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Any money in the computer repair businesses?

Discussion in 'Business Advice for Start-ups' started by RentalTablets, Oct 30, 2012.

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    RentalTablets

    RentalTablets Graduate

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    We're an IT company of sorts, situated in a busy industrial estate full of business and retail people alike. We have a good relationship with other business owners and on occasions we'd get people coming in to ask for computer repair.

    Sometimes we do entertain them and do some computer repair on the side, sometimes for repair.

    Since we're all computer people in the office, we're thinking of doing some computer repair for end users and businesses alike. Although to be fair it would probably be more for end users as none of us are familiar with networks so don't want to touch complex network computers.

    Does anyone know if there's much money to be made in this business? I was watching watchdog and they featured a rip off company who were doing computer repairs charging £200+ for unnecessary part replacements when it was merely just a case of plugging a hard driive cable back in.

    Now I don't want to go down that road, I don't want to rip people off. But I was thinking maybe this is just an awful business to be in hence technicians rip people off. I'm guessing for consumer 9/10 times it will be the case of simply running some anti-malware software, defragging the drive, installing antivirus, removing junk software and returning the computer to the client.

    What do you charge the customer? You can charge £40 but it will hardly be worthwhile as it can end up taking 5-6 hours to complete, though if you have a good workflow going on you can work on 10+ computers at a time and make it worthwhile.

    On the flipside if you're doing a call out repair there's no choice but to charge £200 to repair a computer that's probably valued at a mere £300.

    Also another occupational hazard, you remove junk and malware off a computer and then customer reinstall the crap all over again, and you get a call 2 weeks later saying "oh it didn't fix the problem, it's broken again". Then you look at their computer and see it's full of crap software all over again. Hmm makes me think it's not worth the trouble any more.
     
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    Adam H

    Adam H Have a Break, Have a KitKat

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    10 years ago yes there was plenty in it , now there is basically nothing. Things are getting cheap enough and extended warranties are getting a much better name for them selves in the industry which is making second hand or repairs a horrible moneyless trade. Just look at the bigger players , Pcworld for example have now merged in to curry's and are slowly scrubbing their in house repairs to off site repairs and mail order repairs, ebay you can pick up nearly upto date brand new machines for next to nothing.

    The amount of high street small business computer repairs have declined ten fold in the last 5 years and the only reason for that is they dont generate enough income to keep the shops open, besides the fact the majority of computer stores that did do well made the majority of their money through sales of peripherals as the margin was better on them than it was on the actual service repairs ( unless your a one man band obviously )

    The only way computer repairs are sustainable is if its a side business to something else like company network security, network maintenance or regular servicing for local businesses of which you can charge a premium for and monthly retainer.

    If i was you i would stay well clear, especially dealing with the general public. There are lots of stupid people out there and although you tell someone they may need to just restore their machine if they dont want to loose anything it will turn into hours of data recovery, backup , restore and the price comparison for the time put in will most likely start cutting into the business you are suppose to be doing rather than the computer work.

    End users.........no money. Business = good retain-able cash flow but you need to know what your doing.

    I spend years in the IT industry as a network admin with A+ , N+ and MCSE courses completed, all of them a waste of time because they cant teach you what happens in the field or on site and alot of it is pointless stuff you dont even need to know.

    If however you going into it "because we know computers" or because you've been "Microsoft certified" which any tom, dick or harry can get by taking a simple test online then you wont even be close to making it worth your while, it may seem like a good idea for the first boost of sales but it will go stale and you will end up scrubbing it like everyone else.

    Thumbs down from me :)
     
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    imaker

    imaker Freshman

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    There seems to be a lot of competition and yet I see many computer repair vans on the streets. Maybe it's only my perception but almost every household has a computer and will need some kind of help from time to time, and, of course, so will a business.

    I agree with Adam H that the shops have disappeared but in my experience have like the op, migrated to industrial estates. I'm sure there is business out there, but no idea how much.
     
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    jonathan

    jonathan Trainee Lab Tech

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    Agree with Adam - Joe public wants everything for free.

    Small business owner will fiddle and/or get brother in law to help.

    Larger business will be nailed into a contract.

    (we still run windows xp on all our machines and never need any maintenance either)
     
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    leemason

    leemason Senior Lab Tech

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    Was involved in the computer maintenance business back in the late 1980's and early 1990's and still know plenty of people in that side of things. But I would agree with that has already been said. Adhoc computer repairs really aren't worth it these days given the low cost of hardware. People just won't spend any decent amount of money to fix something when they can simply go out a buy a new one for not much more.

    Corporate maintenance contracts are a bit different but even there the margins are no where near as good as they used to be when you consider that you can buy 3 years hardware maintenance on a small HP server for less that £200.00.
     
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    jonathan

    jonathan Trainee Lab Tech

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    On a related subject - We went past a TV repair shop the other day that was shutting down.

