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Self employment in IT.

Community Veteran
Posts: 1,236
Registered: 02-08-2007

Self employment in IT.

I am now 27 and not getting any younger. I have a dream in life to work for myself in IT offering the following services:
Custom build computers.
Upgrades/Repairs.
Home and small office networking.
Internet services including domain registration, hosting, email accounts, small websites etc.
My problem is that I lack the motivation to do this and am kind of just drifting along with my 40hr/week job. Although this is a good job I know I could make a lot more money. Based on how much I get tortured by friends family to do IT work for them without any advertising I know there is definitely a market in my area.
I have just finished a website for my local bar/restaurant/B&B at www.paddysbarn.com and although you may agree that I am not the worlds best web designer it was a very easy and enjoyable way to make good money!
From my own site at www.seanbranagh.ie you will also see that I am very confident in my IT knowledge.
I have a friend who I would trust with my life who is more interested in actual computer hardware than I am and has expressed an interest in this. I am meeting with him this week to discuss further. The idea is that he would look after the computer building/upgrade/repair jobs and I would look after the networking and internet services. At least then there would be 2 people each to motivate eachother. We would do small jobs outside of our full time jobs and see where this leads us. Ultimately I would like this to lead to us registering self employed and leaving our full time jobs.
Has anyone done this? Any advice?
32 REPLIES
Community Veteran
Posts: 6,735
Thanks: 12
Registered: 02-02-2008

Re: Self employment in IT.

1. Yes, I'm doing it now (just started 4th year doing it).
2. Don't do it if you haven't got the motivation.
3. There's no money in hardware, only in services.
4. Market research, market research, market research, (you can't do too much)
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,236
Registered: 02-08-2007

Re: Self employment in IT.

I know there is no money in hardware. Noone could compete with the likes of Dell. It is the service of installing and upgrading hardware where we would be aiming to make money.
What services do you offer?
Do you have a site?
Is it just you or others aswell?
Community Veteran
Posts: 6,735
Thanks: 12
Registered: 02-02-2008

Re: Self employment in IT.

Just me. I don't make a full-time living out of it, but I don't need to or indeed want to.  Cool
I have a site but don't wish to publicise it here, or indeed anywhere not relevant as it's not a significant source of business. Word of mouth recommendation is maybe 90%, to the extent that most clients never even ask what I charge.
Mostly I sort out computer & network problems for home users and SME's (small businesses). I try to avoid supplying hardware but do give (and charge for) advice on what to buy, then set it up properly.
I'm in a very different age group to you with a load of prior business experience which was a great help. But I also had formal help and advice when I started. This covered all sorts of things including setting up and running a business, tax, insurance, health & safety law etc.
There are lots of different support schemes, I recommend you research what is available to you.
It's very satisfying  Wink
PS When you start get a proper phone number, domain name, web site and email. Don't operate from a mobile phone and free webmail address!
(someone recently put round flyers in my area with a mobile number and web site. The web site was just a "holding page" - how dumb can you get!)
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,236
Registered: 02-08-2007

Re: Self employment in IT.

That is exactly the type of work I/we would be doing aswell as the internet services. We would start outside of our full time jobs first to gauge interest although as described before but I am confident of a market. Some market research would be a good idea aswell. From my time with Maplin electronics I learned that a huge number of people are unable to set up home networks/routers etc. Although Maplin did not supply any service like this I did on occasion go to customers houses to do this. (Don't tell Maplin  Grin)
Although I am only 27 I have had quite a bit of experience over the years including in retail management (Maplin). I also studied business at school although it was only A-Level.
As for phone number, email and such all of this is already in place. I have a reseller hosting account with eukhost which makes things as professional as can be. I even have my own nameservers with them so my custommers would not even know eukhost are there. For example if you do a whois lookup on paddysbarn.com you will only find my own nameservers ns1.branaghcomputers.com and ns2.branaghcomputers.com
I think it is so unprofessional when you see an "XY Services" van with the email address printed on the side "XYServices@btconnect.com" for example!
I will be doing some research as you suggested. Thanks for the advice.
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,574
Thanks: 3
Registered: 13-04-2007

Re: Self employment in IT.

