Start & Run a

Computer Repair
Service
Philip Spry and Lynn Spry

Self-Counsel Press
(a division of)
International Self-Counsel Press Ltd.
USA Canada

prelim.indd 3 8/3/2011 10:43:33 AM

Copyright©2011 by International Self-Counsel Press Ltd.

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means — graphic, electronic, or
mechanical — without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief
passages in a review.

Self-Counsel Press acknowledges the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book
Fund (cbf) for our publishing activities.

Printed in Canada.

First edition: 2011

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Spry, Lynn, 1974–
Start & run a computer repair service / Lynn Spry and Philip Spry.

ISBN 978-1-77040-089-4

1. Computer service industry — Management. 2. Computers — Maintenance and repair —
Management. 3. New business enterprises — Management. I. Spry, Philip II. Title. III. Title: Start
and run a computer repair service.

HD9696.67.A2S67 2011 338.4'7004 C2011-904545-1

Self-Counsel Press
(a division of)
International Self-Counsel Press Ltd.

1704 North State Street 1481 Charlotte Road
Bellingham, WA 98225 North Vancouver, BC V7J 1H1
USA Canada

prelim.indd 4 8/3/2011 10:43:33 AM

Separate Your Business and Personal Assets 27 5. Design a Logo 33 v .4 Supporting documents 24 2.1 An important note about partnerships 26 3.1 Part time: Owner-only business 5 4. How Much Can You Make? 5 4. Why You Don’t “Need” Technology Certifications 9 7.2 Full time: Owner-only business 6 4. Insurance 28 3 Building Credibility 31 1. Getting Paid to Practice 10 9. Create a Business Plan 21 1.3 Financial data 23 1. Are You Qualified? 7 6.2 Working from home 15 10. Working at Home versus Retail Storefront 12 9. The Computer Business during a Bust 5 3. There Are Easy Ways to Solve New Problems 9 8. A Business That Grows in Any Economy 5 4.1 Finding a location for a retail storefront 12 9. How Much Will It Cost to Start Your Business? 16 2 Starting Your Business 19 1.1 Executive summary 22 1.3 Full time: Business has employees 6 5. Apply for an Employee Identification Number or a Business Number 27 4. The Computer Business during a Boom 4 2.2 Business description and vision 22 1. Contents Introduction xiii 1 Computer Repair: An Opportunity in Any Economy 1 1. Choose Your Business Structure 25 2.

Investing in Happy Customers 42 3. Software You Should Own 49 1.3 Credit card machines 54 4.2 The necessities 52 4.1 Checks 53 4. Payment Options 53 4. Vehicle Wrapping 35 4. Professional Business Cards 36 5.2 Critical information to include on your website 34 3. Professional Forms and Documents 36 5. Your Work Area 51 3. Necessary Websites 51 3. Create a Professional Website 33 2. Writing an Internet Blog 43 4.1 Critical information to include on a business card 36 4 Free (or Almost Free) Advertising 39 1.2 Money orders and cashier’s checks 54 4.1 Inexpensive tech benches 51 3.4 PayPal 54 4.5 Norton Ghost 51 2.5 Barter 54 6 Services 55 1.2 LogMeIn Rescue 50 1. Creating Craigslist Ads 42 2. Paid Advertising 45 5 Tools of the Trade 47 1.1 Building your website 34 2. The Diagnostic 57 vi Start & run a computer repair service .4 OpenOffice 51 1. 2.1 Microsoft TechNet and Microsoft Action Pack 50 1.3 Accounting software 50 1. Networking with Complementary Businesses 44 6. Social Media 43 5.

Research What Your Competitors Offer 71 5.3b Be clear 64 2.3 Power jack repairs 71 4.3c Up sell a better OS 64 2.4b What qualifies as a data recovery? 66 2.4a What qualifies as a data transfer? 65 2.1 Step 1: Ask the customer to complete the form 89 Contents vii . 1.2c Answering the “porn” question 63 2. Designing Your Check-in Form 86 2. Calculating What Your Time Costs 77 2.2b Virus removals are not included in the regular service warranty 60 2. Know Your Customers 72 6. Check Your Pricing 79 8 Diagnosing a Computer 83 1. Calculating Flat-Rate Services 78 3.1 Custom estimate for laptop hardware repair 58 1.2 Full diagnostic after multiple problems have been identified 58 1. Estimating Custom Work 79 4.3a Find the operating system key 63 2.1 Tune-up 59 2.2 Virus removal 59 2. Laptop Repairs 67 3. Other Common Services 58 2.4c Validate the data recovery or data transfer 67 3.2a Antivirus programs 59 2.3 Wipe and reload 63 2. Determining Your Service Policy 72 7 Pricing Your Services 75 1.2 Motherboard replacements 70 3.1 Ordering custom laptop parts 69 3.4 Data transfers versus data recoveries 64 2.3 Reproduction of intermittent errors 58 2. How to Complete a Diagnostic and Make a Sale 87 2.

