Money-spinner #1: Training on Microsoft Windows Programs
Windows is the dominant player in most offices throughout the world. It can be found in approximately 90% of offices – it is where the mass market is. You will not have difficulty in finding companies who have many PC users using Windows software. Forget whether or not you like Bill Gates. Just go where the money is. When you have accumulated a small fortune, you can then afford to be more choosy.
Opportunities in this market include:
- Home users who have just bought their first PC. They haven’t a clue how to use it and need your help. You can start in this market with surprisingly little skill. So long as you know a little bit more than average, you will be fine. I have more difficulty convincing people of this than just about anything else. Let me repeat this one more time: You don’t have to be an expert for this market!
- Home users who have a PC that has been sitting in the corner for the last 12 months. They feel they are not getting value for money from it, which they are not. They call you in so they can use a higher percentage of its capabilities.
- People re-training for work. They are often women who have had children and the consequent maternity leave. They are re-training to catch up with current office practice and PC skills.
- Upgrading of company software. If a company has been using earlier versions of software, they sometimes call in trainers to update their staff on the new software versions. You step in and show them its practically the same!
- Enhancing existing skills. Staff want more advanced skills that lets them work faster with less hassle. What is advanced to them is a piece of cake for you. But there is money in them hills.
A special note on Microsoft Office
Microsoft Office holds nearly 90% of the office suite market. This is the main set of productivity applications that are used day in day out. There is big money to be had here, but mainly in the business market. To companies, time means money and if they can save a whole bundle of it that means a bundle of money for you too.
Opportunities in this market include:
- A company changes their office suite from a competitor over to Microsoft. They want to re-train their staff and familiarise themselves with the new features in this package.
- A company upgrades from previous versions of Microsoft Office and want to get up to speed on the new features added.
- A new member of staff is recruited and they don’t have the necessary skills. You step in and show them how wonderful Microsoft Office is. They love you for it.
- The office staff keep getting stuck on certain parts of Microsoft Office. They make a list and call you in. You go through each step, bang bang bang. There, you’ve finished. But it took less time than they imagined and they booked you for a whole day. You show them some more features that they didn’t know existed. They feel they had excellent value for money because they got more training done than anticipated.
Money-spinner #2: Client-Based Software development
Let me clarify what I mean by Client-based software development. Client-based applications run on the client – in other words on your own PC and its hard drive. Examples of this include Microsoft Office, Windows and so on.
If you have experience in this area, you will find the rewards lucrative. Most companies need database systems to manage their information. They also might need a specific utility to calculate prices for their clients based on a number of input variables.
You could learn vb.net, Visual Basic, VBA, C & C++ or any of the other programming languages.
This area is complex but the rewards are high. Make sure you have good skills before taking on anything too large.
Money-spinner #3: Internet based Software development
If you go to a website and use a discussion forum, you are actually using Internet based software. The processing is done on the website hosts server and the software is also installed on that system. You are just using your browser to interact. Another example is hotmail. All the email processing is done at the hotmail website as opposed to being processed on your PC if using a program such as Outlook.
There is much talk about software products becoming web-based. It helps cut down on software piracy and enables software updates to be easily distributed. This lends itself to a subscription-based model where users pay for software use on an annual contact. Microsoft is one big advocate of this type of software both for their own products and also in the use of development tools.
In the long term, this type of skill could prove lucrative. But be warned: these type of applications are more complicated to build than client-based applications. The development time is increased for the same application and you are likely to need a higher skill level.
However, there are significant benefits to this type of software. Some companies, for example, even charge the customer by the transaction. Rather than paying a large upfront fee for the software, they pay per transaction. Every company has a cost for certain software-based tasks. If that cost is calculated and you can prove timesavings with your web-based software, you have a good case for charging by the transaction. The companies cashflow is not affected and you can cash in over the long term.
Hot technologies in this area include:
- Microsoft’s .net technology
- PHP & mysql
Money-spinner #4: Technical Support
Everybody is stuck. Up and down the country, all around the world, people are banging away at their machine with frustration because things are not working as they should be. Or even not being able to achieve one small task using the software that they know can do it.
Support is great because it means they turn to you as their first port of call once the client relationship is establish. The client says, “Call that computer guy. He normally deals with this sort of thing and he knows our systems as well.” Now you may have some knowledge about their systems, you may not. That doesn’t matter. What does matter is the client’s perception of things.