You will always get people asking for computer repairs etc at mates rate they change their minds when you charge proper rates.
You cant offer all the services you suggest companies have web developers, flash developer's, first line, second line and third line support, cisco specialist, desktop support, network support and the list goes on.
The reason for all these people is you can only be good at one thing maybe two. Its one thing sticking a few none mission critical servers in your loft it a whole different ball game setting up a domain for a company when it may effect their whole company if you get it wrong. Could you specify the spec for a terminal server for 30 clients how much bandwidth would be needed what spec for the server how would you run transform files etc?
You may get very small companies who are desperate to have your services but you will have a hard time convincing others unless you can prove commercial  experience.
If you take the website you give as an example the van at the top is very poorly cut out, you use flash paper which wont register in Google so you loose a lot of page rankings. If I was a large company I would notice these things and want more examples of your sites etc.
The bottom line is forget it unless you want to go to college and get a degree or MS qualifications
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,236
Registered: 02-08-2007

Re: Self employment in IT.

I think you missed the bit about "home and SMALL office networking" which means home users and maybe the office of the local builder where there may be four or five computers that need to be networked to share a printer and internet connection and maybe have various email addresses at the company domain name. Maybe to share mapped network drives and have a backup facility for documents. I have no intension of offering services to large companies nor is there any such companies in my area which is exactly why I did not mention it.
Community Veteran
Posts: 14,469
Registered: 30-07-2007

Re: Self employment in IT.

The trouble is it is the one man bands and small companies that are the most difficult to support as their demands are high but they have very little money for such things and can be notorious for not paying on time. Just getting them to pay the bills can actually cost you more then they actually owe.
If you are not MCSE certified then a lot of companies will not touch you.
The company I work for is small (3 engineers), has been going for over 10 years, our 'patch' covers north London all the way up past Milton Keynes and we are struggling to find business as many people have been cutting back on IT needs. As Samuri says, just doing bits a pieces for yourself and friends is no comparison to the real world where companies rely almost entirely on IT and could easily go under if their systems don't work, even for a short time.
You are better off joining another company (ideally small) and learning the job and all its pitfalls. There are a lot of 'IT' people around doing similar stuff to what you want to do so competition is very fierce. I was thinking of starting up myself (I have over 20 years IT experience and web design) but having seen how much of a struggle it is to run a small IT business I gave up that idea.
It will be a huge risk but if that is something you still want to do, make sure you have public liability insurance as one mistake could cost you a lot of money and ruin your current and future business prospects.
Community Veteran
Posts: 17,463
Thanks: 1,473
Fixes: 16
Registered: 06-11-2007

Re: Self employment in IT.

Most of what you can/want to do, is way over my head..... however, as mentioned in other posts, do your market research.... check out local shop windows for adverts, the local paper for small ads from people trying to do the same sort of work as you intend.... but the best bit of advice I can give you is to make some sort of business plan..... put the ideas into some sort of presentation, in a folder,  The range of services offered, charges, overheads expected, etc., then find out where your local "Business Link" office is..... make an appointment to see them, they will listen to what you want to do, and be able to give you good sound advice, including loads of things you never even thought of, and most important of all the tax and legal position..... oh yes.  I think you will find it is a FREE service too !.
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 18,316
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Registered: 11-01-2008

Re: Self employment in IT.

I think it's something that a lot of people would like to do, me included.
But certainly in my case what I'm on in my job developing software for a large retailer is probably more than I'd get going solo and a lot less hassle and with a family to support probably not worth the risk.
I get lots of calls from mates and some small business to sort them out, but like samuria says if i started charging proper rates those calls would probably dry up. Maybe it's worth a try :-)
You could always have a look at http://www.nerdsonsite.com/, though I don't know if they operate in Ireland yet.
If you do it, best of luck.

Customer / Moderator / If it helped click the thumb / If it fixed it click 'This fixed my problem'

Community Veteran
Posts: 6,735
Thanks: 12
Registered: 02-02-2008

Re: Self employment in IT.

