Ask LH: How Can I Start An IT Troubleshooting Business?

Ask LH: How Can I Start An IT Troubleshooting Business?

Dear Lifehacker, I’d like to start my own IT troubleshooting business at my university accommodation. They’ve given me the all clear, but I’ve no idea where to start? Any pointers? Thanks, Rookie

Student picture from Shutterstock

Dear Rookie,

Good to hear that you’ve cleared doing this with your accommodation provider — some places have restrictions on what you can do. In no particular order, here are a few basic issues to consider:

Business setup Come up with a business name and then register it. Register yourself for an ABN. Set up a separate business bank account (and remember to keep aside sufficient funds in it to pay tax).

Work out your rates You’ll need to come up with a charging schedule. This article has lots of useful general pointers. Given that at least some of your market is likely to be fellow students, don’t set your prices too high. For IT troubleshooting, you’re likely to want a mixture of fixed charges and per-hour fees.

Come up with a promotion strategy In the university context, the old-fashioned noticeboard still has a lot going for it. You’ll also find noticeboards in supermarkets, hospitals and nursing homes — all potential sources. Set yourself a Facebook presence too, and a basic web site (though this doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated).

Get yourself organised If you’re going to combine freelance work with study, you need to be efficient at both. You’ll need a schedule. If you expect clients to visit your accommodation, you’ll also need to make sure you keep the place tidy and presentable — sometimes a rarity in student housing.

If readers have additional suggestions, we’d love to hear them in the comments. Good luck!


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  • Step 1: Pass this test.

    User: Fix it.
    You: Fix what?
    User: my hard drive *points at computer tower*
    You: what’s wrong with it?
    User: it doesn’t work.

    If you can do this without suicide/homicide/voilence, you may have a chance!

  • Problem is it might take hours to fix a serious problem and a reasonable price to charge might be say $100, but the customer thinks “my $40K car costs $200 to service but why does my $500 computer cost half that amount” pc are becoming more and more disposable.

  • Tip 1:
    Since you’re at a university, make barter an option. That student who needs their coursework recovered after someone stands on their laptop may not be cash rich, but they might have a ready supply of cheap booze (brother has a still/homebrews/etc), or some spare tickets to an event.

    Tip 2:
    Bonus tip: in student accomodation, people turn to those who do something they know about. The guys who run the file-sharing hubs (obviously I’m not proposing you do anything illegal..) or a handy IM service or a counterstrike server, or a live cam that shows when dinner is being served, or whatever. It’s a loss leader: You provide useful things for free, and you become associated in peoples minds as ‘that guy who is is great with computers’.

    Tip 3:
    If you have a car, travel to non-uni clients. If they don’t know otherwise and you wear a polo shirt or better, people tend to assume you have a proper workshop or even a shopfront somewhere. No need to bring a huge array of spare parts and software with you all the time, just say ‘It looks like x, I’ll have to take it back with me to swap out a part/stress test/leave some scans running. I’ll give you a call to let you know, but it should be back with you tomorrow.’

    Tip 4:
    Uni students are usually low-immediate value, but have great contacts. Get some cheap and simple business cards printed (they start at around $20 for hundreds) and hand them out whenever anybody mentions their sister cant her printer working or their dad’s small business running XP and swarming with viruses.

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