1 Make sure that the computer is under warranty 117 viii Start & run a computer repair service . Auctions 103 4.3 Step 3: Have the customer sign the disclaimer 89 2. What Type of Stock Do You Need? 95 2. Special Order Items 111 12 Warranties 113 1. Whether or Not You Should Go On-site 108 3.10 Step 10: Collect your payment 92 9 Choosing Your Stock 93 1. Parts You Probably Shouldn’t Stock 96 3. Carrying Notebook Parts 97 5.2 Step 2: Read the customer your policies 89 2. Finding Vendors 102 1.5 Step 5: Reproduce the problem 89 2. Tools to Bring to Every On-Site 108 3. Warranty Seals 115 2. 2.4 Step 4: Have the customer explain the problem 89 2.1 Up selling with additional items 109 4. What to Do If You Are Taken Advantage of by a Vendor 103 11 On-Site Service Calls 105 1. Discuss Payment Terms 107 2.6 Step 6: Identify the cause of the problem but do not fix it 90 2.7 Step 7: Obtain customer approval to complete the work 90 2.1 Industry wholesalers 102 1. Keeping Warranty Costs Reduced 117 2.9 Step 9: Have the customer verify that the work is complete 91 2.8 Step 8: Complete the work and check the computer 91 2. Finding Used Computer Equipment 97 10 Vendors 99 1. Building Your Own Computers 103 3. Carrying New Computers 96 4.2 Vendor terms 103 2.

2.1 People lie! 126 4.3 Empathize with your customer 124 1. Maintenance Plans 133 2. Customer Lessons You Need to Learn 126 4. Computer Recycling 133 2.2 Keep the computer for parts 134 2. Drop Shipping 135 6.5 Keeping the customer in the loop 124 2.3 Almost all customers care about their data 127 4.6 People will want custom work done for free 128 14 Extra Sources of Income 131 1. Look for Up Selling Opportunities 119 4.4 Parts can be replaced at little or no cost to you 118 3. Tips to Provide Great Customer Service 123 1. Website Development and Domain Reseller 135 Contents ix .4 Providing solutions.5 People are willing to pay before the problem is fixed 128 4.2 Software problems are almost never under warranty 118 2.4 Scrap it 134 3.1 Plain language works best 124 1.2 Answer the phone politely 124 1. not just problems 124 1.3 Abuse should not be covered 118 2.3 Sell the parts on eBay or Craigslist 134 2. Don’t Let the Warranty Scope Creep 119 13 Provide Great Customer Service 121 1. Handling Returns 125 4. When Something Goes Wrong 125 3.2 Customers don’t always know what they need 126 4. Inventory 135 5. Website Sales 135 4.4 Do-it-yourselfers can be costly 127 4.1 Repair and sell 133 2.

Opening a Retail Location 140 2. Hiring Employees 139 1.1 Find a great location 141 2.3 Buying into a franchise 143 3.3 Transitioning your existing clients to new employees 140 2. 15 Expanding Your Business 137 1. paperwork 139 1.2 Buying an existing store 142 2.1 Paperwork. You Can Make It Work! 143 Tables 1 Working from Home versus Retail Storefront 13 2 Where to Locate a Retail Storefront 15 3 Where to Complete Work 109 Samples 1 Virus Removal Agreement 62 2 Wipe and Reload Agreement 65 3 Data Transfer Agreement 68 4 Laptop Hardware Repair Agreement 70 5 Expenses per Hour 78 6 Computer Business Services Flat Rates 79 7 Common In-Store Services 81 8 Check-in Form 88 9 Computer Limited Warranty 116 10 Warranty Seal 117 Checklists 1 Tune-Up 60 2 Virus Removal 63 3 Wipe and Reload 66 4 On-Site Toolbox 110 Worksheets 1 Expenses per Hour 78 x Start & run a computer repair service . paperwork.2 Training new employees 140 1.

or damages arising out of the use of this book. The reader should not rely on the author or the publisher of this book for any professional advice. the author. aws are constantly changing. Please be sure that you have the most recent edition. However. and the Readers vendor of this book make no representations or warranties regarding the outcome or the use to which the information in this book is put and are not assuming any liability for any claims. the publisher. xi . Every effort is L Notice to made to keep this publication as current as pos- sible. losses.

That’s it! Imagine hav- ing the ability to buy a Formula 1 race car engine and pop it into your car for less than the cost of cable TV for a year! Of course. happy. What could be better? I found a profitable store for sale. it’s relatively inexpensive. it’s probably fair to clas- sify me as a computer enthusiast. My wife and I received a crash course in retail sales. Think about it — the most expensive desktop CPU in existence at any given time is usually a little more than $1. As much as we’d love to have a comprehensive collection of answers for every situation you might encounter. bought it. and prepared to enjoy my hobby while the money rolled in! What followed were the most grueling three years of my life. to emerge successful. it’s just not reasonable xiii . and Other Resources This book is focused on giving you the critical information you need to begin on the right foot. marketing. and profitable. I had built my own computers for years and was the guy everyone came to for help. love computers and have since I was in my early I Introduction teens. Six years ago I was in this position. and of failing miserably and work- ing through it. but as you grow you will run into situations where additional help is required. waiting for the next break- through in hardware and software. As a hobby. technical support. Over the decades. Books.000. and on-site service. I’d been an IT professional for more than a decade so when my wife Lynn and I started looking for business opportunities we saw a computer store as a natural fit. follow-up. I’ve watched them de- velop from giant clunky boxes with green screens to tiny works of art that project photo-realistic games on monitors the size of walls. I eagerly read each new issue of Byte and PC Magazine. engines don’t double in power every two years. cus- tomer service. I’d managed people for years and I loved computers. Websites. but the ease and simplicity of computer upgrades have made most of us relative experts in working on our own systems. The lessons in this book are the direct result of years of trial and error.

ments is on the CD included with this book. you will find links ences to forms and other documents that you to websites. inexpensive sources of advertising that have been effective for us. Before you use any of these documents. but these are the be different and the documents may need to be ones we have used successfully and believe worded differently to be applicable in your area. we cannot guarantee that the re. Sure. we live in an age have fair prices and good service. Each of these docu- you find what’s best for you.or even possible. xiv Start & run a computer repair service . There- Throughout this book. We don’t get where information is only a few clicks away! anything from these sites for mentioning them and they are listed here because they helped For instance. you sources listed will be the best for you or your should consult your own attorney or accoun- business. That said. you will find many refer- fore. and resources that can help can use in your business. there are entire books and websites dedicated to finding the most Forms effective advertising for your business. there are others out there and tant as the laws in your state or province may you may find better or worse. throughout this book. Fortunately. while we may recommend us and we hope they can help you. books.