Business Link is one good scheme, there are others (local & national) aimed at different groups.
Charging rates are key. Companies with employees, premises etc. and of course backup, holiday cover etc. have to charge what they do to stay in business.
If you're a self-employed sole trader (and under the VAT threshold) you can charge somewhat less but DON'T underestimate what that needs to be.
A rough rule of thumb I used to use when doing IT contracts was - what's the salary & benefits package for someone doing this job as an employee? Divide by 1000 for your minimum hourly rate. So if you're doing a £60K job charge at least £60 per hour.
Finally your clients need to understand what you can and can't do. Don't, as noted by others, attempt to do too much as you can't be good enough in them all. And try to find gaps in the market of course and focus there.
Community Veteran
Posts: 6,735
Thanks: 12
Registered: 02-02-2008

Re: Self employment in IT.

Another good thing to do is to identify your local business networking groups and go along. Many have breakfast meetings or similar and usually welcome guests.
You'll be able to meet people doing similar things in many lines of business who'll give you a lot of useful advice.
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,236
Registered: 02-08-2007

Re: Self employment in IT.

Thankyou for the advice. Will definitely look into schemes like Business Link or anything else in my area. Firts I have to discuss things with my friend.
I the meantime I have been playing with a site for the services. Obviously the address would be www.branaghcomputers.com which I already own but my newly crteated "prototype" is at www.seanbranagh.ie/branaghcomputers for testing. None of the buttons work but I am just concerned with getting the apperance right.
pierre_pierre
Grafter
Posts: 19,757
Registered: 30-07-2007

Re: Self employment in IT.

Have you looked at the opposition in Downpatrick - looks rather a lot already Lips are sealed Undecided Cry

Aaron Pollock Ltd
Knowledge House, 46 Belfast Road, Downpatrick, BT30 9UP
028 4461 7121
Category: Computer Systems & Software (Development)

Libertas Solutions
14 Innoavtion House, Down Business Park, Belfast Road, Downpatrick, BT30 9UP
028 4483 8833
Category: Computer Consultants
Webcorona Ltd
12a Innovation House, Down Business Centre, Downpatrick, BT30 9UP
0845 868 3356
Category: Computer Systems & Software (Development)
Learn It At Work Ltd
Down Business Pk, Down Business Centre, 46 Belfast Rd, Downpatrick, County Down, BT30 9UP
028 44617701
Category: Computer Training

Ni BizNet
Down Business Park, 1, Down Business Centre, Belfast Rd, Downpatrick, County Down, BT30 9UP
028 44616300
Category: Computer Consultants
Gilchrist & Co (NI) LLP Chartered Accountants
Oakdene House, 12 Cargagh Road, Downpatrick, BT30 9AG
028 4483 2848
Category: Computer Consultants
Michael Smith Computing
9 Graysfield, Crossgar, Downpatrick, BT309HG
028 4483 0604
Fresh Web Templates
3 Rademon Crescent, Crossgar, BT30 9NY
028 4483 1103
IT Tracservices
14 Ballydonnell Rd, Downpatrick, County Down, BT30 8EN
0870 896 5295
Category: Computer Consultants
Retailworx Limited
7 Old Saintfield Road, Crossgar, Downpatrick, County Down, BT30
0845 257 2500
Category: Computer Systems & Software (Development)
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,236
Registered: 02-08-2007

Re: Self employment in IT.

Yes I agree. Of all that you have listed I know a couple personally. They are not all offering the same services as me and those that are are offering on a larger scale and at higher cost than I would be. One of them listed is an accountant and nothing to do with computers. One in particular (will not mention the name) was ditched by a company in favour of me due to poor service. The job involved setting up 6 computers in a local builders office on a network. The job was completed by said company with the wireless router left with no encryption and all of the computers on workgroup "workgroup". I was called upon through word of mouth to resolve this and am now solely responsible for all current and future work for this office including email and 2 websites. Work is ongoing.