Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Computer Consultant

  • Start-up cost: RM5,000-RM13,000
  • Potential earnings: RM40,000-RM100,000
  • Typical fees: RRM75-RM150 per hour
  • Advertising: Referrals, direct mail, publications, networking
  • Qualifications: Technical knowledge, specialty knowledge, people and time-management skills
  • Equipment needed: High-end computer, hardware and software, copier, fax, office furniture, business card, letterhead, envelopes
  • Staff required: No; must be able to subcontract outside of specialty
  • Handicapped opportunity: Yes
  • Hidden costs: On-line service; time and expense of staying current in fast-changing field
  • Lowdown: It’s getting very hard to operate any business without a computer system, so almost anyone is a potential client if you know how to match up a computer system with their needs. Computer consulting is a big field today and will continue to grow rapidly in the near future. Many computer consultants become as essential to their clients as the systems themselves, earning a steady income in the process. This field is for individuals with wide expertise in hardware and software. Even more important is an ability to see issues from the client’s point of view. What are his or her real problems, and what creative solutions to those problems will be best served using computer technology? You will probably need to focus on one area of specialization, such as networking computers, or on one type of business, such as retail outlets or physician offices.
  • Start-Up: Your own business must have a computer system, including software, that is comparable to those of your clients. This will be your major expense, but if you have the expertise to operate this business, you probably have much of the equipment and software already. You’ll also need a high-quality copier and a fax/modem. The essential organizational dues and on-line services can also add surprisingly to your operating expenses. But, if you charge the going rates of RM75 and up per hour, you should be able to earn back your initial investment in as little as six months.
  • Bottom-Line Advice: Computer consulting is for big-picture people also skilled in keeping track of details. Each client and situation is different, making for a very stimulating work life. You will be able to function outside of normal time-space restrictions and you won’t find competitors undercutting you with cookie-cutter services. But computer consulting is extremely demanding. You will often be working under a deadline or in a crisis situation; you must produce what you promise and be able to train your clients’ employees to make the system work under real conditions. Bidding jobs is challenging, especially at first—keeping track of billing is essential.

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