With the constant improvements and changes to technology, even those that consider themselves technically competent can run into challenges sometimes. While it is hard to envision a world without the modern conveniences that we enjoy and take for granted every day, each of us can easily think of a time when we wished we could just throw that technology out the window. And that’s because when technology works as it should, it is easy to use. But when technology goes wrong, most of us have no idea what to do to get things working again.
If you are the type that embraces the challenge and loves to tear technological components apart when things stop working, then perhaps going into the tech support business is right for you. If you’re good with computers, you have a strong business sense, and a knack for customer service, then that is all the more reason to consider going into the tech support business. It could change your life, and that of your future customers, for the better.
Starting your Tech Support Business Off on the Right Foot
Going into any business for yourself won’t come without its challenges. So a great way to get started here is to think of the potential cons of the business. If these don’t turn you away to the challenge of starting your business, then you are in an excellent place to see what you can make happen.
- Tech support can be very, very thankless – By the time someone turns to you for technical support, they are likely very frustrated. They have either been unable to complete their work for the day or have become behind on some sort of project. Add this to the fact that most American workers today spend nine hours interacting online, which requires technology. This behavior has created a bit of an addiction and a heavy reliance. So, going into this business means that you need to be ready for a challenge and that your customer is likely mad long before they even get to you.
- Tech support is an ‘always-on’ type of business – Though you can absolutely take on customers on a case-by-case basis, you will likely find that the revenue will come from customers that you can support for the long term. Some businesses may be willing to put you on a paid retainer to have access to you for any of their technology needs. While this can be great for cash-flow and business continuity purposes because you are always in demand, it can also mean that your personal life will take a hit. Many tech support workers experience burn-out due to the frequency at which they are needed and the fact that people seem to be using their technology (and breaking it) at all hours of the day.
If the above items don’t concern you and if you are ready to take on the challenge, then read on.
Are you Ready to Start a Tech Support Business?
Before starting any business, you need to open up to yourself and consider if you are really and truly qualified to take on the work. Once you put that banner out there that you are tech support professional, then you better make sure you have the qualifications to back it up. And while on-the-job training has its benefits, using your customer’s computers and problems as your training ground is not a wise business practice. If you get in over your head or make a mistake that could lead to lost revenue, you could find yourself smack dab in the middle of a lawsuit. So remember that if you want to make this work, you need to know what you are doing, and you need to conform to best practices so that you don’t find yourself in a bad situation.
Once you have determined that you are qualified to do the job, you will want to consider the following points:
- What type of customers you want (home or business) – Home-based tech support is rather straightforward and can be an easier route for consultants who are just getting their tech support businesses up and running. But, as with any customer, if their technology isn’t working, you are likely going to get a frustrated client right off the bat. And even once you have fixed their technology challenge, their frustrations won’t likely go away – especially not after you hand them your tech support invoice.
Providing home-based tech support might also mean that you will have many small jobs that are not related. This might mean virtually (or literally) running from customer to customer spending a few hours with one and then starting all over again with the next customer. This means that you won’t likely be building long-term relationships with your customers, and in some cases, you won’t ever see the customer again.
Tech support for commercial purposes (businesses) is usually more lucrative. Though it will require more expertise, you will have the opportunity to develop relationships with the people you support, but also with the technology and systems that you support. Not only that, but you’ll likely experience a bit more job security when you take on some longer-term, larger clients – this means it will be a bit easier for you to pay the bills.
- Providing on-site support or over-the-phone support – With tech support, you may find that you can work from your home and support customers behind the scenes only (or through some phone conversations). For many tech support professionals, this can be a heavy advantage, especially if you are good at managing your time and enjoy working from home. Although you may start your tech support business at home, and though you may be able to spend the majority of your time working remotely from your home, be sure to manage your own expectations that at some point, you will likely have to make some house or office calls.
- People skills are paramount in the tech support business – We’ve hit on this a few times within this article, but do not ever forget that tech support is a customer service function. And this means that you will be dealing with unhappy and frustrated customers quite frequently. But this also means that if you are supporting a customer through a phone call, there may be a lot of dead air as you wait for systems to reboot. This means you need to have the ability to make some small talk. While white and ease of conversation are essential, so too will be the ability to articulate and communicate solutions to your customers.
Quick Tips to Getting your Tech Support Business Going
If you’re still reading and none of the above has turned you off to the job, and you are more excited than ever, then now is the time to get your tech support business going. Leverage these tips to get moving.
- Get insured – Don’t work on anyone’s computer but your own until you have the proper insurance to do so.
- Seek opportunities for continued training – As we said, on-the-job training isn’t the route for you in this business. But, you do need to ensure you are keeping up with the latest technology and that you are always taking steps to hone your expertise.
- Develop your rate card – Do some sleuthing to understand how your competition is charging their customers. Then, line list the services you offer as well as any flat rates and hourly rates and ensure that these prices are reasonable to the customer but will deliver a profit to you.
- Set limits – Don’t try to take on a project that interests you if you aren’t confident in your ability to help. Again, this is not the time for on-the-job training. This said if you see certain jobs come in repeatedly for something you aren’t trained for, consider if you should get trained so that you can add the experience to your list of credentials.
- Partners can help take the weight off your shoulders – Don’t be afraid to partner up with another tech support professional. This could be someone with the same skills so that you can divide and conquer on work. This could also mean partnership with someone that has different but complementary skills so that between the two of you, you can cover a broader and more diverse customer base.
- Don’t spread yourself too thin – Self-employment has its benefits, but it has its drawbacks too. If you don’t take time for yourself, then your work will suffer, and your customers will start to pay the price. If your customer starts seeing your response times slowing or that they need to wait longer before you can get to them, they may turn to the competition.
- Consider if you really need an office – Offices are just overheard that require investment. If you don’t need an office and have the ability to work from home, then this will provide with more flexibility on when you work and will keep more of your profits in your pocket where they belong.
The great news is that tech support professionals, especially those who are well-trained and personable, are highly in demand. So if you have what it takes and can market your business to bring in the work, you’ll definitely find the customers.