Monday, February 27, 2017

You Can Do IT! How to Start an IT Support Business

There are number of people out there who are astonishingly good with computers. This is true of all generations, though everyone seems to assume that this is something that’s almost unique to younger generations. A lot of these people end up helping friends with their computers when something goes wrong. They may even be the unofficial ‘go to’ person when there are IT problems at the office!

If you’re one of those people, then perhaps you should be thinking about starting up an IT support business. Maybe you want to start an agency. Maybe you want to be a freelance contractor working directly for clients. Whatever the case, there is always demand for this kind of support.

We’re in a time where startups ensure they’re working with loads of computers, but don’t always have the means to have a full-time (or even a part-time) IT support employee on deck. This is partly why IT consultancies are doing such good business these days. Of course, you can’t just set up a website, call yourself an IT contractor, and expect business to start flooding in. You’ve got to take the right approach to this kind of endeavour!

If you’re at all interested in pursuing this path, then this guide is for you.

Research your market

The chances are that there are already quite a lot of IT services in your area. Seriously, they’re everywhere these days. So you need to ensure that what you’re bringing to the table is something that the others aren’t offering.

This can come in the form of really good prices. Perhaps you know you have a similar level of expertise, but are willing to charge a little less, especially if the client is a startup. (Be careful, though: many newcomers to this business make the mistake of undercharging.) Perhaps there’s an area of IT that’s particularly underserviced in that area. After all, it’s not just about fixing computers. There’s cybersecurity to consider, as well as infrastructure development and setup, and even areas like disaster recovery and server monitoring.

Solo contractor or agency?

There’s definitely something very attractive about being a solo contractor. It gives you a lot more freedom. People in this business are also much more likely to have close interactions with the client, which can certainly help a lot when it comes to networking. (An essential part of this field if ever there was one!) A lot of people who have previously worked for IT agencies – and perhaps that’s where you’re working now! – are attracted to the chances of doubling their salaries and having more control over their lives. Of course, you’ll have to start watching out for yourself, so ensure you invest in things like contractor insurance.

Some may choose to start an agency because they’re a bit more interested in the “business” side of things. They want to have employees and to have the prestige of running things in this manner. But these aren’t the only potential perks. Agencies are sometimes more attractive to clients because there’s this idea that they’re more ‘professional’. Of course, agencies take much longer to set up.

Whichever route you choose, you need to bring the entrepreneurial spirit. This goes for you budding solo entrepreneurs, too! Though the business development side of things won’t be as formal or intense as with agencies, you still need to treat your endeavour like a serious business.

The client base

You need to avoid a very common mistake in this field. Let’s say you’ve bagged yourself five clients in your first week. Tasty. You do the work for them, billing a nice and profitable amount per hour. You complete the work within a week or two. Problem: in this field, the clients you have one week are rarely going to be the clients you had the week before. Once you’ve done that particular job, that client may not need you again for a while, if ever. If you want to ensure that you get consistently comfortable levels of work, you have to have a large client base.

Building a client base when the work required rarely ends up being a recurring thing is slightly different to building up the sort of customer base you’d aim for in other types of business. You have to get a lot more formal – and proactive – about the pursuit of those clients. This is why I highlighted the importance of networking earlier.

Make sure you get endorsements and even referrals from clients for whom you’ve done a good job. A lot of the types of clients you’ll be working with are bound to know a lot of people in similar fields and, thus, people who would require your type of service. You also need to start investing in marketing. However, don’t allow the pull of paid advertising to eclipse the importance of networking and doing a great job. Unlike in many other businesses, it’s these things that will really get the word out about your work.

Building a website

As I’m sure you must already be aware, your business isn’t going to get very far if you don’t have a website. Websites are how most people are introduced to any business – and there’s no question that pretty much all your prospective clients, even with a glowing recommendation from a friend, are going to check out your website.

So, first off: make sure it looks nice. You may be tempted to keep things simple, but if it looks like your website came from the 90s, or if you’re using free webspace that restricts you to templates that everyone has already seen, then you’re just going to look unprofessional. You’re in IT, after all. You should know a thing or two about this stuff!

The most important thing is that you make your value to prospective clients clear. Why should the client work with you instead of the other IT support businesses out there? What can you give that the others can’t? In other words, that’s the return on investment that you offer? Oh, and having a picture of yourself or your team is going to help a bunch. Don’t be shy – after all, if they decide to work with you, you’ll probably end up meeting face-to-face anyway!

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