High payoff knowledge: What IT skills you need to learn

Let us assume you do not currently have a speciality and you are going to start by training home users or small business owners. In this scenario, you must master the basics. As I see it, this entails learning Windows, Microsoft Office, email, internet browsing, cloud applications (such as setting up gmail, Google Docs, Dropbox etc.)  and a good knowledge of how to configure a computer to connect to the internet. If you want to specialise your training to a niche market, such as using Photoshop, then master the relevant applications.

You don’t have to be an expert on each package and you may not wish to tackle the more complex programs until you have some experience under your belt. Ease yourself into it gently and starting increasing your acquired skill. This will happen on-the-job, without having dedicated time set aside. However, you will rapidly accelerate your learning by creating a training schedule. This in itself will bring you additional confidence and a belief that you are becoming valuable to the clients you meet.

What to learn


Windows comes in several flavours and versions, confusing many nowadays. Yet the fundamental operation of each version of Windows is the same. Learn how to use one and you can use them all – at least on a basic level. When it comes to the more complex aspects of Windows (such as networking) then I accept that there may be differences between older versions and the newer versions. However, if you have a strong fundamental understanding of these difficult areas, you can often work your way around and come up with a solution. There is sufficient similarity between different versions for you to make a guestimate of what to do.

Study how to connect different computers to the internet. Get an understanding of how computers can be networked together. These skills are very useful indeed.

Microsoft Office

One of the most popular software packages in a business is Microsoft Office. There are several different versions but generally it will include: Word (Word Processor), Excel (Spreadsheet), PowerPoint (Presentation Package), Access (Database) and Outlook (Email client, calendar, Contacts, Task List).

Most offices I’ve been to have Microsoft Office and so you need to develop your knowledge of this application. You can leave learning PowerPoint and Access until later, since these are less often used and you will rarely be asked for training on them.

Web Design Software

It is important for businesses to have a web presence and many already have their own website. But they are not static. They evolve, change appearance and grow according to the businesses changing needs. Quite often I might search the internet for a local restaurant to check out their menu and opening times. What I come across is often something very basic and could do with a huge makeover. That’s where they need someone with web design skills and it is a great opportunity for you.

There are many smaller businesses that have yet to set up their own website. And don’t forget the new businesses that have just started. There is a fair amount of competition in this market but being local to a business is a distinct advantage. They feel a certain safety in their buying decision, knowing that you live just up the road and can come out to see them due to the convenient proximity.

I learnt to create websites about 6 months after starting my own business. But when I started, websites had only just started to happen and the internet was in its infancy! I can’t believe how things have moved on since then. Needless to say, websites have grown in importance beyond recognition, as have the opportunities.

When I started, I tried to learn my web design software without a manual. The website I designed for my client looked poor. Mind you, so did most of the others in those days. But today things are different. You need to produce quality sites or you will be wasting your clients time and money.

Please note that the opportunities in web design are not confined to creating pretty looking websites. There are many web programming languages that require specific skillsets, such as PHP and Javascript. You can always focus on these specialist areas and carve out your niche..

Cloud Applications

Nowadays, Cloud applications are becoming increasingly important, as they grow in number, sophistication and takeup. Gmail is everywhere, Dropbox has millions of users, Google Docs can do most things, iCloud for Apples ecosystem is hugely popular. The benefits of keep data and applications stored in the Cloud is becoming more apparently, particularly as word spreads and people try these services out. Get a good basic knowledge of how to set up accounts and use their basic features. For the uninitiated (and technophobic), it can be a daunting proposition that puts them off even testing this type of service.