Computer Repair: An Opportunity in Any Economy 1 .

We’d chased the corner office. the economy was booming and people had more money than they knew how to spend. but bull markets can’t last forever and we were looking for something long-term. The real estate mar- ket was going crazy and houses were appreciating at 30 percent per year. we looked at more than 3. If memory serves. For example. The instant equity created allowed people to take out loans — there was disposable cash everywhere! With this much cash in the economy. but the market was flooded with them and we didn’t know how we could differentiate ourselves. many business owners just hung out their shingles and waited for people to show up — and show up they did! As suited corporate members. and we were tired of our shoulders drooping from carry-ons packed with multiple laptop computers. my wife and I decided we A were done being corporate drones and working 70 hours a week climbing the ladder of success. but if anything were to happen. There were so many interesting opportunities and as we continued to research.500 businesses in the Phoenix area alone! We checked out everything from coin-operated Laundromats to print shops. we’d taken endless flights. selling high-end granite kitchen counters is fine when million-dollar homes are being built faster than people can buy them. So. It sounded good. but which company? There were thousands! We began our research. Instead of clawing and scratching for every dollar. In 2006. new construction and new businesses opened daily. we realized each of them was missing something. our timing couldn’t have been better. we were used to spending years working on projects only to see them abandoned when new leadership came in. they would be in real trouble. what type of business could grow during both economic growth and economic recession? 3 . During a strong economy. Fortunately. We consid- ered opening a consulting firm. they could make money. He said we might be able to save ourselves some time and money by plug- ging ourselves into a company with a proven revenue stream. There was no end in sight and we realized it was time for a change. We needed a change. lmost six years ago. A friend of our suggested we look into purchasing a business instead of starting one from scratch.

the solution to this problem is repair broken computers. Plus. make margins as high as 30 to 40 percent.000 gaming system. the computer puter. You might need to adapt to the them to play games. Of course. If people aren’t buy. Why should the old one if you transfer their infor- they bother fixing their old system? They are mation to the new computer. Fortunately. This business looked like many of the businesses we’d seen but one Business during thing stood out — it didn’t just sell a particular a Boom item. more than 80 percent business will realize the following: of the time something’s wrong. they’ll often give you and pay $2. companies want expen- two things: time and components. • Customers consider fast computers a “need” instead of a “want. it is monumentally harder dividuals want better machines to allow to stay afloat. some customers come to our stores because retailers can make as much as $800 on one they want to upgrade or just need a new com. general. better computers and serv- type of need. cause their computers are malfunctioning. Flash forward machines and request a full rebuild of a few years. we all around us while we prosper and expand be- found one business that looked really promis.” In- component sales. the home equity line of credit the computer (replacing all the interior has been drained. you you’re out of business. have a faster. and the 1.” Businesses If you don’t have the ability to tap into this want bigger. start shopping for the best laptops available. and your only revenue stream is ers to make their employees “faster. but you can survive. working with a dusty old piece of junk. can make high profits. They shrug like it’s nothing for them is only $400. edit videos. It was a local computer store and it was in both an up and a down economy. People buy new. Computer sive high-capacity servers. sale! During a booming economy.000 on a new system. The Computer employees were happy. high- When you run any business you can only sell end gaming machines. and the dusty piece of junk that will cost $100 to repair starts looking good. and businesspeople businesses are no different. • Customers choose to replace instead of However. people bined with my personal interest in computers have money to spend and a computer business made this business a very strong candidate. they better be buying service or you are in business during this economy. the single can find that custom computers can routinely greatest reason customers enter our stores is be. com. if the economy is doing well. cause we have a business that services people ing. people of means and see no reason to trifle • Customers may bring in older. If ing computers. Busi. Just when we were about to give up. and. the staff did repairs as well! This. in market conditions. it was stocked from floor to ceiling. Sure. popped. When people have often don’t feel like investing $150 into money. better experience. nesses that don’t have that capability are dying 4 Start & run a computer repair service . the real estate bubble has parts to upgrade the machine). Customers to repair it or replace it. This means that on a $2. but let’s be honest. selling computers as fast as the staff could build them! The store was packed with people. they don’t want to mess with the old an old computer when a new computer system.

