What does it take to be computer consultant

May 5, 2010 at 18:00:51
Specs: Linux Mint 7/Windows XP.
I don't have any specific skills in what hardware would be best for your system, but I do know a thing or two about how to prevent you from getting viruses, or how to speed up your system. I also know how to secure your network from snoopers (if it's wireless, seeing as how I don't make house calls due to a disability). So, what I want to know is, to be a consultant, do I NEED to be well versed in EVERYTHING, or could I focus on things I know?. (viruses, networks, etc). I see so many other companies out there who are consulting, and I guess I'm just a bit intimidated because they have like 20 + employees and can handle many things (on-site support, etc).

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#1
May 6, 2010 at 04:36:46
I thought this was pretty well covered here:

http://www.computing.net/answers/th...


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#2
May 7, 2010 at 10:30:52
"I'm just a bit intimidated"

Don't be!

I bet if you talk to the 20 employees you will find
they each have limited knowledge , but collectively they can answer and fix just about any computer question or problem.

I too fix computers. 95 percent of customers just need a cdrom ,hd, printer or ram installed. Or there OS is corrupt.

I say go for it....and don't let the bigger company stop you.


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#3
May 10, 2010 at 21:46:50
Thanks for the advice!. Yeah, I mean when I get my business up and running, I'm honestly, not even thinking of dealing with hardware, because as said, these days, most people have warrenty's on their computers and if a part fails, it can be replaced usually for free. However, if said person doesn't have a warrenty, then I'm sure I could recommend someone who could fix said hardware issue, or try it myself.

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#4
May 12, 2010 at 11:03:50
Going into a computer business half cocked is not the way to go. I've been messing with computers since the late 80's and I didn't start doing my own thing(when I was doing work on the side) until the late 90's/early 00's. I also have my A+, Net+, 1 class away from my cisco, and college to back me up. What do you have?

Unless you know the Hardware from the ground up as well as a administrator type knowledge of the software, don't even attempt it. Get your certs first, a few years of exp. and then see if you want to go into business for yourself.

PowerMac 9600(1 ghz G4)
512mb RAM
50gb SCSI
ATi 9200 PCI


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#5
May 12, 2010 at 11:34:12
"Going into a computer business half cocked is not the way to go..."

And without good solid hardware knowledge, you will be on half-cock. IMO, it's imperative you be able to differentiate between software & hardware related problems.

Skip


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#6
May 12, 2010 at 23:05:57
I am by no means an expert here. I have no certifications, just starting college and the most important thing I have learned since I started playing with these things is that many issues can cause the same symptoms. I do an awful lot of trial and error due to my lack of both knowledge and experience. If you google just about any video problem you'll get millions of hits that point to memory issues. This doesn't always mean your ram is bad. There may be no trouble with your ram at all. I have noticed some drivers don't play well with others or different systems. I have no clue why but if you dig deep enough you'll find it.

Not every issue is cut and dry software or hardware. It will help a great deal to have some knowledge of both. That's my problem now is while I don't know an over abundence about hardware it is software I am lacking in. This is why I am now going back to school.

Likely


I want to go like my grandfather did. Peacefully in his sleep. Not screaming at the top of my lungs like the passengers in his car.

(\__/)
(='.'=)
(")_(")


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#7
May 13, 2010 at 10:00:59
It is not fair to a paying client for a person to advertise themselves as a computer consultant unless they know more than you appear to know.

We occasionally have folks grace us with their presence to ask basic questions when they are being paid to fix a computer. That is misrepresentation, IMO.

My advice is to start by helping friends and relatives. If they are happy with your services they will recommend you to others. You can charge a nominal fee (less than the open market) for services you supply.

Most importantly, troll this and other tech sites for additional knowledge.


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#8
May 13, 2010 at 15:33:35
That's been pretty much my path. If anything I had been rather hesitant to actually take on a "customer" for a few years. Friends or family it is easy to say you can't promise anything but a customer doesn't want to hear that. I still sometimes tell them that I'll look at their computer and give them a recomendation to take it to a pro if I don't clearly see the issue right away. Most are pleased by this as they realize I am just getting started and don't ask for their first born male child when I can fix the problem. Right now I don't charge a mark up on parts either. I gladly show them what is paid including shipping. Some will ask me to take my time with the machine because they know it may take a few more days for me to do it but it will be a good deal cheaper. I don't charge for research. I don't feel it's right for them to have to pay for my education.

Likely


I want to go like my grandfather did. Peacefully in his sleep. Not screaming at the top of my lungs like the passengers in his car.

