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If your computer gives you an error message – or worse, a black screen – do you see it as a challenge? If you find technology fascinating, are talented in troubleshooting and fixing problems, and are knowledgeable about all of the latest technology and updates, then a career as a computer repair technician might be for you. Even better, rather than working for an employer, you might want to start a computer repair business of your own. With so many people dependent on computers today, this is an exciting and rewarding industry to go into. 

Business Overview

Computer repair businesses help customers to both fix and maintain their computers. Often, these businesses are tasked with troubleshooting and fixing computer problems, but that work can extend to setting up and maintaining networks, offering in-home visits, and selling computers and accessories. Some of the most common services include virus removal, data recovery, system upgrades, and security updates.

Some businesses focus solely on commercial services, while others focus on fixing personal computers. Some businesses offer a combination of both options. Additionally, while most repair businesses have a storefront, some may offer in-home or in-business visits, especially when it comes to setting up or maintaining networks. 

Industry summary

According to IBIS World, from 2014 to 2019, the electronic and computer repair services industry has declined at an annual rate of 0.7 percent. In 2019, the total revenue for the industry is predicted to fall by 1 percent to $19 billion. As the industry’s revenue has declined, the number of businesses has also declined to 53,960. Those businesses currently employ 140,298 people. 

The decline in the industry’s revenue is due to a number of factors. As computers and other electronics are increasingly more affordable, fewer people are deciding to have their electronics replaced and are instead choosing to replace them when they break. Businesses have also followed this trend, and often invest in high-quality equipment and get rid of old, outdated, or broken equipment. 

While at first glance these statistics may seem discouraging, repair business owners who embrace current trends and demand can still run successful computer repair businesses. 

Industry trends

The overall computer repair industry may be declining, but there is increased need for certain services. According to Repair Desk, because computers and technology evolve so quickly, computer repair technicians need to be able to keep pace with this technology. When a customer walks in with a problem involving a new software update or new version of an operating system, a repair technician will need to be familiar with these products and able to help the customer. 

Experimax notes that computer repair increasingly crosses over with cell phone repair. As smartphones become more and more like computers, computer repair technicians are beginning to offer cell phone repair services, too. From screen repairs to virus removal and general troubleshooting, there are many opportunities for a technician to expand their services beyond just computers. And, because of the increasingly high cost of cell phones, customers are more likely to repair a $1,000 phone than they are to repair a $300 computer. 

Who is the target market for your computer repair business?

The specific target market for a computer repair business will depend on the business’ model and services offered. A business that specializes in personal computer repair will market to local computer owners who invest in more expensive machines worth repairing. A business that specializes in working on business computers and networks will market to businesses of a certain size, or those that use particular technology. 

Computer repair businesses sometimes specialize in working on certain types of computers, like PCs versus Macs. This may also affect the target market of the repair business. 

Skills, experience, and education useful in running a computer repair business

You don’t necessarily need a business degree to start a computer repair business, but having certain skills and experiences can increase your chances of success as a business owner. 

Computer repair experience. It goes without saying, but extensive experience in computer repair is a must in this profession. Many computer repair technicians have taught themselves the skills they need, but there are also structured courses available to supplement existing knowledge and skills. 

Customer service skills. Customer service is a big aspect of the computer repair industry. A business owner will need to be able to provide prompt service and have computers ready on time. Great interpersonal skills are also important, especially since customers may be upset and frustrated with their computers before they even walk in the door. 

Organization skills. Organization is important both in tracking equipment in the store and parts that need to be ordered, but also in keeping parts organized when taking a computer apart or replacing a piece. 

Attention to detail. A good computer repair business owner needs to have great attention to detail. This is one important quality that can make computer repair easier and can make a technician good at their job. 

Problem-solving skills. The ability to quickly identify and solve problems is essential in this industry. Repair technicians use creative problem solving daily, so this is a must-have trait for any business owner. 

