Are you handy with all things tech? Are you the type to talk your friends through their tech issues?
If so, you might want to consider starting your own tech support business.
Don’t worry if you find the idea of turning your skills into an actual business intimidating—starting a business isn’t rocket science (or even computer science).
It’s just a series of steps, which we’ll take you through below.
When we’re done, you’ll have the knowledge you need to start your own tech support business!
The Easy Parts of Starting a Tech Support Business
The good news about tech support is that there’s a constant demand. Most companies, even small ones, have a fairly steady stream of technology-related issues. And with new technology coming on the scene practically every day, that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. If you can establish yourself as a reliable and effective service provider, you should be able to find steady, well-paid work.
Also, as a tech-savvy person, you have the advantage of being, well, tech-savvy. You’re less likely than other people to be intimidated by the technological parts of creating a company, like building a website, installing business software, or setting up a business phone line.
The Difficult Parts of Starting a Tech Support Business
The most difficult part of starting a tech support business often isn’t either the technology or the business. Sometimes it’s the people. Often, you’re dealing with clients who are frustrated, pressed for time, and maybe even feel a little foolish that they can’t figure a particular problem out themselves. People in those situations can be cranky and may take their frustrations out on you. It’s important to develop patience, tact, and a thick skin.
As far as the work itself goes, setting up a business is relatively easy, but marketing yourself can be tricky. You have to have a solid grasp of the value you bring to your clients, be able to communicate that quickly and clearly, and learn not to take rejection personally.
And while working for yourself has some definite perks (your boss rocks!), it also means that the buck stops with you. You’re ultimately responsible for every decision that you—or anyone you hire—makes.
Fortunately, you’re also in control, and there are simple steps you can take to give yourself the best shot at success.
Step 1: Lay the Groundwork
You know you’ve got strong tech skills and you’re excited to get your fledgling business off the ground. But don’t quit your day job yet! Before you hang out your shingle, it’s important to build a solid foundation.
Research Your Market
Don’t assume that just because there’s a need for tech services that you’re guaranteed to get clients. Before you do anything else, find out what specific skills are in demand in your area.
Begin by evaluating your skills and getting a clear picture of what kind of services you want to provide. No matter how much of a whiz kid you are, chances are you’re not equally skilled at all tasks. There may be some areas of tech support in which you lack skills, experience, or just plain interest. While it may be tempting to say you’ll do “anything,” and wing it when the time comes, you’re better off focusing on your strengths for now. You can always learn new skills later.
Next, think about who needs what you have to offer. Small to mid-sized companies? People working from home? Can you provide remote support or are you strictly in-person? Understanding who needs you what you’re offering will save you time and energy when looking for clients.
Also, be sure to validate that the people you’ll serve are able and willing to pay you for what you provide. This can save you an enormous amount of time, money, and frustration by ensuring that there is a strong, paying market for what you have to offer.
The simplest way to start is with people you know. Ask about the kind of tech problems they face, at home and at work, and try to get a sense of how much they’d be willing to pay for help. Get specific about the pain points they’re dealing with—are they spending money on tech services they don’t need? Wasting time trying to get software to run properly? Or are they worried about data security? Understanding what parts of their technology stresses them out most helps you position yourself as the best solution to their problems.
While you’re talking to them, ask them about how they find tech support (word of mouth? advertising?) and how many hours of tech support they typically need per month.
Researching competing tech support companies in your area is also a good way to study the market. Don’t lose heart if there are already several competitors nearby. Instead, try to find out more about them. You may find that you can provide services or serve clients that they don’t.
If you can find an underserved niche and are confident that you’d like to turn this into a business, then it’s time to start taking steps to make it happen.
Create a business plan
A business plan helps you organize all the ideas you have about running a business into a coherent document that answers questions like:
- What are my start-up costs?
- Who are my clients?
- How will I find them?
- What will my ongoing expenses be?
- How much will I need to charge in order to be profitable?
- What do I need to charge and how many hours will I need to work to be profitable?
If you think you might ever want to take out a business loan or get someone to invest in your company, a well-done business plan will be essential. For now, you don’t need to worry about perfect grammar or spelling. It’s more important that you go through all the pros and cons of starting your own business, know what it will cost to start the business and keep it running, and have a realistic understanding of how much you can potentially earn.
If you’d like some support, be sure to check out Live Plan, an affordable business plan software that guides you through all the things you need to think about and shares examples and templates that will make business planning a breeze.
Step 2: Set up Your Business
Once you’ve validated your concept, it’s time to turn it into a real business. The following steps will help make it official.
Register your business
Setting yourself up as a legally registered business not only makes you look more professional, it also confers tax benefits and extra liability protection.
