1) Computer Programmer/Database Consultant
Qualiﬁcations: Programming experience or professional certiﬁcation (Microsoft certiﬁed programmers tend to make more money based on name recognition)
Equipment needed: At least one computer, database and programming software, printer, business card
Advertising: Online advertising, direct mail, networking with business professionals who might need your services or who can refer others
What You Do
As a computer programmer/database consultant, you will work with clients to improve the eﬃciency of their businesses. Perhaps it’s as straightforward as building a client database that enables your customer to analyze where its sales are coming from and how to maximize sales potential. Or maybe it’s programming the back-end of a database-driven Web site that is user-friendly and highly functional, allowing the site owner to capture data about each visitor to their site for demographic and sales/promotional purposes. If you have a strong working knowledge of programs like LINUX, dBase+, and DreamWeaver, you will be able to ﬁnd work as long as you market yourself in a visible manner. A strong Web site with links to your ﬁnished work will do, but then you need a powerful marketing piece to drive visitors to your site. You can accomplish this through a printed piece, such as a four-color postcard (which can be economically produced through sites like amazingmail.com and modernpostcards.com), or develop a slick, interactive e-marketing piece. For these marketing pieces, you’ll need to purchase a good list of prospects, and be sure you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act by including an opt-out and your company’s physical address.
What You Need
You may need one powerful computer or perhaps several if you have others working with you or if you need to view your work on different sized screens. Your biggest start-up cost is likely to be software, which can run anywhere from $150– $1,500 depending on the level of sophistication or specialization. Plan on setting aside another $500–$2,500 for your initial phase of marketing and advertising materials. You’ll need to spread the word before the referrals start rolling in.
Keys to Success
You would do well to join a professional association of computer programmers. Such an organization will likely oﬀer terriﬁc guidance on how to start your business, as well as provide you with great networking opportunities with others in your ﬁeld. Often you can get your start taking on the overﬂow of other programmers. You might also ﬁnd lots of work on Web sites such as SoloGig.com and Dice.com. The work is deﬁnitely out there for talented professionals like you.
2) Computer Trainer
Qualiﬁcations: Computer skills and/or certiﬁcation by software company, writing and presentation skills, ability to handle group dynamics, background in teaching or instructional design
Equipment needed: High-end computer, hardware and software, laser printer, oﬃce furniture, brochures and/or presentation folder, business cards, letterhead, envelopes
Advertising: Speaking at business meetings, referrals from software companies, networking, direct mail to speciﬁc companies, computer and trade
What You Do
As computers become even more important in the business world, so does computer training. The new software is powerful, but added features mean that almost every employee needs training to use it productively. To be a successful computer trainer, you need a range of skills, beginning with expertise in each software package. Beyond the ability to use the software yourself, you need to understand how others use it. Computer trainers may work as tutors with one or two individuals at a time, but more often they teach classes to groups at a business location. Teaching and presentation skills are essential. Computer training can be a successful business for people who have computer skills, ﬁnd teaching to be a creative enterprise, and like working with adults. You will need to focus on the areas in which you can keep updated: word processing, databases, or accounting programs, for example.
What You Need
Your computer, software, and laser printer will be the largest start-up expenses, totaling as much as $10,000–$15,000. You will also need to produce your own training materials, and these will change as new versions of the software packages are installed by your clients. Most training is conducted on clients’ premises, so your own office equipment can be added later. Charge at least $75 per hour to cover your expenses and to make a tidy proﬁt.
Keys to Success
If you are good at teaching, you can make a big diﬀerence in the work lives of the people you train. They must use computer equipment to complete their tasks, and knowing how the programs operate will greatly increase their efficiency. You will know that the services you provide are important to the employees you train and to the businesses that depend on them. You’ll need to be good at defusing their computer anxiety, though. People who don’t understand the intricacies of a program start pulling their hair out almost immediately. You will need to coax them gradually through each skill level until they gain conﬁdence. Students who are new to an area often don’t ask clear questions; anticipate that and listen carefully to give the right responses. Also, there is a lot of competition in this ﬁeld today. You will need to ﬁnd a way to distinguish from all of the others what you can offer. Finally, preparing training materials can be time-consuming and labor-intensive if you’re not used to step-by-step approaches.