Throughout my work, I’ve encountered numerous independent computer consultants. Most people will give it less than a year before quitting and start actively looking for a job once more. At the same time, a select few continue to prosper in their independent practices, and a select few have expanded their businesses into more giant, profitable computer support corporations.
Today, almost all small businesses that depend on computer systems require someone competent to maintain them. There is a tremendous need for cost-effective solutions for the upkeep and support of computer systems for small businesses. Every small business owner today is searching for ways to cut expenses. The Independent Computer Consultant is in a great position to provide exceptional help at a lower cost than alternatives like in-house personnel or more prominent IT help companies.
So why is success for Independent Computer Consultants so uncommon when there is such a large potential market, and they may offer a much-needed solution?
Because they employ an incorrect hourly support billing model, which is expected. Follow these three easy steps if you want to follow most of your coworkers and struggle momentarily before deciding that being your boss is too tricky and unstable and calling it quits.
FIRST STEP: BILL PER HOUR
Most independent computer consultants can tell you their hourly charge, probably between $75 and $150 per hour if you ask 100 of them.
How many will say, “I charge flat, monthly rates? I don’t charge by the hour.”? I bet there aren’t many.
It’s difficult and inherently unstable to base your income on how many hours you can accrue regularly and monthly. A cost-conscious client (who isn’t today?) will always be aware of your time on-site because hourly rates are designed that way. And they’ll try to minimize it whenever and wherever they can.
They’ll put off taking care of “smaller” problems while deciding whether taking care of anything, like connecting a user to a network printer, warrants paying you an hourly rate. Sadly, even minor issues have a significant detrimental impact on your client’s productivity. They’ll notice when their productivity declines to the point that it costs them money. And they’ll be eager to point the finger at the systems you’re in charge of maintaining.
These everyday occurrences are typically the ones that can form the basis of the hourly computer consultant’s income, even if they only take a few minutes a day to address because they can open the door for you to work on additional difficulties. However, this contradiction can make it challenging for the consultant to effectively manage the systems and produce a steady income because the customer frequently looks to cut these hours.
Additionally, when a significant issue arises—like a server or significant email outage—your client’s stress will be increased because, while their production is at a standstill, they are shelling out hundreds or even thousands of dollars to have you address the issue.
Paying by the hour fosters a lose-lose situation. The client is unhappy and has computer issues, but the consultant earns more money. A client is happy with fewer issues, but the consultant is worse off.
STEP 2: ACTIVELY SUPPORT YOU
If you charge by the hour for on-site help, you typically wait for a call from a client who has a need or issue that needs your attention. Ideally, you’ll be able to strike a balance between having enough customers who need your services to keep you busy and not having too many customers that need you right away for “critical” requests or unanticipated situations.
Finding this balance is challenging, and many new computer consultants fail to do so. Keeping active enough can be difficult if you have too few clients, few problems, and a small budget for improvement projects. You might be tempted to phone your client when everything is going well to “check-in.” However, your client can see this adversely as you might be “fishing” for a few more billable hours. Having a string of slow months for your revenue might be precarious.
However, if you take on too many customers, you can find yourself busier than expected. Customers will be unhappy if you cannot quickly respond to their needs. The likelihood that you will lose more than a few billable hours if you neglect to respond to a customer during a genuine emergency because you are attending to the needs of another client is considerable.
These issues might be resolved by setting up a reliable server monitoring system. If you actively monitor the server, you can catch things like failed backups, low disk space, hardware failure notifications, etc. This will lessen unforeseen crises and give you far more reliable scheduling options.
You can find problems that might have gone undiscovered until they become serious by monitoring. You don’t need to wait for your client to specify the job that has to be done. You can examine the server logs and inform your client of any issues that require attention.
Under the hourly charging model, proactive monitoring has an issue because… What if it succeeds?
What if you can make their systems so clean that issues are infrequent? Will you still be able to keep yourself occupied enough if you have to deal with minor user complaints daily?
What if the contrary is accurate, and issues arise virtually daily? While it will be simple to bring these issues to your client’s attention, and hopefully, they will value your early detection of the case, there is a chance that they will wonder why so many problems are occurring and why you suddenly need to spend so much billable time on their systems.
