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I fix computers I have no customers therefore I have no money

WhatToThinkWhatToThink Registered User regular
edited September 2010 in Help / Advice Forum
Hey guys I just moved to a new city to go to grad school. I did freelance computer repair for several years in the town I moved from but now I have to start all over. Essentially, how do I market myself (preferably for free or very cheap)? I have a site up, louisvilledigital.com, and a twitter account but it's a joke. I used to rely on word of mouth but moving somewhere where you literally don't know anyone kind of kills word of mouth. I thought about putting some flyers on cars but every time I get a flyer on my car it pisses me off so that might be a bad idea. I would looooove any help! Thanks!

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    LykouraghLykouragh Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Craigslist, flyers on bulletin boards (not on cars), newspaper ads, yellow pages. Remember that your target demographic is people that don't know how to google, so a website and a twitter won't help much. Think like your grandparents.

    Lykouragh on
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    HevachHevach Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Craigslist works great. Check what your county/state laws about roadside advertising are, in some places you can put little signs up on street corners legally (though removal is at the discretion of the owner so they might not stay long).

    Also, get some letter and number stickers from Wal Mart and put an ad right on your car.

    When you start getting customers, have some business cards and just drop three or four on the desk as you finish up.

    Hevach on
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    CadeCade Eppur si muove.Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Visit any and all stores/grocery markets and the like, if you can print off some fliers for yourself and post them up that can get you some publicity. Usually a bulletin board for such things where they are trying to sell stuff and all located in most grocery stores, mind you that is Canada, could be way different in the states but still it's an idea.

    Likewise you might want to hit up some schools or any campus in the area and put up some fliers there as well, such people always need things fixed.

    Cade on
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    WezoinWezoin Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    In my city there is a mall right next to a retirement home, and a bunch of apartments that are known for just being full of old people. I used to work in that mall and there were always flyers up offering computer services and all the little stubs on them were always gone very quickly. If you can find an area of town like that it would be ideal.

    Wezoin on
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    Cultural Geek GirlCultural Geek Girl Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    I'll echo what everyone else said about flyers with the tear-off stubbs and Craigslist. Also, make sure you have some business cards on you at all times. You never know when you'll find yourself chatting with someone, computers or something related will come up, and you'll be able to say "Oh, I have a side business fixing computers. Here's my card."

    Cultural Geek Girl on
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    ihmmyihmmy Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    also, kijiji... and seconding the business cards (vistaprint tends to have them on sale for pretty cheap, or you can get prepunched template type ones - though they look a bit less professional than ones from a professional printer)

    ihmmy on
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    FiggyFiggy Fighter of the night man Champion of the sunRegistered User regular
    edited September 2010
    I have no advice other than to tell you that you really should proof-read more. Your website's banner says "for all you computer needs."

    I wouldn't bother with you after seeing that.

    Figgy on
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    FagatronFagatron Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    I supplement the contract work I get from my recruiter this way while I wait for a permanent job to happen again.

    I have had good luck just straight putting quarter page fliers on people's doors. I figure this is more effective than leaving them on bulletin boards or cars, as somebody definitely sees it for each one I leave. Also I find that there are usually several fliers other fliers offering computer services on most bulletin boards, often at ludicrously low rates, so I don't like to bother with them; my expertise is worth more than minimum wage, the teenager installing programs and running an antivirus program and calling it "Tech Support" is not.

    I use masking tape to do it so it doesn't mess up the paint on their houses, if you're worried about people being upset you left fliers on their door/doorpost, don't be. I've been doing this for a couple years now and I've put out several thousand of them and I have yet to get a call from someone who's upset at me for leaving a flier someplace. It costs me about $15 to copy and cut a thousand of them and I generally get 1-2 new clients fairly immediately after I put them out. I charge $30/hr. so it's definitely worth it. Some people end up being repeat clients, and I've gotten some people through word of mouth. I do worry about doing too good a job because often times I won't hear back from people I've worked for because I fix all their problems; this is probably a good thing though. I also put them up on doorposts/under mailboxes for small businesses but San Francisco is kind of unique with it's blend of residential and business-y areas, I don't know how much luck you'd have with that in Louisville, or charging rates that are similar to mine.