(\__/)
(='.'=)
(")_(")


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#9
May 16, 2010 at 10:08:05
Just to add my thoughts. I don't advertise myself as a
consultant, just a part-time PC tech. I usually deal with the
general public, who probably wouldn't even know a 'consultant'
if they tripped over one, but the few businesses I deal with do
refer to me as their IT consultant simply because, as well as
being reasonably well versed on troubleshooting/maintaining
their PCs, I can also turn my hand to fixing a paper jam in the
printer, setting up their new Blackberry, even tuning in the
office TV plus, most importantly, when brought in to deal with
third parties, I can at least talk to their techs on the same
level, which is where the client has problems.

Consultants don't need to know everything, but they do need
to know that, when asked a question, they know where to find
the answer - hence the proliferation of consultants since
Google appeared!!! So best advice is to get a decent
smartphone with good internet access (the HTC HD2 is my
current godsend! (my son is trying to convince me that an
iPhone will do the job but I'm not convinced)) so you can at
least look up the answers to left-field questions 'on the hoof'.

"I've always been mad, I know I've been mad, like the most of us..."


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#10
May 16, 2010 at 10:10:17
HTC looks like an amazing phone. Is it better than the Iphone?..

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#11
May 16, 2010 at 11:06:13
The HTC is certainly more professional - the iPhone relies on
entertainment whereas the HTC is essentially a very mobile
computer. I originally got it because I needed a smartphone
that would sync seamlessly with Outlook, which the HTC
does, but I've since found that it handles just about everything
else I need it for as well, plus it's not tied to Apple's annoying
software.

Just going back a bit on the subject. Another piece of advice
is to make sure you always have a small but decent stock of
backups - from simple fuses, through cables, connectors,
cards, PSUs etc. to OS copies - 9 times out of 10 problems
can be identified by just swapping out components or having
the correct version OS disk to repair installations. You then
just need to be able to use a bit of common sense & logic to
track down the cause of problems.

"I've always been mad, I know I've been mad, like the most of us..."


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#12
May 23, 2010 at 12:24:42
Thanks for all the advice. I actually had two more questions that were kind of off topic..

My first is, do you, or does anyone else reading this have any experience with a company called "OnForce"?..They're kind of like the Ifreelance.com/gofreelance.com of the IT world I suppose, except they charge $11 dollars from the customer, and a 15% commission fee from the provider (so, in essence if I was to charge 70 dollars for a job, they would be forced to not only pay the 70, but also the $11 dollars). I think they charge 15% commission but I'm not totally sure, I'd have to look again. And if you have and you don't recommend it, could you maybe suggest some other companies that are better than that?.

My second question is, pretty much about certifications. I'm thinking of either taking my A+ exam, OR the MCDST exam (but I've read that it will only be valid as long as Windows XP is around, at least I think that's true). So, in your honest opinion, which should I study for first, and which is "easier"?. (I know they can be both hard depending on the person who's taking them, as everyone is different), I just want to know what you all think.


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#13
May 23, 2010 at 14:13:55
I would advise you not to get involved with a company like that.

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#14
May 23, 2010 at 17:51:51
I'm thinking of just sticking with CrossLoop, but, what about the cert question?..

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#15
May 23, 2010 at 17:59:40
I can't speak to the certification tests. Hopefully someone else can give an opinion.

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#16
May 24, 2010 at 21:49:28
Mmkay, thanks.

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#17
May 26, 2010 at 00:01:02
It's a few years since I did it, but I found the A+ exam (the UK
City & Guilds version, if there's any difference) to be a waste
of time in that it was still behind the times as far as the
current OS at the time was concerned & we were using
hardware that was definitely not cutting edge. The practical
part of the exam sticks in my mind because one of the 'faults'
was that the brilliance had been turned down on the monitor!!!
- I think the examiners were just clutching at straws.
Whichever certification you go for, make sure you read the
syllabus beforehand to make sure you can get something out
of it - I've found the MS certification exams to be much better
and far more relevant, though once you've taken them
it's experience and occasional refreshers that keep you up to date.

As far as the company you mentioned, I think the idea is that
you take the $11 out of your $70 as their fee for giving you the
lead - the customer shouldn't need to know about that bit.

Starting up is always the hardest bit because you are relying
on a bit of advertising & not a lot else. Once you've been
going a few years a good tech/consultant doesn't even need
to advertise - word of mouth will bring in the work.

"I've always been mad, I know I've been mad, like the most of us..."


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#18
May 26, 2010 at 08:32:06
Thanks for the reply, and here is what it says on OnForce's website:
" OnForce is 100% free to join for both service buyers and service professionals. There are no subscription fees or membership fees for service professionals or any volume minimums or upfront costs of any kind for service buyers. You pay only when you use the OnForce platform.

