It is the dream of many computer technicians is to start their own computer repair business. This dream is a great one to go for but before starting a business, you will need to face the realities of the businesses startup costs. In this article I will cover some of the startup costs one can expect.
Getting Setup Legally
On the Technibble forums, we occasionally get questions about how to get a business set up legally like how to get the appropriate tax IDs or what items can be deducted on tax. The answer is nearly aways the same which is “Just get an accountant”. As much as the Technibble community likes to help other technicians, there is just no replacing the knowledge of a local accountant who knows the laws in your country and state. Having an accountant set you up legally should be one of the first things you do because you can then claim many of your other start up expenses as a tax write off for next year. Take this time to pick the accountants brain asking about what items you can claim as a business expense and what is the best way to keep things organised to make things easier at tax time. Getting an accountant to set you up will cost around $100 – $300 USD.
Rent and Utilities
I find the best place to start your business is in a home office. As I have mentioned in many articles, I was 17 when I started my business so my rent and utilities were zero at the time since I was still living with my parents. Now days I have moved my office to the place where I live and since I was already paying my rent to live there, it doesn’t make much difference working there either. As I mentioned before, talk to your accountant and you will most likely be able to claim part of your rent on tax.
For those of you who want to start your business as a retail store front, I still highly recommend starting in an home office as it takes time to build a client base to support yourself until things get busy.
Stock can be one of your big startup cost but luckily its not always necessary to carry much stock. When I was first starting out, if I found that I needed a certain part while on site, I would often go out to buy the needed part at a local computer store but not charge the client for the time since it was my fault that I wasn’t carrying the stock. Now days, I just carry one or two of most computer parts that don’t devalue quickly like RAM (old RAM prices can actually go up), DVD-Burners, Power Supplies, Wireless Routers, Wireless USB Dongles, Cables, Cases, Keyboard/Mice and copies of Windows XP/Vista.
Items like CPUs, Video Card and Hard Drives I only buy on a as needed basis as the value drops too quickly.
The absolute minimum amount of tools you should have is a small toolkit for computers (mine was about $14 USD), a USB drive ($10 to $100 depending on size) and a CD wallet (about $2 to $10) loaded with free utilities you can find here. However, its ideal to have a complete kit with a laptop, blank CDs, thermal paste, various cables and a cable tester like my onsite technician gear.
Your business card is often what your client bases their first impression of you on. Your business card is representative of your business and this is why I strongly recommend that you business cards made professionally. To me, those tear off make-at-home cards just screams amateur or fly by night business. Of course, any business card is better than no business card but if you are really short on money, you could consider getting them professionally printed for free at a place like VistaPrint. Professionally printed business cards will cost you around $120 – $300 USD depending on the the amount you want printed and this often includes the printshop doing the designing work for you.
You don’t need big wooden desks, special technician benches and new leather chairs when you first start out (or even down the track ). I find it is best to get office items as you need them rather than buying all of them outright. A computer, printer, mobile phone, answering machine and some writing material is all you need for a small home business. A fax machine can be nice but I find they are getting used less and less as suppliers begin to allow online orders.
If you happen to have a website, do not host it on a free host. Most free hosts only allow for a lame domain name like yourbusinessname.freewebhost.com. Many of them are ad supported so as you are trying to sell your services, your competitors ad is on your site too. With hosting companies like Hostgator which offer amazingly reliable services for $4.95 USD a month, you will be crazy not to use them.
While I didn’t have any business forms when I started my business (mine were created over many years), I wish I did as it didn’t take me long to run into bad customers who were happy with my work, but chose not to pay me. If I had a signed work order this wouldn’t have been a problem. So I strongly recommend you buy or create forms that will cover your business because you never know when those bad customers will make an appearance.
You obviously will need to be able to feed yourself during the time it takes for your business to become busy so I recommend you have enough money put aside for at least 6-12 months of survival. Dont expect the phone to be ringing off the hook the moment you set up as it takes time for you to work out what advertising methods work and to build relationships with customers. In fact, I believe the best way to start a business is when you are already employed elsewhere. You can work on your business on the side until you reach a point where your own businesses earnings are more than your other employment. This way its more like a careful transition than a leap of faith.