    Kids said "what is one of those?" :/:
     
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    Andy Watts

    Andy Watts Applicant

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    I repair computers in Salisbury and agree that it can be rather quiet at times. I've been working for myself for 5 years or so now and have certainly seen a decline in desktop computers. I still see a lot of laptops with either virus problems or broken screens so that keeps me occupied :)

    Luckily I have a large-ish number of more mature computer users who call me out on a regular basis so I do have a good degree of work. Older people seem less likely to own a smart phone so are more reliant on their computers.
     
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    RentalTablets

    RentalTablets Graduate

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    Ok thanks. I suspected this might be an issue. I do see computer repair shops and lots of laptop repair/smartphone repair companies banded around. I'm guessing 90% of their business is down to cracked screens or something. Which is fair enough. There's probably money to be made there.

    But the truth is, the end user is probably better off just ordering a replacement screen and following a video tutorial online. The repair shop is probably going to do the same and just wing it himself/herself.
     
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    Replacemyscreen.co.uk

    Replacemyscreen.co.uk Trainee Lab Tech

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    I started out as a 'PC repair' guy. There is money in it, but don't expect it to pay your mortgage.
     
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    Ray Stewart

    Ray Stewart Lab Manager

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    There will always be work for computer firms. In the last 3 years we have gone through the following:-

    1. Dell server with SBS 2003 installed and covered by their 3 year next business day warranty - was installing an automatic upgrade one night and got it's knickers in a right know. It wouldn't start SBS at all. Dell were not interested - software issue. Microsoft said - pay us £250+VAT and we will have a look. After 5 days Microsoft admitted they couldn't help - money refunded - server still non operational so full re-install and new set up required - by me :rant:

    2. Dell desktop with windows 7 installed and covered by their 3 year next business day warranty - decided one day not to start up. Dell ran diagnostic routine over the phone - not a hardware problem so not their problem. New installation and set up required by me :rant:

    3. Dell server (same as 1. above) wasn't running one morning. Rang Dell and the talked me through 2 hours of diagnostics - not a hardware fault so not their problem. Desperately tried to find someone locally to have a look at the software to try and see what had happened - no luck at all. Rang Microsoft - they suggested one of their "recommended gold partners" in Luton - 80 odd miles away - spoke to them and they said yes, they could help - charges are £1,000 per day and one day minimum. Ended up putting the server in my car and driving 150 miles to my brother and getting him to restore the active directories from our online backup. Cost to me and the business - a lot - even at family rates - and lost work.

    4. Dell Laptop with windows 7 and covered by next business day warranty froze solid one day. Rang Dell - hooray - new hard drive ordered and installed next day with OS reinstalled. What about my data? You have a back up don't you... ages spent reinstalling and recovering stuff.

    5. Dell desktop with windows 7 and covered by next business day warranty froze solid one day. Rang Dell - hooray - new hard drive ordered and installed 2 days later with OS reinstalled. Oh - you want to keep the knackered hard drive to extract your data - pay up £67+VAT now to keep it or we take it away. Much angry shouting at Dell and pointing out all the computers we have bought over the last 15 years and they finally agreed to leave the drive with me - no we don't help recovering data - you have a backup right? :rant:

    I know we give our machines some hard work every day but just having the next day business warranty isn't all we have needed. I haven't mentioned all the network problems that I have had to learn to solve simply because no-one in this area knows anything about networks.

    My question is - why not? Most of my clients have networks of some sort, if only to share a printer or the internet. Why do computer experts shy away from networks and leave it to the likes of me to try and resolve issues myself - I am not a computer bod - I don't want to spend loads of time fiddling with this stuff - It costs me far more in lost work than calling in an expert - but where are they?

    Several of our clients treat me as the go to person about networks and it drives me batty - but I can't leave them in trouble for a relatively simple problem, can I??
     
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  11.  
    Adam H

    Adam H Have a Break, Have a KitKat

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    Because a huge percentage of "computer experts" have no idea about networks, they know how to build a machine and solve basic configuration and software problems but thats generally it. There are serious amounts of them that couldnt solve a software problem if it hit them in the face, they would much prefer to backup user files and restore the machine rather than solve the issue at hand. Although thats not always a bad thing if there is a budget to be dealt with.

    Businesses and business networks are very good to support and there is excellent money in it because the IT industry charge way over the odds for in house computer support , but like i said above you have to know what your doing when it comes to businesses , loose their data and you've got a law suit on your hands etc etc .

    What the OP was thinking about is serving the general public which is more hassle than its worth and not anywhere near the reward that a business could bring.
     
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    CaveManSteve

    CaveManSteve Applicant

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    You could always offer your services to the other business around your location.
    If you get a good reputation with one, it could well spread.
     
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    leemason

    leemason Senior Lab Tech

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    Networks are bread and butter to me. As are backups and disaster recovery. I agree though that most "computer" experts have no real idea about networks. Some don't even know how a subnet mask works or what a default gateway is supposed to do. Many people these days are just point and kick merchants. They know which options to use in Windows but don't understand what really lies behind the software and therefore find it difficult if not impossible to fault find.
     