    I should be more aggressive with the fliers but TBH the contract work has been picking up more and more so I haven't been posting them as much as I should.

    EDIT: I find Craigslist pretty useless for this because of the aforementioned teenagers and swathes of unemployed tech people trying to make a quick buck; thinking back on it I thought that I had gotten one call off of it but then I realized that, no, dude just found my flier somewhere that was not his house, he mentioned it when I asked how he found out about me.

    Then again, in SF at least, and this was over a year ago, you could post an ad in the Computer Services section and a couple minutes later it'd be 15 listings down the page. It is just way too high volume, with way too many people who don't know what they're doing, but appear to to the layperson, advertising for ludicrously low rates.

    Fagatron on
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    FyreWulffFyreWulff YouRegistered User, ClubPA regular
    edited September 2010
    Making sure before you would go flyering to check your local laws on flyers and on bagging doors

    FyreWulff on
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    FagatronFagatron Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    FyreWulff wrote: »
    Making sure before you would go flyering to check your local laws on flyers and on bagging doors

    You know I never did but there's a fuckton of takeout places that leave stuff on doors all the time so I never worried about it. =/

    Fagatron on
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    WhatToThinkWhatToThink Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Hey guys thank you so much for the help! I know what I will be doing all day tomorrow haha. The flyers with the little stubs seem like a great idea to hang up around apt. complexes. I have been looking around online to find a good place to order some business cards as well. As Fagatron said, Craigslist is pretty useless. The computer services section is always flooded with posts.

    WhatToThink on
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    Cultural Geek GirlCultural Geek Girl Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Vistaprint is good for cards, but if you ever want them quicker but slightly less cheap Staples does good cards as well.

    Also... you might even want to consider a classified ad. Local papers and free shoppers circulars often have more reasonable classified rates, though your customers may end up being mostly older people.

    Cultural Geek Girl on
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    MushroomStickMushroomStick Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    See if the grocery stores in your area have cork boards in the entryways/exits for putting up your flyers. I'd think that'd get even more exposure than the apartments.

    MushroomStick on
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    L Ron HowardL Ron Howard The duck MinnesotaRegistered User regular
    edited September 2010
    A friend of mine is a member of many local forums. He advertises there and gets a lot of word-of-mouth advertising because of it. Mind you, the sites he offers his services through are not computer forums, but things like car forums or local sports are what he does. When someone asks for help with their computer, he offers up his services. Generally, people who use and need the computer, and are somewhat competent, but don't have the skills or know-how to build or repair their own computers.

    L Ron Howard on
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    Acebgd12Acebgd12 Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Hello fellow Louisvillian!

    I think one of your best bets is to advertise to people you know would rather take it to an individual than to something like Geek Squad. The Highlands fits that perfectly; go into places like Heine Brothers with flyers and see where they will allow you to put them up.

    Acebgd12 on
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    Mr_GrinchMr_Grinch Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Fagatron wrote: »
    I supplement the contract work I get from my recruiter this way while I wait for a permanent job to happen again.

    I have had good luck just straight putting quarter page fliers on people's doors. I figure this is more effective than leaving them on bulletin boards or cars, as somebody definitely sees it for each one I leave. Also I find that there are usually several fliers other fliers offering computer services on most bulletin boards, often at ludicrously low rates, so I don't like to bother with them; my expertise is worth more than minimum wage, the teenager installing programs and running an antivirus program and calling it "Tech Support" is not.

    I'd disagree, I've ten years or more experience in the industry and supplement my main employment with computer repair work and I imagine I charge similar to the "Teenager running an antivirus program.". I've replaced laptop screens, repaired on-board power jacks, recovered lost and important data and countless other tasks and never charged more than £40 for the entire repair (not counting parts). I don't charge per hour, I charge for the task with a maximum fee of £40, most repairs/jobs I charge £20.

    I get a considerable volume of work my way and it's largely due to word of mouth thanks to the good job and incredibly cheap service I offer. I honestly believe computer repair is horrendously over-priced and I like to keep my costs down.

    I advertise by writing out some fliers, offering some free advice (what free anti-virus software is worthwhile, how to scan for spyware etc), basically telling them how to do the easy stuff. I then attach my business card and say if they have any further problems to contact me. The customers I've had have put my leaflet by the side of their computer, then when they've had an issue they contact me.

