Anyone here build systems for people as a source of side income?

Discussion in 'OT Technology' started by Blindsight, Oct 15, 2003.

  1. Blindsight

    Blindsight Guest

    I want to break into building systems for local customers so I can have a way to make cash during college. I have some questions though.



    How did you get your name out and build up a client base?

    How do you handle "tech support"? (ie, do you handle both h/w failure and stupid users or just h/w failure?)

    Do you have a demo rig that you tote around to possible client's houses? Do you invite them to your place?

    I'm thinking of charging a flat rate ($100?) for configuring and building a system and making no profit off the h/w and s/w and making sure the customers know this so that they hopefully will understand I'm not trying to sell them crap they don't need. Does this sound like a good idea?

    Any thoughts, comments, or advice in general? I beg for OTs wisdom! :bowdown:
     
  2. MP

    MP New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2002
    Messages:
    34,377
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Silicon Valley
    i usually only build a system to sell if i get one or accuired one. Then i just post it on a local board (craigslist.org) and sell it. I could make more money doing it but i'm really lazy.
     
  3. Penguin Man

    Penguin Man Protect Your Digital Liberties

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2002
    Messages:
    21,696
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Edmonton, AB
    I'd just make it clear to the buyer that you don't provide tech support unless it's hardware that's covered under warrantee.
     
  4. Rob

    Rob OT Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2002
    Messages:
    88,621
    Likes Received:
    39
    Location:
    Atlanta, GA
    I want to buy a dedicated server and start my own small hosting company. Anybody need some webspace? :hs:
     
  5. Chimpa Codigo

    Chimpa Codigo Bаnned bу Ѕuреr Modulators

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2001
    Messages:
    68,463
    Likes Received:
    21
    Location:
    Salinas, CA
    I usually handle everything from the building to hardware failure to mistakes made from other tech people trying to addon stuff for a cheaper price and failing miserably. The best thing with a small business is that you'll be able to have your relationship grow along with the respect that comes with it, after that the referals seem to just pile in.
     
  6. Leb_CRX

    Leb_CRX OT's resident terrorist

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2001
    Messages:
    39,994
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Ottawa, Canada
    I actually thought about doing that, but figured I didnt need/want the headaches, plus I dont have enough balls to do something like that on my own and I dont have a worthy business partner...

    but for simple things, i'd do a nice webpage, always update it with new prices (every two, three days), and for advertising just run ads in small newspapers, and local computer magazines for customers.

    but ya it's about customer relations and making the customer feel they will not get fucked...example people know they spend too much money on shit like dell, etc, but they keep buying...why's that? I think it's cause they feel dell will be there if they run into a problem and they might of bought one before and had a good experience...so if they have a OS issue, try to help them out, dont tell them to call microsoft, take the extra one or two hours to try and help them out, belive me they'll be happy, and maybe tell their friends at work..etc

    point is remember to start small and work your way up, if you know anything about making webpages, you might as well advertise for web page building as well, it can't hurt, it might get you some money as well...

    also consulting, tell people you can fix their old machines, etc...

    good luck
     
  7. Astro

    Astro Code Monkey

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2000
    Messages:
    2,047
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Cleveland Ohio
    Not to go too far off topic, but I did just that back in March 2003 with a friend of mine (we both co-own Tekro/tekro.com). Although we consider our web services more grassroots flavored - we haven't spent any time or money trying to cater to Joe "Internet" User (although they're welcome to sign up for hosting), but have focused our hosting for our consulting clients.

    Attempting to get back on topic: Tekro does participate in the building of systems, but its not a core business for us. So I'm not sure how much info will help you, but word of mouth is very powerful. If you're in any clubs or participate in any outside activities, try to get the word out to those folks. They'll already know you and what you're like. Invest in some NICE business cards - not the stuff you toss in an inkjet (nice cards = nice business card stock and a professional design - if you need details on this, let me know). Hand out the cards where ever you go and whenever the topic of computing comes up. Just from word of mouth and the business cards, Tekro has not spent a dime on advertising (not counting the cards) and has broken even in 6 months. Note here the 6 months - it takes time to get things rolling...

