/HDDS/Power Supplies/Cases/MOBOS/Processors, etc.. basicly stuff you will use in your repair business, don’t buy too much stock, you’ll be left out of pocket when the price crashes in a few months. Offer a free installation service to cut down on people buying the wrong ram (and damaging it via ESD and asking for a replacement).

    Computer Systems
    I went down the line of laptops and PCs, don’t carry too much stock, keep a display model, and one or two in stock, and order as needed, stock up around November/December on laptops, an advertise them as being ready to go (already set up for you on collection). You can even offer a home setup service for desktop PCs.

    As for costs.
    I was paying about £450per week rent in the town centre and about the same in rates. But you need to make sure that customers can park outside your shop, they can park outside PC world for free, so why would they pay to park in town car park, walk to your shop just on the off chance that you will have what they want. The further out of town you go the cheaper the rates/rent. If your town has an indoor market beg the manager for a stall, typically they cost about £50 per week and are rate free (no council rates), a similar shop on the same street would cost you £1000+ per week.

    You should be prepared to spend about £5k on initial stock; I spent £8k, but was starting from scratch, start building up your stock of components from your repair business before you get a shop.
    Try and get your wife/husband/partner to run the shop with you, if you are both working weekends in the shop then no one is left home alone.
     
    Certifications: MCDST, MCSA, A+
    WIP: MCSE
  11. cosway

    cosway Nibble Poster

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    Glad I could help, Like I said though I didn't quite get it spot on, so you'll need to take parts of what I did and add it to your own model.


    ...One other item of stock - if your shop is near a school, get some pens (biros/gel pens/mechanical pencils) and stationary. I have no idea why but kids just love to buy pens, hundreds of them every week. :blink
     
    Certifications: MCDST, MCSA, A+
    WIP: MCSE
  12. Mariusz

    Mariusz Byte Poster

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    one more thing:
    I was looking for good parts suppliers in the past, as I was thinking about ebay sales before. how can I find cheaper supplier than ebuyer.com ?I was googling and couldn't find anywhere cheaper
     
    Certifications: ECDL Extra, ITQ Lvl2, CompTIA A+, N+, S+
    WIP: MCTS 70-680 Win7
  13. cosway

    cosway Nibble Poster

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    Cheaper isn't always best, look for someone who is reliable, its no good telling your customers you are waiting for stock, or spending all evening on the PC sourcing suppliers. I found dabs to be good, but initially made the mistake of sourcing from different suppliers / end of lines / bankrupt stock clearances , I would spend all evening on the net, then have to take a day off to go and pick the stock up. (valuable lesson - I got my first introduction to thin client workstations, when a pallet load turned up, I thought I had bought bargain PCs - big difference, and still have some in my attic, mocking me every time I go up there to get the Christmas tree down).

    For suppliers of consumables, go to some local computer shops see what they are selling, note down the brands and Google them, you'll usually dig up a wholesale supplier or two.

    Think of your business as a machine, if its running smooth you can easily make it run faster (expand), if you have to constantly mess about to keep it running, one day it will stop all together. Also don’t fall into the trap of buying yourself a job; if you just want to be a tech guy, get a job as one, if you want to run a business, you can’t spend all day on the shop floor.
     
    Certifications: MCDST, MCSA, A+
    WIP: MCSE
  14. Mariusz

    Mariusz Byte Poster

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    very good informations. Once I did simple businessplan, counting me as only working person (I know it is impossible, but it was estimated for the beggining of business), I counted rent, taxes, power, water, internet bills and to pay all of it and earn 15k a year after tax (wouldn't bother doing it for less), with 20% on top of buying prices and If I had to sell only computers it showed me I'd have to sell 400 computers each worth 400 quid a year - is it possible?
    I know there are much more things to be sold like spare parts, small things like mouse pads, cds, fixing computers etc, but still would be about 200 ready pcs to sale - correct me if I'm wrong - is it possible?
     
    Certifications: ECDL Extra, ITQ Lvl2, CompTIA A+, N+, S+
    WIP: MCTS 70-680 Win7

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