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    FagatronFagatron Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Mr_Grinch wrote: »
    Fagatron wrote: »
    I supplement the contract work I get from my recruiter this way while I wait for a permanent job to happen again.

    I have had good luck just straight putting quarter page fliers on people's doors. I figure this is more effective than leaving them on bulletin boards or cars, as somebody definitely sees it for each one I leave. Also I find that there are usually several fliers other fliers offering computer services on most bulletin boards, often at ludicrously low rates, so I don't like to bother with them; my expertise is worth more than minimum wage, the teenager installing programs and running an antivirus program and calling it "Tech Support" is not.

    I'd disagree, I've ten years or more experience in the industry and supplement my main employment with computer repair work and I imagine I charge similar to the "Teenager running an antivirus program.". I've replaced laptop screens, repaired on-board power jacks, recovered lost and important data and countless other tasks and never charged more than £40 for the entire repair (not counting parts). I don't charge per hour, I charge for the task with a maximum fee of £40, most repairs/jobs I charge £20.

    I get a considerable volume of work my way and it's largely due to word of mouth thanks to the good job and incredibly cheap service I offer. I honestly believe computer repair is horrendously over-priced and I like to keep my costs down.

    I advertise by writing out some fliers, offering some free advice (what free anti-virus software is worthwhile, how to scan for spyware etc), basically telling them how to do the easy stuff. I then attach my business card and say if they have any further problems to contact me. The customers I've had have put my leaflet by the side of their computer, then when they've had an issue they contact me.

    I do more or less the same thing with the free advice, and instruct people on how to do the stuff they can, which is what I was getting at when I said I might be doing too good a job.

    I also think our prices are a lot more equivalent if you consider I'm living in one of the most expensive places in the US, and the exchange rate. I rarely have a job where I end up charging more than $100.

    Fagatron on
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    RuckusRuckus Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Don't forget you may need a license from the local government (city, county, or municipal) to operate a business.

    Ruckus on
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    WhatToThinkWhatToThink Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    I'd disagree, I've ten years or more experience in the industry and supplement my main employment with computer repair work and I imagine I charge similar to the "Teenager running an antivirus program.". I've replaced laptop screens, repaired on-board power jacks, recovered lost and important data and countless other tasks and never charged more than £40 for the entire repair (not counting parts). I don't charge per hour, I charge for the task with a maximum fee of £40, most repairs/jobs I charge £20.


    This is about what I am used to charging. Like Fagatron mentioned, you have to take into account the exchange rate and location. Although it does cost quite a bit more to live in San Fran than Louisville I will most likely do $30 and hour with nothing under an hour. If it's something as simple as installing ram I might not even charge, I can't really justify it. Also, when doing something like installing an OS or running a virus scan I don't charge for the time the software is actually doing something while I am just sitting there.

    WhatToThink on
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    TL DRTL DR Not at all confident in his reflexive opinions of thingsRegistered User regular
    edited September 2010
    I did this for a little over a year and Craigslist was hugely helpful.

    What kind of service are you able to offer? Break/fix sucks, generally. Your best clients will be small businesses; 2-4 workstations that need regular upkeep but nothing too technical that you wouldn't be able to figure out.

    For the love of God, charge your hourly rate uniformly. It might not cost you much time to install a stick of RAM, but you've invested substantial time in order to be the guy who knows how to do this sort of thing. If it doesn't work, you're on-site to find out why. Any time spent at a client's, including time watching progress bars, is time that you're unable to spend investing in your career.

    At $45/hour, you're still undercutting any serious IT solutions company by upwards of 50%

    The only exception I'd make is time spent researching something that you should already know. So time spent learning a customer's unique software is billable, but I wouldn't charge for time spent Googling how to make a certain change in Vista, for example.

    Feel free to PM me if you want any more advice

    TL DR on
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    Rhesus PositiveRhesus Positive GNU Terry Pratchett Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    You said you're in grad school - would there be a campus you could advertise on? Seems that there might be a reasonable amount of slightly older people who have laptops but aren't too savvy with them.

    Rhesus Positive on
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