Get in the door here and they will nearly always call you back somewhere down the line.
Money-spinner #5: Website design
Since the internets meteoric rise, there has been a proliferation of website designers, all competing for a this gigantic market. The competition is fierce so be warned! However, if you have good skills in html, website design, WordPress and the like, it could be a good avenue for you to explore.
If you are targeting the small business users with your web design services, you can rapidly create decent looking websites using a WordPress framework. These are highly efficient themes that help you build professional looking websites without having to be a skilled html programmer. Recommended themes include:
Alternatively, for a cheap and cheerful solution, you can use prebuilt template pages that really only need you to add content, apart from a few tweaks here and there.
Money-spinner #6: Network Specialist
Most businesses with several employees have networked computers. And networks are always going wrong. This is a great for you, the specialist!
The opportunities here are setting up a network, adding new PC’s to the network, altering the configuration of the existing network and troubleshooting problems when the network goes down. Also, you might have administrative tasks to do, such as adding users, changing user permissions and doing software upgrades.
I tell you, if I had a penny for every time a network goes down… It’s a great ongoing money-spinner and many smaller businesses seem to think that if you can set-up a network you can do anything IT related. Consequently, they offer you all sorts of additional work completely unrelated to networking.
Typical career titles in this area include Networkd Administrator, Network Analyst and Network Engineer.
Money-spinner #7: Installing peripherals & software
Installations can be a painless affair but oftentimes you will hit problems. This can arise because the software you install has a knock-on effect on another bit of software. You end up chasing your tail to finalise the fix. Its like a stack of dominoes, with one change causing something else to mess up. Nightmare! Also, sometimes the hardware is incompatible, is of the wrong sort or just wont fit!
The thought of installing hardware is terrifying for most people. Installing a bit of RAM would normally take me 10 minutes flat. But most don’t want to dare take the computer lid off. They have a fear of the computers insides!
The net result? Money for nothing. Particularly if you have a minimum charge of one hours work for a local client. You’re there for 10 minutes and then you’re off again. But the invoice is for one hour’s work. I used to come away with a nice smug feeling and took the rest of that hour off. Its so nice being paid well for short bits of work.
Money-spinner #8: Supplying hardware, software and peripherals
I’ve included this opportunity not so much for the profit you can make in supplying these items but for the doors it can open. Supplying parts themselves is unlikely to make you much money unless you do it in volume and on a large scale.
However, if you supply parts on the basis that you will install them, that’s a different story. You send them an “engineer” to install the supplied part at your normal billing rate. You make $2 on the part, $100 on the installation. You’ve also acquired a new client to add to you list, which your going to sell to regularly, right? Just keep in the back of your mind the “life-time value” this client might mean to you.
Money-spinner #9: Website promotion
What is the point in having a website if nobody goes to it? Companies often spend significant sums of money on creating a professionally designed website. Yet they often get next to no visitors. It ends up as an expensive waste.
Get people to that site for them so they can generate enquires and make sales! That’s what its all about, isn’t it? Show them how you can boost the number of daily visitors from 5 a day to 500 to 1000. Sell them the idea that you are an expert in this area. A whole Search Engine Optimisation industry has mushroomed from nothing, with intense competition everywhere. However, if you have a personal relationship with your client, the door is wide open for you to promote this add-on service.
Develop your skills in this area before you start to promote them. Or, outsource them to a third-party, with you taking a cut as the middle-man.
Granted, this is not really a computer consultancy type role, but clients often perceive things that way. They think its a technical task with complexity – which is it. However, since you deal with technical tasks they have the notion that you could also probably do this area too. The blurred role of the computer consultant can often spill over into many losely related areas.
Money-spinner #10: Generic Computer Consultancy
Sometimes a company just wants general advice. They don’t know what they don’t know but they do know they have a problem. With your extensive knowledge of the IT industry, they call you in to pick your brains. You are a resource of knowledge that can help them make sensible decisions and help them avoid making expensive mistakes.
Typical consultancy questions include:
- What type of computers should they buy?
- From where to buy?
- What software will do the job?
- How can they benefit from the internet?
The list is endless.
My charge rate for consultancy is generally higher than for the other areas because they are paying for my vast experience. This doesn’t come cheap but the payoff for them is large and so worth it.