A Business That at some examples. addi. grow. 4. skill set. or even become looks like during an economic recession: a wholesaler or recycler. refurbished computers fly off the Your revenue depends on many things. Business during Not bad for a business during a recession! a Bust What’s even better about the computer busi- When the economy is doing poorly. competition. Some. Let’s look 3. you can get into refurbished systems ally starts to grow! This is what the business and sell online. in a retail store. This means your business to include maintenance plans and that while other businesses are watching their eventually handle the IT needs of businesses customers dwindle. The owner may work a full-time were expanding. while business on Craigslist or other online classified most businesses were feeling the pressure. If the customers feel they can spend $150 and get their computer running “like new. bigger hard drive) are less than $100 and will make the old com- puter as good as new for the customer. you start getting business clients. and name recognition.score. services offered. Grows in Any Economy Computer businesses that typically repair sys- 4. machines. The Computer and later that year also began giving back through our Computers for Soldiers program. If and repairing computers is often far less expen. We opened a second location Computer repair: An opportunity in any economy 5 . number of hours worked. (www.” that is If you want some personal guidance be- worthwhile compared to spending $400 fore you jump in. and handle challenges. location.g. and foot all over your area. In the computer busi- ness. in- shelves while the new ones gather dust. cluding. tact SCORE — Counselors to America’s Small Business! This group specializes in • Customers choose to upgrade one or helping small businesses get off the two parts on an old machine. ground. Or. you can grow sive than buying new machines. sales plummet.1 Part time: Owner-only tems as well as sell computers can survive in business booming or busted economies.2. How Much Can You • Customers buy lower-end refurbished systems.org) tional RAM. Because we own You’ve probably seen a part-time/owner-only a business that can grow in any economy. but not limited to. They start looking at ways to save money and grow depending on the services you offer. there are so many ways to expand and • Customers choose repairs before re. grow that it is all up to you how you go about it! placement computers. you may want to con- or more to buy a new computer.. place to get some free advice and find lots of use- ful ideas and assistance. if you enjoy rebuilding traffic reduce. people cut ness is that it has the opportunity to expand back. a computer repair business actu. we ad websites. When people are looking to save Make? money. It is a great times these modifications (e.

he or she will be able to take on can add employees as the work grows and will many more customers. but you will work person answers it. get rid of the person. rate these types of owners charge is usually Stick to that and set pricing accordingly. you can’t help them out. not too few people! one working. We make a very nice living! were caught in this trap early on and we hired too many people. You as possible. they can make many companies and time given to one person $600 to $800 a week! For a part-time gig. The know from the start when you’re available. maybe start a wipe that earn the amount of money you pay him and reload. your income is only restrained If the business owner is a dedicated full-time by the opportunity for work. we kind of setup. tomers and they all are serviced by the owner. you’re the linchpin for sell a few pieces of hardware. then head out. if you’re the only had the wrong people.job and do a small amount of computer work that are too difficult to deal with and work on on the side. You’re not a firm with whom they deal. You work as quickly son you employ pays for himself or herself. the part-time computer businesses and it can be a very nice source of additional income. you can do very well. If you do this and build a solid list of for the business but even if there is. This is the most common of seven days a week. can never hire someone who is just nice to have and then head back to your base of operation. Take care of or her. it would be be increasing his or her income with each new possible to have as many as three or even four employee! As long as the owner is careful to on-site customers in one day — especially if only add employees when they are required some of the work is completed either remotely the business can continue to grow. person. When you’re the only person in your busi- ness. that’s can be time stolen from another. lem some owners have is that employees will Add that to the other work brought back to the always complain they have too much work to house or place of business and he or she can do and that there are never enough people. The prob- or at his or her business (or home) location. you can do well in this didn’t get out the door faster. Turned out.2 Full time: Owner-only Once a business expands to be big enough to business employ others. but they are tied to their customers and can never get a break. get a few customers taken care of. a few more customers. In general. only one clients. bring back the PCs 6 Start & run a computer repair service . maybe start updating It is absolutely critical that every single per- a few PCs. but you’re the person on whom they rely and if There are no full-time employees and this one. Never less than a full-time operation. There is no dedicated phone line them. 4. If the employee doesn’t do the tasks Run more antivirus tools. still make $30 to $40 an hour! If they can up In this business model. then head back out. people think of you as their computer This type of business has a few regular cus.3 Full time: Business has employees 4. but they can underestimate how much your time is worth. A business owner employee. you get up in the morning. start the virus removals going. person shop can handle 10 to 20 customers a It’s important to set boundaries and let people week with most of them on the weekend. pretty good money. they take it personally. For example. around. Funny thing was the work If you can multitask.

not facts. the hard drive is probably bad). into a problem. puters to your employees? That’s a good goal make sure you give the customer solu- to pursue. 5 percent of the time. what does Sure.. Over the years. great technicians who were teenagers that only started working on computers a few years ear. earned through the computer business. So. I have found he or she will react accordingly. However. If the puter technician. the more money you are able to • Problem-solving skills: About 95 per- make. That means troubleshooting. as frequently happens. research. The better your atti- tries that have rigid certification requirements. Maybe not cades of time in the field. and persevering until you fig- 5. but if you’re just starting out. the better your customer’s attitude! there are no rules for becoming a great com- You drive his or her perceptions. that’s tions. ers are wonderful. As long as you keep your costs low. you need to know what your role will be. (and fired) many technicians. them. you grows. have patience. but this is the be patient. tell the customer that while the work initially and then branch out as he or she virus screwed up his or her software. what qualifies some- have the tools to recover the data but it one to repair computers? Unlike some indus- will take some time.. You However. trying different solutions. and positive. you will hate them. The tough part is the repetition. First. Are You Qualified? ure out what’s wrong. issue is. but eventually. happy. swapping components. I have hired customer sees you as angry and irritated. tude. if you Computer repair: An opportunity in any economy 7 . Computer repair who have worked as computer techs for years is about problem solving. you can get through just ployees to take on larger and more complex about anything. Let’s focus on someone who wants to do the Instead. if the hard drive clicks. remember. you’ll get a fun problem where the it take to be a great computer repair technician? computer randomly shuts off although all the hardware tests perfect and it only • Patience: First and foremost you must happens after 9:00 p. Not all computer problems exception to the rule. it’s can franchise your business model or even sell something that’s not obvious and you it entirely! Once you start one business. With this in mind.g. When you run while leaving the day-to-day servicing of com. there is no limit on the income that can be well. Telling a customer that probably not the case. • Positive attitude: People will forgive a Do you want to manage a team of technicians lot if you have a good attitude so be up- and handle the financial end of the business beat. pass our initial screening exam. projects and. you can leverage your em. I have also seen people at first. and (usually at some big-box stores) that couldn’t results. Most of the time are solved quickly and not all custom- you’ll get machines with bad hard drives. you cent of the problems you will see are can keep on growing! Once you start growing the same (e. the more employees you have. viruses have destroyed the Master Boot Record is just giving them information. • Love of computers: If you don’t love lier as well as experienced veterans with de. you’ll need to be able to figure out what the become addicted to starting more.m. As you grow.

