This page is a guide for getting started with a part-time or full-time consulting business in the Iowa City area or beyond.
Growing a Tech Career
Depending on your interests and focus, a tech career usually consists of the following:
- EDUCATION — Education helps lay a foundation of knowledge to build on and ensures you get introduced to an organized presentation of methods and best practices to use. It’s a context that lets you know the lay of the land. In addition to 2-year and 4-year degrees, there are certifications that give you proven functional knowledge and skills for certain tasks and areas of responsibility.
- SKILLS — When you apply education using tools and software over time to provide services and solve people’s tech problems, skills will be gained that make you more able and efficient in the future. Work experience leads to skills.
- SOFTWARE — As a tech person, there will be many software programs you use to accomplish tasks such as cloning someone’s mechanical drive to a solid state drive, cleaning up malware, or other tasks.
- TOOLS — Opening, repairing, and upgrading computers requires a variety of tools. Over time, you will build your collection of tools. This allows you to take on more tasks.
As you get education, experience, skills, software, and tools, you will be more valued to your employer, or if you have your own business, your services will be more valuable to customers. The greater the value you can offer, the more people are willing to spend for your services.
Employee, Entrepreneur, or Both
As an employee you get to focus on one area and let someone else handle accounting, advertising, billing, marketing, and general administrative tasks of running a business. This is okay if you like the work you are doing.
As an entrepreneur you are responsible for all aspects of the business. Some people like the additional mix of tasks throughout the day and week that go into running a business. For people who are skilled with customer service, web design, social media, billing, and other areas of running a business, this is an exciting and rewarding way to spend time. It lets a person grow in many skill areas.
Some people have a full-time job or part-time job to provide some benefits, stability, and accountability. Staying employed for a long uninterrupted period of time builds your creditability. It conveys that you are someone who is reliable, responsible, and can get along with others. It’s possible to be a good employee and also have your own business that you are growing. These can be interdependently beneficial. You can bring some skills from outside your job that benefit the employer. You might learn some business practices from an employer that you can apply to your own business.
Wear All the Hats — Keep All the Income
When Best Buy sends out a Geek Squad service person, the charge for general work is about $100 per hour. That’s a typical rate. It’s similar to what other service professionals charge to fix appliances or other types of services. Independent tech consultants in the Iowa City area may charge $70 to $150 per hour for tech services.
When a customer pays $100 to Best Buy for Geek Squad services, a portion of that money goes to Best Buy corporate headquarters, some goes to help pay the managers, accountants, and HR staff at the local store, and some goes to general overhead. The employee might get paid only $20 per hour.
However, when $100 gets paid to a consultant / entrepreneur, that person gets to keep 100% of the money. They will still have some overhead to run their business, but they will end up with much more than the $20 per hour that the Geek Squad employee would earn.
If you have your own business, and wear all the hats, you get to keep a larger portion of the revenue.
Invest in the Bank of You
It’s important to save up money for life’s unexpected financial needs, as well as long-term goals.
In addition to savings, there’s also the opportunity for investing.
Some people with $1,000 make the mistake of putting only $200 in a savings account and then putting the $800 remaining money into crypto currency or a multi-level marketing scheme. They might as well spend $800 in a casino and lose it by the end of the night.
Instead, it’s better to keep a larger portion of money untouched in a secure savings account, and the smaller portion of money can be put towards an aspect of your business and career that you control and can profit from.
Think about this… If you put $1,000 in a savings account and earn 0.5% interest (a good rate in today’s market) you will earn $5 of interest by the end of the year. If you take just $200 of that money, and purchase software, tools, and/or education, you can parlay that investment into regular weekly earnings.
Example — Data Recovery Service
Here’s a real world example. Data recovery software is available for free, but some of the paid products are a little better. [Example] A person could expand their tech service offerings to include data recovery by purchasing some professional software, and then maybe create a website promoting that service. The software might be $150 (lifetime license) and a website could cost $50. That’s $200. If you charge $50 per hour for your services, you need only 4 hours of work to cover your initial investment.
Now you have an additional service you can offer and earn money doing so. Perhaps after one year you would earn $2,000 on providing that service. This is just an example. Actual results are unpredictable. The general principle here is that the bank will give you $1 for a $200 investment (at 1/2 percent interest), but if you invest in yourself, you can probably earn more than $1 on a $200 investment in your education or something for your business.
Be Careful — Create an Advisory Board
It’s easy to get exited about the opportunities available when you have your own business. Miscalculations can leas to losses of time and money. So, it’s good to invest small amounts, slowly over time, in education and resources.
It helps to have an “Advisory Board” of people you trust to get feedback and guidance. Friends, family, industry peers, and mentors can all help provide some insights and suggestions.
Build Your Portfolio of Skills and Services
Whether pursuing a traditional career or starting a tech consulting business, you will want to build your portfolio of services and skills.
As the list grows, you’ll have more you can offer to customers and you will be more desirable to possible employers.
Here are some examples of in-demand much needed skills and services you can work toward learning:
- Using manufacturer utility software to ensure drivers and BIOS firmware is updated. For example, Dell SupportAssist software or HP Support Assistant software.
- Help someone setup Google WiFi in a home to create a mesh network for better speed and reliability throughout a home or business.
- Cleanup malware and viruses using a program like Malwarebytes.
- Replace parts that commonly fail in desktop computers, such as power supplies.
- Upgrade laptop and desktop computers to have more memory and solid state hard drives for faster performance and additional years of use.
- Clone a computer’s traditional mechanical hard drive by copying it to a solid state drive. Then install the solid state drive for greatly improved performance. Resize drive partition as needed.
- Setup a printer to use the manufacturer’s software for proper printer maintenance and use of additional features such as scanning.
- Setup a new computer with the necessary software, updates, and system configuration.
- Help someone create a basic website.
- Record, edit, product, and upload a YouTube video related to tech. The topic can be a buying guide, how-to video, product review, or other related topic. With this experience, you can better assist people who want to create and share their own videos.
- Take a refurbished computer from Goodwill or something donated, and upgrade the system for resale.
With this short list of skills and services, a person could keep busy many hours a week helping people.
Here are some sources for tech learning.
- Google – IT Certificates [View]
- Microsoft – Customize Your Learning Path – various training areas [View]
- Udemy – Computer Hardware Training [View]
- Udemy – Network and Security Training [View]
- Udemy – Tech Certifications [View]
These are some assignments you can begin with.
- WEEK #1 — Tech Industry Influencers. Learn about the people who provide commentary and reviews about tech. [View]
- WEEK #2 — Tech Laptop. Build a tech laptop with the software and additional adapters needed to do tech work. [Link Coming Soon]
- WEEK #3 — More Soon. Additional weekly training topics will be added soon.
Pay it Forward
You’ll be getting help and support from friends, family, industry peers, and mentors. As you become successful and are able, you can help others get started with their own tech business.