    Now for the support, it depends on how much time you want to invest in this and how creative you want to be. I think you'll have an easier time selling systems if you had some form of support. Granted you probably can't swing 24x7 toll free support, but if you can make it personal support, I think people will still be very happy. Whats the difference between a friend of yours buying a Dell than buying a system from you? Price? Sure. But what if your friend knew you would back your system and if there were any problems, you'd be there to take care of it? That could be a great selling point. Trick is you'll need to make sure your systems are bullet proof. You have any unemployed computer college friends that would be willing to help provide support services?

    Back on the support idea... Have you thought about offering a monthly/yearly "service plan" that means you'd go onsite to perform virus checks and updates and general system health inventory? This is assuming the systems you build are sold locally. Something to ponder...
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2003
  8. Blindsight

    Blindsight Guest

    Guys, thanks for all the input. This really brings up alot of issues in my mind. I think first and foremost is the tech support issue. I'm going to be churning over this one for awhile before I feel comfortable settling on a policy. The problem is that customers could be as much as an hour drive away, and I can't make that at the drop of a hat during college whenever they have a computer problem. Of course I can sit and talk to them on the phone, but I usually need to be there, looking at the computer to solve the problem quickly and correctly.

    Hmmm... well thanks again, and anything else anybody has to throw in is more than welcome :wavey:
     
  9. kellyclan

    kellyclan She only loves you when she's drunk.

    Joined:
    May 16, 2001
    Messages:
    18,944
    Likes Received:
    0
    Can't be that hard to do. Once three or more of your non-computer inclined friends discover that you know how to uninstall RealPlayer, people start bugging you left and right to build shit, fix shit, etc.

    For me, anyway. :hs:
     
  10. DNMonty

    DNMonty New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2002
    Messages:
    410
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Frederick, MD
    You just need to provide something different. Something they don't get from Dell or HP or the like. You will need to explain the philosophy that your role is more of a guide in their purchase. I usually chanrge $125 to figure out what they need and the best available deal for them @ the time. By using my knowledge of available deals and such, and the details of the technology, I can custom tailor the PCs/Servers needed. I work for a consulting company now, and we have clients that are fairly savvy, yet when the stuff "breaks" we call Dell on their behalf and handle the issue. Too many time they've followed their directions to the letter and ended up with "Restored" PCs.
    In the case of custom building some hot PC for someone, I generally hand select the components on their merit and find the source and send the customer there with a list of things they need to buy and then the receipt is in their name for warranty purposes. Hope this has been helpful. :wavey:
     
  11. vudoodoodoo

    vudoodoodoo Guest

    I build for free. :hs:
    It's just a thing I like to do.
     
  12. Astro

    Astro Code Monkey

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2000
    Messages:
    2,047
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Cleveland Ohio
    Back to the tech support - remember to be creative. Another goal is to set the expectations: You're a one man show that goes to college. Your customers are not going to have 24x7 tech support. Let them know this (but in a nice way) and they'll understand (it will be part of their buying decision). The difference YOU could make is being personnable. Let them know you can't always help them at a moments notice, but tell them to contact you anyways and you'll get back to them as soon as possible to work out the problem (and by "work out the problem" it could mean a visit in person, over the phone, email, IM, etc - the idea is to get an idea of the problem over the phone and then figure out how you want to continue).

    Again, if you're creative, you could work out a support plan - maybe the first 3 or 6 months are free and than $50 an hour for every hour on site (this will make them think twice about calling you out - and you'll probably be more excited to go out if you knew something was in it for you). Obviously, if its a warranty repair there should be no charge for that - but its your call...
     
  13. vudoodoodoo

    vudoodoodoo Guest

    Tech support sux. :hs:

    It's not bad if you like the person though. :big grin:
     
  14. vudoodoodoo

    vudoodoodoo Guest

    Good thread guys. :)
     
  15. vudoodoodoo

    vudoodoodoo Guest

    Also a thought.
    Try to make the system run as "idiot proof" as possible like installing Mozilla or something.
    Educate the user on things like spyware and just downloading shit w/o checking. If they know more things, there will be less chance if them calling you for help.
    Maybe make a seperate partition and tell them to put all their files in there. So when you MUST format and reinstall OS, they don't lose all their files.
     
  16. crotchfruit

    crotchfruit Guest

    if you're going to build systems for people, think about getting a reseller's license (i think that's what it's called.) basically, it's a license that allows you to buy computer parts (and other things) from a distributor without paying sales tax. i dunno how much it costs (a few hundred dollars a year?), but if you start doing business in bulk it will pay for itself.
     