To ply has died. following a sim- • Multitasking: The most profitable tech. the speed at which you’re downloading. The the vast majority of the problems you’ll more you work on computers. The same will happen to you and You’d sit there staring at the computer you’ll be seen as a wizard! and nothing would be accomplished. This is There’s a good example of a Boot Failure because many repairs require scans that Troubleshooting Flowchart you can fol- will take hours. mainly viruses. It has come task. You she wasn’t a big fan of hardware repairs can’t help it. While there even when he or she presses the button. Those three problems comprise because experience will be gained. you want to shift and work on an. are many reasons this can happen. is Windows shutting down unexpect. that can take 15 to 20 minutes and down. Can you imagine if you just because I’ve seen it so many times only worked on one computer at a time? before. So when you’re working customers. If you think that these points describe you. to the point where I have solved a prob- other. The more computers you repair and the loads that can take hours. a my first instinct is that the power sup- common cause is a failing hard drive. agnose a third.fonerbooks. numbers of books on how to fix a com- puter. Although something new every single day. When a customer walks in and says edly or even briefly displaying the Blue that his or her computer doesn’t turn on Screen of Death (BSOD). move to the next computer. For that matter. ple troubleshooting chart can take you nicians are the ones that can work on through most of the problems you’ll see. or ones riddled with • Experience: Yes. Time is money and you must use your time wisely. 8 Start & run a computer repair service . the more confident you’ll be and the While the computer is working on that faster you’ll solve problems. depending on more accustomed you become to them. the more encounter so you better get used to fix. It’s common to see many test for this. let your brain focus on quickly and easily. she was complet- seemingly infinite number of people to ing hardware and software repairs for break them.pdf. bad power supplies. My wife actually worked ing them. this is last. Experience can be gained on the easy ones. start scans on a fourth. including the hard drive. you’ll learn in our stores for a few months. With that said. That leads nicely into the tion and determination. but it takes concentra- the tough ones. While it may seem entire system. A common problem we run into lem without even seeing a computer. di. like magic to know what’s wrong with a This can take anywhere from 15 minutes PC before I even start to diagnose it. software installations low at www. then you may be on your way to owning a suc- and get as much work out the door as cessful computer business! possible. you will learn. it’s to several hours. There are too many ways (her background was programming) for computers to get screwed up and a after a month or so. more than one system at a time. Instead. we boot the computer into a dead power supplies in places where special disk that automatically tests the the power fluctuates. There are untold next point — multitasking.com/poster.

by all means. or We have seen plenty of certified technicians that whatever makes the issue unique and you are are not half as competent as self-taught techni. Fortunately for us. my mind. You can teach someone to troubleshoot a computer and Ways to Solve New in a few weeks he or she will be amazing. but Problems he or she can have all the certifications in the No matter how many years of IT experience world and not know how to open a computer you have. bound to get tons of results. In system is easy 95 percent of the time. However. and profitably is what being a computer tech The exception to the rule is certifications from is about. Just type in the error code. computers to get them. The difference is always experience. Whatever the problem. Chat rooms and discussion forums are full of technical Certifications are nice to have and they show problems and solutions.” With that said. There are some certifications that are never faced before. but Computer repair: An opportunity in any economy 9 . Does the cus- Certified so you know you can trust us!” So are tomer have a virus you haven’t seen before? we to believe that someone with ten years of Chances are someone else has already solved experience and no certification is less valuable it. the longer a problem Microsoft: They still don’t replace experience takes to solve. someone was interested enough in working on Google makes it easy to navigate the Web. Solving them quickly rarely display any actual knowledge. but that’s probably it. With these new prod- of people with those qualifications and they ucts come new problems. every problem could be solved can be useful when determining whether to hire in less than a minute but that’s just not the one candidate over another. “All our technicians are ABC a random beep code? Google it. 7. Certifications For the purpose of actually fixing computers. computer type. if you employ people who do have certifications. wiping a computer and reloading the operating I’m lazy. “Need” Technology display the certificates everywhere you can. Don’t forget. don’t be afraid to than someone with a nice piece of paper? leverage Google to find the answer. Honestly. Despite the buzz value placed on them by repair for years know there is nothing better some. New products and services commonly required to work at many of the appear daily and it just isn’t possible to keep big-box stores but I’ve interviewed hundreds current with all of them. a certification is mostly just for Those of us who have been doing computer show. why should I spend hours trying it is that 5 percent of the time where the operat. to figure out why something is broken when ing system doesn’t load. the less you earn to solve it. they’re generally only good when you’re than Google to troubleshoot an issue. There Are Easy certifications provide very little value. Why You Don’t “certified idiot. there will be problems you have case. Is there doing advertising. way it works. Sure.6. the updates won’t run. In but they indicate a degree of knowledge that a perfect world. people much smarter than I am who have many or the drivers can’t be found that makes the more years of experience than I do have al- difference between a qualified technician and a ready solved it? It just doesn’t make sense. I fully accept that about myself. cians.

