The first question you need to ask yourself is… Who are your Clients?
You need to determine who your clients are. home users and their related demographics. I’ve found that small businesses are great clients. I like to target businesses with 10 or fewer PCs (some of my clients have ~20 PCs, including the server).
While I do have a few home user clients, the bulk of my business is done with small business clients. Small business clients know that they need specialized service for their business and are happy to pay a fair price. Sometimes home users don’t see it that way. A lot of them are used to having the neighbor kid work on their PC for free or at a huge discount. This is fine, but small business clients know that they need someone more familiar with the technology needs of a small business – namely networking, servers, printer and file sharing, security, etc.
A small business client can be a real estate agent (working from home or an office), a real estate firm, appraisal Company, lawyer or small law firm, manufacturing facility, small doctor’s office, hospital, mortgage Company – anyone in business is your potential client. The size of the client depends on how familiar you are with the technology required to support and run that business. Some small businesses don’t need a server. They have a few laptops, a printer, and a DSL line and that’s all they need. Others have an email server, multiple printers, remote users who work from home or on the road and need more attention and expertise when their technology goes wrong.
If you’re not yet familiar with a type of technology in use at a potential client’s office, they might not be the client for you. If you are familiar, then you need to determine how much time and attention a client like that will need. One way to find this out is with an initial meeting with them. You can ask them their expectations, needs, etc. to get a feel for the level of service they will be expecting.
One thing I’ve seen is an IT/computer tech getting in over their head. If you come across a potential client using a Linux server, and you have to know clue how to even log in to a Linux box, let them know. Messing up someone’s server is far costlier than simply turning down the client.
So sit down and define exactly who your ideal client is.
1) What profession are they in? (if that even matters to you)
2) How many computers, per client, can you comfortably handle? Usually the more workstations, the more attention they’ll need. Also, they’ll likely already have some sort of dedicated server – so be sure you’re able to take care of the server too.
3) Location – define where your service area is. How far will you travel? Are you willing to travel outside of your area if a job comes up? If so, will there be an additional travel fee?
4) How much you charge will automatically filter out a lot of people. Whom is your rate appropriate for?
I have a wide variety of clients. I don’t really specialize in any area – I’m more of a “jack of all trades”. The family doctor as opposed to the podiatrist (the foot doctor).
But specializing is a great way to go. I know someone who has a small IT firm that only takes care of doctor’s offices. Everything from their name to their logo says it. They know exactly who their target client is. Plus, they are very familiar with all of the technologies doctor’s offices use.
Other guys only serve law firms – they usually have software and systems you only see with lawyers.
When it comes to my rates (what I bill per hour or service), I never lower them. What I charge is set in stone. If a client says I’m “too expensive” or “more then than my last computer guy” – and they don’t want to pay my rate – they’re not my client. My clients who do pay my rate know that I’m worth it and don’t have any issues with it. Lowering my rate is the last thing I want to do. My work experience and the amount of time and money I save my clients more than justifies it.
It’s good to get this figured out before heading out and getting clients. Keep in mind your availability (if you’re doing this part-time, when can you see clients? Weekends and evenings only?) and your skillset.
If the potential client isn’t a good fit, to be afraid to turn them down.