In most cases, especially if you’re running the business by yourself, a limited liability company (LLC) is a smart way to go. This type of business entity helps protect your personal assets because it limits your liability to just the assets of your business. In other words, if you’re sued by a client or unable to pay your business debts, your personal assets, like your home or your savings, can’t be seized.
The exact process for registering your business as an LLC varies from state to state. The cost to file also varies, but it’s typically around $200–$300. You can register your business yourself or you can hire a third-party LLC registration company to do it for you.
In most states, you’ll need to renew your LLC annually. This is usually a simple matter of updating your information and paying a renewal fee and can often be done online.
Register a Doing-Business-As (DBA)
Also known as a “fictitious name,” a DBA is only necessary if your registered business name is different from the name you’d like to work under. Registering a DBA ensures that no one else in your area can use your business name, and also gives you the flexibility of starting a new business without having to create an entirely new LLC. Before you choose a fictitious name, check to make sure no one else has already registered it—most states allow you to check availability for free online.
Fortunately, the process to register a DBA is usually simple and inexpensive and can be done through the same state agency where you registered your LLC. Like LLCs, you’ll typically have to renew your DBAs annually.
Get a business bank account
It’s not enough to simply register your business. You also have to be able to prove that you’re actually operating a business and not just looking for a way to write off random expenses. Opening a separate bank account is one of the best ways to show that you’re taking your status as a business owner seriously. Added benefits are that it will help maintain the advantages that being an LLC gives you and it will make simplify recordkeeping and tax compliance.
All you need to open a business account is a business name and an Employer Identification Number (EIN), which you can get from the IRS simply by filing online. We highly recommend Relay Bank, which specifically serves small- to medium-sized businesses. It offers great features such as the ability to set up multiple checking accounts for different areas of your business—so you can pay your taxes directly out of your tax account, for example—and lets you request up to 50 customizable debit cards that you can assign to different accounts and/or different employees. Bonus: there are no minimum balance requirements or monthly fees.
Set up an accounting system
In addition to your bank account, you’ll also need a way to send and track invoices, bills, and taxes. You can hire an accountant or bookkeeper to track all this for you or invest in accounting software. Our review of The Best 7 Accounting Software for Small Businesses can help you find the best fit for your situation.
Any time you’re going in and out of people’s homes or offices, not to mention dealing with expensive equipment, there’s the potential for accidents—imagine spilling coffee on a laptop you’re supposed to be fixing or having a client trip over a cord you left out and get hurt. You could also get sued for libel or slander if, for instance, your advertising is skewed or a tweet is misconstrued.
General liability insurance typically costs $350 – $900 per year for $1 million in coverage and covers you for:
- Bodily injury
- Property damage
- Medical payments
- Legal defense and judgment
- Personal and advertising injury
Another type of insurance worth considering is Errors and Omissions (E & O). This protects you if your clients sue you over work-related errors such as project delays or coding errors.
Finally, if and when you hire employees, you’ll need workers’ compensation insurance to cover expenses should your employee become ill or injured while on the job.
Step 3: Start Finding Clients
It’s not enough to be good at what you do—or even the best at what you do. You also have to let people know who you are and how you can help them. Let’s start getting the word out!
Build a website
One of the simplest yet most effective things you can do to support your business is to create a website. It’s a smart move for any company, and it’s essential for one that offers tech support. Your potential customers need a place where they can find out about your services, read testimonials from satisfied clients, and find out how to contact you.
As a tech expert, you probably have the skills to create a website, but that doesn’t mean you should put a lot of time into building it yourself. Also, be realistic about your design skills—being a tech whiz doesn’t always translate to coherent branding and a beautiful layout. When it comes to your website, it’s more important to communicate clearly with your customers than to show off your tech skills.
We like Squarespace, which is simple, affordable, and comes with beautiful templates that you can use to get a striking site up and running in no time.
Start with your existing network. Make sure to let your friends and family know what you’re doing and ask them to spread the word.
Then start branching out to people you don’t know. Check out your local chamber of commerce and attend some meetings. Look for meetups of small (or not-so-small) business owners or home-based entrepreneurs or whoever your target market is.
And of course, don’t forget social media. It’s a great place to let people know who you are and what you do, and there are often opportunities to jump into conversations with tips and tricks that can help establish you as a tech expert.
We don’t recommend sinking a lot of money or time into paid advertising until you’ve made the most of the free options available to you. That said, there will come a time when you’ll probably have to pay for some kind of advertising. Even then, we suggest you try one form of advertising at a time before moving on to another one.
Remember back in Step 1 when you were talking to potential clients? Hopefully, you asked them about where they learn about tech support services. Facebook and Instagram can be great ways to target local people, but don’t overlook local magazines and papers.
Regardless of the medium you use, always ask new clients how they heard about you and keep track of what methods are getting the best results.