Mi- Sure. Getting Paid to • Certificate of Authenticity (COA). They will waste hours trying know if they work. be able to get paid for your practice! Get on the Internet and type in a few search There are a few good places to look for used terms. that may seem dif. second. They have this idea that puter repair stores for years. 10 Start & run a computer repair service . the top. you can find low-cost someone else has faced it before and mentioned machines at places like Goodwill and other it on the Internet. you’re probably working while the cus. you don’t it drives them crazy. This is a great way to get started for a a computer that already includes at couple of reasons: least the minimum amount of RAM recommended for its OS. computers. or the by a complete stranger. you have fixed your computer and your crosoft requires that every computer that friends’ computers. if they do to figure out how to solve the problem instead work. First. However. Maybe you even helped runs their software is properly licensed. One of the best ways to practice before you • Getting used RAM is almost as expen- start your business is to work on used sys. That as refurbished computers and you will means as expeditiously as possible. I don’t pay them to waste • After you repair them.we have had technicians in the past too em. I pay them to solve problems. you can sell them my money. That key is used to reinstall the don’t involve taking on your first actual paying operating system. If you don’t have this. be in working condition. After running com- answer to a problem. the back. you have no idea what is wrong. Any OS before more pressure than you need to your very first this will not be supported by Microsoft job. This adds operating systems (OS). customer. • Used computers usually don’t work or barrassed to admit that they didn’t know the don’t work well. remain in compliance. If you start by doing a paid on-site you’ll need to buy one if you’re going to job. Odds are good that no matter what it is. each system has a COA on it. It’s a white and greenish sticker practice before you jump into starting your with a bunch of six-digit alphanumeric own repair business. you this is very similar to what your so when something happens they can’t explain customers will bring in. sive as buying new RAM. there are many ways that groups. Try to find com- tomer is breathing down your neck asking you puters that have Microsoft XP or newer to explain everything you’re doing. Usually. look on Craigslist for computers that may not place days of frustration and lost revenue. I can tell they are tech gods and all should defer to them. Another option is to the forums and searching the Internet can re. To that end. of doing a simple search. If you want some extra bottom. ferent from working on a system that is owned stuck to the side. look for machines that meet the following standards: 8. Spending 30 minutes reading charitable organizations. To get experience on desktop repairs. people at work. also Practice known as the Operating System Key. The result: They are slow and inaccurate. so how about getting some practice first? and is hard to work on anyway. so try to find tems. For example.

components. but if it is a “slim. The good enough price (i. strip) should more than cover your cost. you should be aware more cost effective if you can take the screen that replacement parts (e. placing a motherboard is expensive and if the motherboard has blown or leaking • The CD/DVD drive component is not caps. a beat up case will make your customers wonder about the qual- • The motherboard has no blown or leak. to tell if the CPU is working without However. of laptop. most computers computers will work if the motherboard come with either a CD or DVD drive. Therefore. placement for around $10 to $15. The good news is • In general. However. less than $40). Re. is an easy way to avoid a problem. if it is in the computer. a replacement for a computers to fix the laptops that are close to Computer repair: An opportunity in any economy 11 . but it won’t the one in the used computer doesn’t work well and it won’t work for long. power sup. In general. parts to make the repair. it will need to be replaced. make sure it slimline computer is almost always used has 512MB RAM.g. this is critical. find one type does not come with a CPU. try to restrict yourself at first to one type missing. once a computer is refur- that even a computer in bad condition bished. if it is repair. from a machine with a bad motherboard and plies) are often built specifically for that replace it on an otherwise working computer. This will allow you to practice with one can cost you about $20 from a wholesaler model and use the parts from the nonworking (less if it is used). Don’t try to buy an HP. If the computer Dell. and then an IBM. Custom power supplies are a So. getting a new CPU can be an. the case size doesn’t matter a screen is expensive if you need to order new from your perspective.. you can probably get a used re- Since this is something that can be iden. Even if you replace the one part that is usually recoverable on entire inside of the computer with new a used computer. customers will judge its condi- tends to have working RAM so this is tion by its case. if the computer has XP.. however. Some as critical.e. it becomes line” computer. work. Any less and it will and often runs around $100! be so slow that you will become frus- trated working on it. you may as of machine and try to find used computers of well look for another machine. and then a noying and expensive. odds are good that some computers you • Unfortunately. there will be no easy way find will not be cost effective to repair. maybe you can find a lot of IBM Think- fortune to replace. If has capacitor problems. Trying to fix a machine by replacing • In general. there is a good If you are looking to learn more about laptop chance that it works. that type. the easier it will sell. it • Even after you take all these precautions. ing capacitors (caps). The better the case. the news is that CPUs are one of the least experience you gain (and the parts you likely components to break. tified with a simple visual inspection. Instead. ity of the computer. machine. While a replacement Pads and just complete repairs on those sys- power supply on your average computer tems. if you got them for a low powering up the computer.