  17. Astro

    Astro Code Monkey

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2000
    Messages:
    2,047
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Cleveland Ohio
    I could be wrong, but I think the reseller's license is cheaper than that (at least in Ohio - I think its like $25 or something for the year). Its been one of those things we need to do at Tekro but we haven't gotten that far. PLUS, with this license you can sign up to be a distributor for product X which means you get a nice discount on the hardware (which means more money you put in your pocket). The problem with the reseller's license is you definitely are reporting to the IRS after you get it - its going to be expected. And I think to get a reseller's license you have to establish your company with the state (you will have to give them your company's tax ID).

    Depending on how much business you plan to do, it might be safe to setup a business entity that will do two things for you: protect you from lawsuits (doubtful you'd have any, but all you need is 1 and you're screwed) and the other thing is for tax purposes. There's a certain dollar amount you can "sneak away" with from the IRS without them getting on your case (I think its several thousand - but I don't know). Setting up a business entity would also provide more polish to your appearance and your customers would see you as someone who is serious about what they're doing and plan to be around for a while. Of course, start out small. Let it run for a few months, 6 months, etc and see how it goes. If you only end up building 2 or 3 computers in 6 months, then I doubt anyone (IRS or customer) would have any issues if you stayed private. But if business picks up, it would be wise to create an entity.

    Entities come in several flavors - incorporated, LLC, LLP, sole proprietor, etc. You'll want to think about which one fits you best. I can make a boat load of recommendations, but that would make this post oh so much longer and its already starting to get off topic.

    Recommendation: Think about how serious you want to go with this. If you're uber-serious, you could be creating the next Dell or Gateway company (and if you do, just remember us small guys!). If this is something just for giggles, thats perfectly fine (just remember to watch out for the IRS because they don't like jokes or giggles).
     
  18. Astro

    Astro Code Monkey

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2000
    Messages:
    2,047
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Cleveland Ohio
    I don't think anyone has hit on this yet. I think this would be an awesome idea to take a rig onsite for demonstrations. You would be able to pre-load it with apps that you think the person might use. If you're presenting to a college kid, then load up some intense games and maybe a word processor. If its for business, load up a word processor and some business apps (maybe Outlook or Access or something like that). I think hands on demonstrations leaves the user thinking "Wow, this guy brought a machine out. And the machine was fast and rocked my world!" Otherwise, without a hands on demo, how else will you get your customer to think the machines you build will "rock their world?" A hands on demo also demonstrates the "hands on approach" you take to building machines and supporting them. This could be a huge selling point if you desire to take that angle.

    As for taking people to your place, well, this is your call. Not only do you have to worry about presenting the machine, but now you have to worry about presenting your place. If its just you and college friends (or people you know on a personal level), then its not a big deal. But if its business clients, I'd say just bring the machine to them.

    Good luck and let us know how it goes!
     
  19. Blindsight

    Blindsight Guest

    :bowdown: :bowdown: :bowdown: :bowdown: :bowdown: :bowdown: :bowdown: :bowdown:

    Thank you guys so much, this is pure gold!!!!
     
  20. Astro

    Astro Code Monkey

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2000
    Messages:
    2,047
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Cleveland Ohio
    My only other tip is: have FUN!

    I think if YOU'RE having fun, your customers will sense it and thats a good thing - it'll just help sell more machines!
     
  21. Little Spunky $#!T

    Little Spunky $#!T :cool:

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2001
    Messages:
    3,539
    Likes Received:
    0
    I'm a high school student and I do this just to make a little extra money. I repair and build, you get lots more business if you do it all. I charge a flat rate of $150 to build a computer, and I charge 10% onto the hardware and software I sell with the computer, or seperate.
     
  22. vudoodoodoo

    vudoodoodoo Guest

    Good info. :bowdown:
     
  23. vudoodoodoo

    vudoodoodoo Guest

    A shuttle XPC would be perfect for this. :big grin:
     
  24. Blindsight

    Blindsight Guest

    :werd: I have thought about the Shuttle XPCs. I might need to think about them a little more. I'm just not sure if they are okay for me in terms of noise and cost. They definitely have HUGE cool factor though.

    Also I think I've got a good tech support plan going. This should be really attractive to possible clients :x:
     
  25. vudoodoodoo

    vudoodoodoo Guest

    Alot of people want a good machine in a small package.
    XPC's are great.
     

Share This Page