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    Niknak

    Niknak Applicant

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    Computer business

    Have run own IT business for 12 years. Last 4 years have been aweful.
    No resonable money in it for concientious people.
    Now closing down the business due to extreme levels of work related stress. End users and business owners demand instant fixes and low prices and IT has now become so technically complex and demanding that I found I just couldnt cope anymore. The responsibility and pressure of managing other businesses IT systems is just too stressful.
    In answer to your question, forget it and do something less stressful, more creative and fullfilling. All you get in the IT business is problem after problem and no thanks or appreciation for a job well done. Its a poison chalice.!!!
     
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    Mark

    Mark Moderator Staff Member

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    Haha... like graphic design! :lol:
     
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    BillyKhan

    BillyKhan Freshman

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    I used to run a pc repair business many years ago, i stopped once i realised i couldnt purchase the parts and repair less than the cost of a new pc. I was constantly battling for every penny which wore me down to the point where i focused purely on web development. It was good for a while, but i can imagine things have only got worse.
     
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    Boolean_IT

    Boolean_IT Applicant

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    I'm a one man band doing computer repairs/support etc. Luckily for me I have been in IT for over 27 years now going from system manager on HP3000/9000 then as PCs started to appear supporting those as well then Novell etc. I also spent 9 years as a senior network engineer at 3Com (now part of HP)
    Most of my customers are small businesses and I have specialised in Microsoft Small Business Server which is ideal for these sized companies.
    As the others have pointed out there are lot of people out there doing this without a clue and wouldn't know a command line if it bit them.
    One thing you will learn is that home computer support in the field is going to present you with every possible combination of hardware/software problem possible. When I think back to the desktop support guys in the large corporations I worked at they really did have an easy life with standard hardware/software/corporate image they could just reload.
    There is money to be made but you need skills in so many areas and have to keep these up to date. It's hard work but worth it being your own boss.
     
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    casssimplyb

    casssimplyb Freshman

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    Having once worked as an IT technician at a small repair store I can say that there is some work out there but you have to go looking for it - we started working with schools (you can imagine the state of some of the laptops!!) and that really helped balance the books. If we survived on just the general public the company would probably have folded.
     
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    smoking gun

    smoking gun Applicant

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    I’ve been running an IT/PC repair business alone for over 4 years now. My skills range from installing Microsoft Servers including exchange, setting up Software and hardware VPN's, adding switches and configuring firewall ports, stripping laptops and replacing components, building new PC's, O/S repairs/reinstalls, network troubleshooting and website building. I have loads of experience and several CompTIA and Microsoft Certifications. Just about the only thing I can't do is installing Ethernet cables in ceilings and walls and adding patch panels on the walls.
    The reason why I came across this site today is that business is not great at the moment to put it mildly and I was wondering how others are getting on?
    IMO the only way to run a successful computer repair business is to build a time machine and set the clock back to around 2005 or earlier however I hope to be told differently.
    Most (but not all) small businesses want you to give them top notch IT services 24/7 and they want to pay you next to nothing. Some businesses will contact me complaining about their current IT provider that they are paying next to nothing for and want me to do it even cheaper and offer a better service. I have also given new potential businesses dirt cheap (almost cost price) quotes to get the initial work only to be shouted at and accused of trying to rip them off. The home user market is not as bad (hassle) as some would say although the throughput of work is not enough to keep you in business and is getting worse by the day (tablets). Also there is a limit to what you can charge when they can buy a new device for under £350.

    Also I’m competing with retired IT guys who are more than happy to do a job for £5 or £10 profit each time as their mortgage has already been paid off and they’re doing it for fun. Unfortunately if I did jobs at £10 a time I would need to serve around 60 new customers per week which is never going to happen. These guys will also do a RAM upgrade (this job doesn’t come up often) at £25 in total. This is for the RAM and going on site to fit it (crazy)

    The throughput of computer repair businesses is unreal. Look in the Yellow pages or Yell online or Thomson Local and then look again in 6 months, 1 year or whenever the new directory comes out and most will not be in there anymore. I think without new start PC businesses signing up for advertising, yellow pages and Thomson Local would have gone bust a long time ago.

    There are also new guys who start up with next to no experience or qualifications although they all seem to place on all advertising how they’re all professionals with experience. These chaps normally will find some temporary botch fix that’ll just hide the problem away for a few hours instead of fixing it and charge the customer £40. However when they call you to fix the problem they are still thinking the job should cost around £40 so when you say it’ll be at least £90 they go into cardiac arrest and you’re escorted off the premises.

    The shame is that once the skills are gone they’re gone and small business in future will only have the option to call out some clueless chap wearing spurs and riding on a horse and home users will be calling out someone from the rouge traders most wanted list.
     
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    Mark

    Mark Moderator Staff Member

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    It's the same for most service industries - people want everything for next to nothing...
     

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