Otherwise. For places are better than others. Let’s take a look at Table 2. is much more ness is extremely simple in this day and age.1 Finding a location for a retail storefront You will also find that buying used laptops. and opening a retail storefront. very safe way to dip your toes into the waters more agile shops. Your the computer is up and running you should fundamental goal is to provide a service that easily make back your money. it’s possible to create a success- $80 or more! The good news is that the mar- ful business model that is flexible enough to ket for used laptops is always strong. and ates.working condition. right? Wrong! home but your start-up costs are so low it’s a Big-box stores are very different from smaller. but no matter instance. if you try to Table 1 outlines some things to consider practice on multiple brands and models. There are huge differences of computer service. Working at Home Table 2 shows just a few examples but you versus Retail can see how tailoring your services to the de- mographics of the area can help you become Storefront successful in any environment. The only re- Although we began our business through a quirement is that there are people who have retail storefront. patible with other models (except for RAM and hard drives) and you will wind up spending a great deal on replacement parts. The store has tens of thousands of to recoup the start-up costs of a retail store. expensive than buying used working desk- Everyone uses computers so you can have a tops. large or small. there are still opportuni- keting and advertising strategies we use in the ties for a profitable computer repair business. 9. 9. 12 Start & run a computer repair service . ine for sale. retail space. hundreds of associ- front. This is because the working parts of successful business almost anywhere! Some nonworking laptops are still expensive. so once take advantage of the local demographics. square feet of floor space. often with multiple alternatives. Don’t let that stop you. Everything else is up to you! same path we did. Your growth potential is limited working from No point in trying to compete. The answer to where to locate your busi- even in nonworking condition. and nearly any component you can imag- even build custom systems from your home. It may be possible to im- One common issue people raise is the pres- mediately open a retail store but it might be ence of some of the larger computer stores in prudent to start slowly. one of our stores is right around base and become profitable much more quickly the corner from one of the “big-box” computer working from home rather than if you had stores. You can sell parts. you when deciding between working from home will find that most laptop parts are not com. You can have a thriving business working No matter what other businesses are in your out of your home using the exact same mar. the local population can’t easily replicate. a used laptop screen can retail for where you go. repair computers. area. a given neighborhood. You can create a wide customer For instance. you don’t have to take the computers.

Computer repair: An opportunity in any economy 13 . utilities. first month’s use for your business can rent. you will generates. security deposit).000 or more on even the most conservative retail location. full inventory.. and soon as you get your initial set. The lease There is very little lead time has to be negotiated. but some business owners spend as much as six months getting this started. retail location. actually be tax deductible. Costs will include rental fact. a good have to rely entirely on your location should give your marketing and advertising to business the ability to advertise bring in new customers. set aside)! Obtaining Harder Easier Customers Because you do not have a When you obtain a retail retail location you will not be location.g. one of the things you able to benefit from customers are buying is the customer driving by and seeing your new traffic that the location storefront. to thousands of potential new customers. the space and utilities you agreements (e. the and you can be in business as contract has to be signed.g. As a result. Management Easier Harder You already manage your home Once you commit to a retail so running a business from location. location is identified. thus signage.. you will find that you home doesn’t change anything have more to manage (e. there are many typically you will not have very expenses that you will need to high set-up costs. Each day. (except for the work space you security). rent. you can get to six months to start up after a started almost immediately. and reducing your personal more. Speed to Immediate 3 to 6 Months Opening If you choose to run a business Retail stores tend to take three from your home. the store has to be set up. As a matter of pay. up items completed. table 1 Working from Home versus Retail Storefront Home Retail Storefront Cost Very Low High If you are growing your If you are looking to open a business from your home. Be prepared to spend expenses! anywhere from $20. When we started our second store this took only a few months.

we still find ing with the same person all the time. you may need to consider retail or commercial space. we get customers because there is a big. is that this is not the case at all. While there is the risk of losing business Also. you may need you are allowed to use the space to review your homeowner’s (generally) for any commercial association policy or insurance. to a large store such as Walmart. found that many of our customers find us as they are driving to that “other” business! They Another thing that people often worry about know that the prices at large box stores are is that a large retailer will take all the computer often very high for computer repair and they sales from the business.g. Imag. In. Many computer customers visit your location. customers do see a for customers. working from Although many businesses fail home is sometimes a concern each year. We actually ine that. or have office space. so in our smaller store stead of the larger store hurting our sales. They are likely that you won’t be in business to assume that the business is for long. Ability to Limited Infinite Grow In general. Because you business that has a retail don’t have a retail location. customers on your property. Data Doctors). between the large. You will need to pay more capable than one in a special attention to building mobile location. many customers like the idea of deal. That’s bargain hunters that buy our products instead 14 Start & run a computer repair service . What we have found may decide to try a local business instead. have a business in a Walmart shopping cen- box store in the area that does computer repair. Credibility Lower Higher Unfortunately.. ter. For example. from your home.. you can grow your from your home. impersonal store and the unrealistic to expect in a store that employs a close and personal service of a small store. purpose. sometimes both) will not permit etc. location as being more of a some people will be concerned “real” company. we our customers get the value of familiarity. table 1 — continued Customer Limited Unlimited Visits If you intend to run a business If you have a retail storefront. hundred or more people. This means that you It is possible that either (or can have business meetings. you will have less Once you start running a retail ability to grow your business location. at your location. what you can handle. If repair businesses have grown in your business grows beyond this way (e. credibility (see Chapter 3). or it will be more difficult to add simply expand to additional new employees. business to add other stores.