Service buyers pay OnForce an US $15 access fee for each work order sent. The total work order value is reserved from the funds in the service buyer's account, and these funds are transferred to the service professional after the work order has been completed satisfactorily.

Service professionals pay OnForce a fee of 10% of the work order total. "

And as for the cert thing, I'm pretty much planning to work from home, and not going to be making house calls. Is the MCDST (including the one for Vista, and Win7) an entry level cert like the CompTIA A+?..Or is it a more advanced cert, like how the +Networking and +Server certs are. I've seen the 2009 objects/practice questions for the CompTIA a+ cert, and honestly, the 2006 objects/practice questions looked A LOT easier to me.


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#19
May 26, 2010 at 09:44:18
I could be wrong, but this service sounds bogus to me. If they have clients, why wouldn't they just provide the tech support themselves? Is there a fee schedule or are you just free to charge whatever?

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#20
May 26, 2010 at 16:12:09
They're a market place for contracted professionals. You don't work for their company (although you could), but people use it to grow their business with new clients, and etc. You can set your own rates for pay, but still, they charge the buyers a $15 dollar fee for every work order that's sent out (which you can either accept or reject) , and then they would get a 10% cut of the service pro's pay. So, pretty much, you're only paying when you send a work order out to be completed, or you've completed a job.

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#21
May 27, 2010 at 14:27:11
The A+ is a total waste of time FYI, but it is required to get in the doors of alot of companies and it's another piece of paper to hang on your wall. Pretty much with the A+ it's not the correct answer that matters, but what CompTIA dictates as the correct answer that matters. Simply study CompTIA's materials for the test, take the test, get the cert, then forget almost everything you learned from the A+.

The Net+ is a little bit less frustrating and some of the answers make sense, but once again, study CompTIA's materials, take the test, get the cert. then forget half of what you learned.

Cisco ie. CCNA is much better. I really enjoyed ECPI and the CCNA for the most part is a useful cert. Kudos to ECPI for all the hands on learning, paper is one thing, but actually configuring a switch over the console port is another. $30,000 for a degree hurts just a bit IMO... BUT! Cisco cert comes with the network security degree.

PowerMac 9600(1 ghz G4)
512mb RAM
50gb SCSI
ATi 9200 PCI


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#22
May 27, 2010 at 18:00:34
Well, on my business plan that I've been slacking on (kind of), all that I plan to do for services (since I just plan to work solo, and can't make house calls) are: Spyware & Virus Removal, Secure File Deletion (using a program like Glary Utilities), PC Tune Up, Cleaning of the inside of Desktop Computer cases (Clearing fans and etc of dust, hair, and anything else), Hardware Installation (RAM, new Mobo, etc), Flyer Design, Business Card design, Installing/Updating/and or suggesting of new software, and Remote Data Backup.

So, with all that said, I'm not even sure I do need the A+ cert, but I would like some kind of cert. I won't be doing Networking, or anything like that. As for dealing with hardware, I *might* troubleshoot using software (PC Diag Inc has some great software to use with DOS/Windows XP). But, other than that, I really don't plan to work with Geek Squad, or Geeks on Call for that matter.


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#23
May 30, 2010 at 12:44:39
Unless I should just go ahead and get the A+ cert, even with the above mentioned^.

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#24
August 8, 2010 at 09:48:41
My friends and I started a IT Consulting / Service company about 6 months after college after we found the companies we were working for just sucked at supporting their customers and just tried to suck money from them every chance they got. We started the company 9 months ago. The four of us average 23 years of age, but combined have certifications in CCNA, CCNP, CCVP, MCSE, MCITP and 10 years of experience. We started with one customer and now support just over 40. The hardest part we found, was not supporting the customer, but finding customers. Most issues we run into for support are this won't open, this wont turn on. It really doesn't take much, just confidence that you can get the job done. Work hard and you will succeed.

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#25
October 18, 2010 at 04:27:54
I agree, be weary of offering hardware support, if something goes wrong, your not covered by liability insurance. So if you ruin their PC they can sue you for damages & loss of Data.

I am a consultant, I grew up with Technology and it's my main Hobby. But I am freelance, so I only tender to Private Clients and a lot of the work I do is trivial stuff they can't be bothered to dirty there hands with.

Updates, Patching, Testing (Stress, Bench or Software), Assessing, Alpha Stages, Beta Stages, Bug Reporting, Networking. etc

Questions on Product reliability, which product will perform better and faster than another etc.

Always get your Clients to sign a legal binding contract for the services you offer and try to factor in and include non-liability in the clause on some services you feel uncomfortable with performing and advise them of an alternative solution if you feel your not qualified to perform the task.

IE: Soldering micro-circuits onto Motherboards (No WAY!)


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