Of course, there is also the issue of how to price proactive system monitoring in a support model with hourly rates. Whether you bill an hourly, partial-hour, or flat rate for your monitoring service, the client will doubt whether this additional expense is required unless they regularly and visibly witness the efficacy of your work.
If monitoring keeps you busy and aids in problem identification, your clients may wonder why they are now shelling out more cash than before you began monitoring their systems. Wasn’t the purpose of the monitoring to lessen issues and save me money?
They will be pleased if it keeps their systems performing at their best, but your income will suffer.
When using the hourly-rate company model, being proactive is difficult. Although it may hurt your immediate financial situation, it gives you the best possibility of gaining loyal customers.
The hourly computer consultant has another dispute that he must resolve.
Reactive support mainly entails waiting for anything to go wrong before you can survive, which is career suicide for a computer consultant engaged in keeping things operating.
Step 3: Exclusively offer on-site service
Of course, you’ll need to see your clients somewhat frequently. You don’t get paid if you don’t see your clients as hourly support consultants. It is in your best advantage to visit your client’s site as frequently as possible if your business is mainly based on the requirement that you be there to help them and make money. Your client wants to see you there as little as possible.
Starting a computer consulting business is difficult enough without this conflict, which alone will keep them from being successful.
Additionally, it’s always possible that two of your consumers will require assistance at the exact moment. The likelihood of unanticipated issues developing is significant if you are not proactive in monitoring your clients, as was described above. When you manage numerous unattended networks, it frequently happens that there are two emergencies at once.
What if it’s just a straightforward request to clean up a workstation plagued with pop-up windows and isn’t even an emergency? However, the phone arrives as you are working on a project, a service call is awaiting your arrival, and you won’t be able to be there until a day and a half from now. This doesn’t do much for client happiness, let alone the potential that they might not want to wait for you and instead find a different approach to address their issue, costing you at least some billable time. (and maybe lose you a client at worst).
Offering remote computer support would seem to be a straightforward option. You can practically be in two places at once if you do this. While it’s unlikely that you’ll try to perform an SBS migration remotely, you can start a malware scan at one client. At the same time, you’re present at another (though if you charge by the hour, you must be extremely careful about whose clock you’re using when working remotely from a client site).
Remote computer support might undoubtedly increase customer happiness. Your clients will see you less frequently, which we know is what they want when being charged by the hour, in addition to the fact that you will be able to provide practically instantaneous service.
Therefore, you will lose money if you don’t correctly bill for remote help.
But how are remote services billed under the hourly rate billing model? each hour? or 15-minute intervals? What if the support call’s resolution takes ten minutes? Do you charge for it or classify it as “good customer service” instead? How many billable hours may you potentially waste over the month? How many calls might have resulted in more time that could have been billed if you had visited the location to offer the service? Would you still be able to work enough hours on-site each week to meet the needs of all of your clients if you didn’t have to go on-site to handle the minor problems that arise every day?
Let’s say your hourly rate is $125. and you work remotely for four clients each week for a combined total of two hours. You would be perfect for this job… You would work roughly 8 hours weekly, mainly in your pajamas, to earn $48K yearly from remote work.
But I can assure you that it won’t take long for doubts to be raised about the necessity or legitimacy of your service if you constantly give your client an invoice for 8 hours each month and they can’t remember the last time they saw your face for more than a few hours.
Excellent record-keeping and reporting are essential whenever you provide remote support. Even with thorough reports, your customer will still need a high degree of communication or other proof of your work and the time spent if they pay you for a significant number of hours each month for work they are not actually seeing you complete.
As you attempt to complete your work, a new dispute arises where your client begins to doubt your job due to the billing arrangement itself.
It’s straightforward to fail as an independent computer consultant. Follow the guidelines provided by countless other unsuccessful consultants who came before you and establish a company based on hourly billing rates to put out fires at your clients’ locations as quickly and frequently as possible.
Visit SuccessfulComputerConsulting.com for free step-by-step video training that may set you on the correct path right away if, on the other hand, you want to launch a computer consulting company that adheres to a business plan that has been successfully tested and is sure to succeed.
Free Resources for Starting a Computer Consulting Business as an Independent Computer Consultant.
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