Financial Overview

The cost of operating a computer repair business will vary depending on the business model. A home-based repair business can cost as little as $2,000 to $3,000 to start up. A repair business with a brick-and-mortar storefront will cost closer to $10,000, but startup costs are still quite manageable.

Common startup costs for a computer repair business include: 

  • Tools 
  • Laptop, monitor, USB drive
  • Inventory of repair parts
  • Furniture (for brick-and-mortar businesses)
  • Signage (for brick-and-mortar businesses)

Working capital

A computer repair business needs working capital to stay operational. This working capital covers operating expenses like rent and inventory purchases. If too much working capital gets tied up in expenses like inventory, and the business doesn’t have enough repair appointments to replenish that working capital, it will be difficult to keep the business operating and cover its expenses. 

Insurance

Plan to purchase multiple types of insurance to fully cover a computer repair business: 

  • General liability insurance protects the business if customers are ever injured while on the business’ property, and it can cover expenses like medical bills and lawyer fees. 
  • Commercial property insurance can cover expenses that result if the business property is damaged, like by a fire. The insurance can cover expenses like the cost of the building as well as the equipment that was inside it. 
  • Commercial auto liability insurance will be necessary if a vehicle is used for the business, like when traveling to customers’ homes or businesses. This insurance will cover expenses or lawsuits that could result from a car accident. 
  • Workers comp insurance will cover expenses like lost wages or medical bills if an employee is ever injured while on the job. 

The cost of insurance policies vary and is affected by factors like the value of the business property, the location of the business, and the value of the equipment owned by the business. To get an accurate idea of what it will cost to insure a business, request policy quotes from multiple companies. Then, compare the quotes while looking at factors like premiums, coverage limits and exclusions, and deductibles. 

Common operational expenses

In addition to the above startup expenses, a computer repair business’ budget needs to include the following operational expenses. 

Rent 

A computer repair business may or may not need a brick-and-mortar storefront, and many businesses can be started out of the home. However, having a business location where customers can drop off their computers can save you valuable time, so it may be worth it to invest in or expand into a brick-and-mortar location. 

Rent costs will vary depending on the size of the business property and its location. Properties in retail locations will cost more, but they can also generate walk-in business and help to spread awareness of a business. 

Employees

A business owner may be able to initially handle the entire workload of a computer repair business, but as the business grows, it may be necessary to hire one or more employees. According to Salary.com, computer repair technicians make an average income of $24 to $35 per hour. Remember to also budget for additional expenses that come with hiring an employee, like workers comp insurance, paid time off, and health insurance contributions. 

Marketing

Marketing is important in both promoting a new computer repair business and in continuing to bring in new customers. A computer repair business can explore many different types of marketing, including creating a website, using social media marketing, and advertising in local print publications. Marketing costs will depend on the type of marketing activity used. 

Licenses & Permits

A computer repair business will generally need business permits or licenses to operate. The required permits and licenses can vary from state to state and from town to town. 

How much can you potentially make owning a computer repair business? 

The income and profits of a computer repair business will vary according to the business’ location, specializations, services offered, and years in business. According to GlassDoor.com, computer repair technicians make an average salary of $35,240 per year. The low end of reported salaries was just $22,000 per year, with the high end being as much as $62,000. 

Keep in mind that many factors will affect your success and income. You may choose to start your business on a part-time basis so that you have additional income while you build up your body of customers. Offering specialty services, like business network management and support, can increase demand for your services and lead to higher annual profits. 

Things to consider before starting a computer repair business

Starting a computer repair business can be a positive career move, but you’ll need to be prepared for some of the challenges you’ll face. Plan to spend money on marketing the business and establishing your customer base, and consider what services you can offer that will help to bring in recurring customers, like providing network maintenance for local businesses. 

You may want to consider earning one or more certifications that help to prove your skill and experience in computer repair. This may be valuable when starting your business and can help you to gain the trust of clients. Common certifications include the Cisco Certified Network Associate, Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, and Certified Information Systems Security Professional. 

Resources: 

Association for Computing Machinery
Association of Computer Repair Business Owners

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