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Running an IT services business

IT   wires plugged in

Computer networks in offices, personal laptops in coffee shops, streets heaving with internet cafes, and the reliance on home PCs - computers are an essential element of our everyday lives.

No wonder then that IT services is one of the most stable industries around.

Starting an IT business is relatively easy to do. To get on track you need to understand the mechanics of a computer and each vital component; once you're confident with that you have the basics to begin.

James Matthews has been in the IT trade since he left school, starting part-time as a "Saturday lad" and working in different IT companies. Matthews, now director of Innovation IT Support, followed his PC passion and decided to start a PC business.

Self-taught

He suggests to budding computer engineers: "You can definitely gain skills in IT support on your own - the majority of expertise I learnt was self-taught and from working part-time in other computer repair companies. Build up your knowledge, get Microsoft certifications, work in IT businesses and get a feel for the trade - then your own business will be a success."

You can definitely gain skills in IT support on your own - the majority of expertise I learnt was self-taught and from working part-time in other computer repair companies

PC health checks, virus scans and software support are all procedures IT technicians must be confident with. However, there are other services that show strong growth, for example computer training and website design.

Computer literacy is ever-increasing, along with website construction - this is where IT services can burgeon. Technical whizz kids can offer their knowledge by, for example, teaching foreign students how to use a laptop, or helping entrepreneurs setting up monetised and SEO friendly websites.

Matthews offers these services and more, covering all aspect of IT support. He gives his views on where demand is particularly large.

Robust demand

"Computer training is a relatively big thing, people need someone to help them out and show them how. Normally you get that kind of work once you've done an IT repair for a customer.

"Website design is changing, there are less businesses starting up and it's not as popular. However, there is an ongoing demand for website updating established businesses."

Overall, however, demand is fairly robust across the board. "It's such a big market and technology is something you can't do without. People are always going to have computers so it's a reliable industry."

You may think online services could threaten independent IT services, but Matthews disagrees. "Online services where people offer remote support are limited; a lot of people like to have local, personal help. They trust a one-on-one service more then some national company that's trading online, or 'the tech guys' corporations that send someone different out every time."

A typical salary for an IT service business depends on marketing and location. Even an excellent business needs advertising or word-of-mouth to be recognised.

The middle tier of computer engineers make between £35k and £60k and the highest 10% make more than £75k. Entrepreneurs starting their own PC repair business will find the more knowledge they have, the higher their earning potential.

Creating a website for your IT business is a primary marketing tool in attracting clients, along with flyers and business cards. Promoting in offices, supermarkets, on bulletin boards or posting to houses are also good means of advertising.

Word-of-mouth and referrals separate the successes from the failures in the IT repair business.

However, James Matthews says that initially at least, you need to be proactive in your marketing, and patient. "I started off advertising in small publications, local newspapers and magazines, and built things up. One thing I would say is that it doesn't happen overnight."

Echoing the sentiments of a certain former US Defence Secretary, Matthews advises IT technicians with hopes of starting a business that: "You need to know what you know and know what you don't know, and establish your knowledge, building IT skills."

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