Walmart employees have actually recommend this if you have significant finan- been known to send us business! cial resources and are sure this business is for you.) and multimedia PCs. table 2 Where to Locate a Retail Storefront Demographics Need Service and Products Businesses Maintenance and Service contracts. expensive equipment. sign multiyear leases. it means that people 9. hire people don’t need computer repair — just the employees. It may be months until you’re profitable In other places. we have high immediate return. It’s just you and your own hard work! Wherever you are. Being a small repair shop. before you commit! pliment the large behemoth (e. a storefront may be the way to go. they don’t store or have significant capital. If there is no competition. home entertainment educational systems and systems software. and reporting software of theirs. it is easy to test an area the opportunity to tune our offerings to com. there may be no other store and you don’t want to put all of your money or competition. one of the best parts of being in the computer business is that it is a The best advantage to starting this type of business that can exist in any town. Older Simplicity and reliability Classes. With the low entry costs and starting part time and increasing your hours as Computer repair: An opportunity in any economy 15 . grow quickly just from word of mouth! or even a special license. You don’t repair store! You may find that your store will need a special permit. there is even less need to start a retail store at first. a lack of businesses up. regular visits. need in your community. starting with build custom systems with high-end parts. If you have experience running a retail While Walmart does sell computers. homework. etc. in this case. and Internet security. and then realize you don’t actually want may mean a golden opportunity to fill a real to do this as a profession.g. reliability servers. In some areas. patience.. but that doesn’t mean that into a venture. flashy systems students. We only As a result. we don’t compete on new laptop prices with Walmart). in any part business is that you can test the waters by of any country.2 Working from home are either living with problem computers or One of the best parts of getting into computer they are driving dozens of miles just to get to a repair is that you can ease into it. and printers Younger (college Newest technology High-end. and inexpensive computers Families Safety. get everything set opposite. buy equipment.

The discussion isn’t just about opening a business. Before you start run- glasses.000 getting it ready. but also why you should and what it will entail. If you have a day job. the easiest way to get started is how much it will cost to start your own com- to begin as a part-time. One of the have for the lowest amount of money.m. How Much Will It haven’t done anything like this before. computer repair business is an easy way to sinks. decide when you will be available. This book covers the risks and rewards that come from leaving a permanent position and pursuing business entrepreneurship. Lechter: This was the first book we read about owning a small business and the information in it was very help- ful. they will respect your boundaries. by Robert T. take Cost to Start Your our advice and tread with care. the next day posit. The short answer is that This will let you invest the available time you it depends on what you want to do. but if you want to save a few dollars and One of the first questions you may consider is start slowly. but if you 10. as well as the phone system and all the you can’t expect to work until 2:00 a. the computers to run the meeting expectations. tables. 16 Start & run a computer repair service . we became profitable in our side as your primary job will suffer. included the entire interior setup. As the best parts about starting a computer repair busi- business grows. a theme. you may want to focus on finding customers who need “after hours” As a point of contrast. the start-up will expect you to make up that time elsewhere. chairs. you’ll need ovens. but consider that It’s important to decide this in the beginning. but if you stick to the stated times. You must be consistent. it’s a decision not to be made lightly. If you know your boss place. ness is that the start-up costs are dramatically less than they are for other businesses. puter repair business.m. You may have a strong idea you eventually want to open a Business? store. on the tools.your business becomes profitable. turnkey operation can help you make that call. create a time range in which you’re tising whatsoever. when we opened our service. home-based company. Kiyosaki with Sharon L. the signs. If you If you are currently employed. In addition. dishwashers. disposal. and menus — ning ads. If you arrive late or don’t have the If you choose to forgo a retail location and expected work done on time. customers simply work from your home. venting. supplement your income. With this second month of operation without any adver- in mind. That sounds like quite a bit. the software. the security de- has called a meeting for 9:00 a. your service while building your customer base. I’m not suggesting you go comfortable working and stick to it.000. This will let you charge a premium for second retail store we spent less than $30. a full staff. It’s tempting to jump right in and open a store. Customers this route. you can decide how to expand. will naturally push you to work outside of your but knowing how much less it is to build a time frame. costs are almost nonexistent and you can Rich Dad’s Before You Quit Your Job: Ten real-life lessons every entrepreneur should know about building a multimillion-dollar business. all the in- A critical part of creating satisfied customers is ventory. it’s easy to spend $150. starting a want to open a restaurant. the lease.

but well on your way! A single page with you can get started with less. You will your services and telephone number will need software. ask porate versions until you’ve exhausted yourself this question: “When will this the usefulness of the free ones. How. get it hosted through one of nal floppy drive (yes. you will have a separate line but The following are some of the things you can choose to answer it or not. and much more! (See www.” don’t spend the money. A nice way to have duce tax burdens.) ing from your home.gov. Small Business Administration (SBA) ever. free applications available that there’s merce site to get a customer. an exter- remember. The big. They will Computer repair: An opportunity in any economy 17 . the dedicated business phone line. • Contact number: You should have a Not sure where to start? In the US. but there are so many do to start. you can keep your costs low and (See Chapter 3 for more information your profits high.easily get started for less than $1. etc.sba. Just make sure that every about building your website..000. sometimes they’re the many hosting services and you’ll be needed).) item you purchase is needed and not just wanted. will need to get started: • Equipment: In general. If you try. Every time no reason to spend money on the cor- you’re thinking of spending money. give you a number that’s 100 percent gest reason for this is that you probably already free and will forward calls to your cell have most of the things you need. a dedicated line without spending any instructions on finding business licenses. That way. The only said. ways to get grants and loans. It’s helpful to have an ex- tising.) money is to use Google Voice. you will need • Website: Do you need a website on some equipment to get started but it your first day? Of course not. a flash drive. if you can’t answer “immediately. extra sticks of RAM. a cell phone can be a great way has a lot of great resources for the to dedicate a line without breaking the small-business owner — and it’s all bank — initial cost between $0 (if you free! You can find links to everything already have a cell phone you can use) your small business needs including ideas to re- to $100 per month. phone when you want them to. You don’t need a full e-com. many people use the Internet to pieces of hardware you’ll absolutely find low-cost computer repair so there’s need are a power supply tester and a no reason to neglect this form of adver. (See purchase pay for itself?” When you’re Chapter 5 for more information about just starting. tools of the trade. Purchase a name that’s easy to ternal hard drive. With that doesn’t have to be expensive. especially if you’re work. screwdriver.