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Articles of Interest to PC Entrepreneurs

Any of these articles may be republished by other newsletter, magazine or ezine publishers as long as they are posted intact with all credits. If you are an author and would like an article added to this list, email the article in HTML format to mtims(at)matcopublishing.com
Michael A. Tims


First, why do you want to make money with your computer?

This may sound like a frivolous question, but it might just be the most important question you can ask yourself. How a person answers this question may help him/her understand and answer the following questions. All of these questions are designed to help a potential entrepreneur make intelligent decisions about a computer business. Questions such as which business is right for you, how to market and price your business, and even what you tell other people when they are asked, what it is that you do. It has been my findings that the motivation behind WHY someone wants to start a business will influence how long they will persist in reaching their goal. How much drive they have and how much they are willing to put up with will also enter into whether a person is successful in reaching their goal. Some may wish to pursue a passion for writing, others may want to stay home to devote more time to their children, still others may have a need to supplement a retirement income, and some may have a burning desire to become their own boss. A person who has a clear reason to go into business for themself is much more likely to "make it" than someone who has no clear set goals or reasons.

In other words, your answer to this first question can serve as a mission statement for your entire business venture and can help get you past the many stumbling blocks you will encounter along the way to your desired business goals.

Second, do you want your business to be full or part-time?

The answer to this will depend on several factors. Do you need a primary income or just a secondary income to supplement what you already earn? Do you want to put in a full 8 (or more) hours every day? Alternatively, maybe you want to limit the amount of effort you will have to put into a business to a couple of hours per day.

Some businesses, just by their nature, are less likely to produce a full time income than others. Businesses such as "astrology readings", "handwriting analysis", "keeping sports league statistics", or doing "organizational charts" are not very likely to generate full time revenues, although they could very well bring in some extra money to supplement a retirement income. There are many of these, so called, sideline businesses that will bring in extra income. Many books, including my own, explain how to begin and run these type businesses.

Some businesses like an "instant sign shop", "temporary help service" or a "computer music studio" take so much time and energy, they are difficult to operate as sideline businesses.

On the other hand, many businesses such as an "informational search service", "Desktop publishing service", "secretarial service", or "bookkeeping service" could easily be operated either full-time or part-time. Many can be started part-time and when enough business (and money) is generated, they can be run full-time.

Third, do you wish to continue doing the same kind of work as you currently do?

If you like the type of work, there are advantages to sticking with the same field. Presumably you are already skilled in your chosen field. There will be no need to go through a learning curve before you could make a new business venture pay off. You will be able to do a good job for your clients and customers, right from the start. By starting out already skilled, you will be able to do your work more quickly and can take on more clients or customers in the same period of time. As they say, "Time is Money".

One advantage realized by staying in the same field is that you may be able to capitalize on the reputation you may have built up while working for others. Likewise, any contacts you have made will become invaluable resources when you are out on your own. By sticking to a field you already know, you may already know the pitfalls to avoid. You know the territory, so to speak. You know who's who in the field, the lingo, the needs, problems and current issues. If you had to learn all this insider information for a new field, it would make starting a new business doubly difficult.

If, on the other hand, you do not enjoy what you currently do for a living or you have gotten burned-out working in that particular field, you should look for a different idea for a business. Perhaps one that is at least related to your current field so that you would not loose all the valuable skills you have built up over the years. If you don't really enjoy what you are doing now, you probably will not put in the time and energy necessary to build up a business. This is especially true if you start the business on a part time basis at first. If you must put in additional hours at home, after coming home from a tiring day job, that you don't enjoy in the first place, how long will it be before you start feeling like it isn't worth it. It will be much better to look for other business ideas that you will enjoy doing and that you will be able to maintain enthusiasm for.

If you think you would like to stay in the same field as you are currently working, ask yourself the following questions.

Are there other people currently doing this type of work on a free-lance, consulting or as an independent business? If there are, this could be a good sign that the market could support one more entrepreneur, YOU! On the other hand, if there are already too many people offering the same service, what can you do differently from your competition to ensure that you will get your share of the business?

Could you turn your current employer into your first customer? This may be one way in which to break away from your current employer and go independent. There are several things to look for that might make this possible. Are you an essential employee to the operation? Would it be difficult to replace you? If you can answer yes to these two questions, it may be the time to become self employed and offer your services to your old boss on a per job or retainer plus fee basis.

A survey conducted by Home Office Computing magazine found that 49% of self-employed individuals did work for their former employers. A good time to approach your employer with such an idea is when they are thinking about cutting costs, down sizing, talking about giving early retirement incentives or any other signs that an idea to save them money would be accepted. Approach your boss with a proposal that will save them money and it will almost assuredly be accepted, freeing you to go independent. Explain in detail how much money they will save by hiring you as an independent contractor basis. This will free you to get more clients in addition to your old company.

Don't rely entirely on your old employer to maintain your business. Go after other clients at every opportunity. Knock on doors, make phone calls, mail brochures explaining your service and why you can do the best job, etc. The more clients you can line up before leaving your current position, the better off you will be when you finally go independent. You won't have to rely on just the one client for your income.

It is very important to make sure that you work for multiple clients. If you work for one client exclusively, the IRS may rule that you are still an employee of your former employer, even though you no longer receive regular benefits from them. This would mean that you would lose all business expense deductions as well as the benefits you used to receive when employed, a double blow to your pocketbook.

Ask yourself this. Could you convert, ethically of course, to your new business, any of the people or companies you now do business with? Could they become your business clients as well?

For many people, the idea of striking out on their own begins when someone they're working with says, "Say, if you are ever out on your own, let me know." Of course, if you can do that ethically (without a legal or ethical conflict with your current employer's interest) you really don't need to wait until such a person approaches you. You could approach them yourself, tell them of your intentions to start your own business, and get their reaction. Remember, the more commitments you can get before starting on your own, the better the possibility that there will be work waiting for you.

Possibly the competition of your current employer could become clients for your new business venture? Are there other clients for whom you could do your current job on a freelance, consultant, or sub-contract basis?

Remember, don't put all your eggs in one basket. Never rely on the income from just one client, if that client decides to discontinue your services, you're out of business. Market yourself actively, even if you are currently busy. Think in terms of "what if I lose the clients I currently have?", where will I get new clients.

There are many sources of possible clients to explore, especially if you want to stay in the same field you are currently in:

LARGE CORPORATIONS; Many companies are laying off their permanent staff members and choosing to contract out whole job functions that were once done by in-house staff. This outsourcing saves them a lot of money while still getting the jobs done that are needed.

SMALLER COMPANIES; The number of small businesses is growing and many are not yet large enough to hire full- time employees. This means that there are many opportunities for the self-employed. Companies just starting out, contract such services as bookkeeping, public relations, employee training, graphic design, and even cleaning services.

NEW FIELDS OR INDUSTRIES; Even if you feel there is no market for your services in your own field or industry, another industry or an emerging field may have a growing need for what you want to offer. For example, a tight market might cause realty companies or banks to cut back on using computer consultants. On the other hand, collection agencies and loan brokers may be expanding because of the same tight market and therefore have a growing need for such services. While advertising agencies may be using fewer freelance graphic designers, new fields such as desktop video or multimedia production may have a growing need for the same freelance designers.

INFORMATION SERVICES OR PRODUCTS; Even if the work you have been doing can't be done outside of a large organization, you may be able to successfully turn your expertise into a source of income by providing information about it to others. For example, let's say you work as a customer service representative or even a bank teller, you wouldn't be able to do this kind of work on a freelance basis. But you could become a consultant or trainer and use your expertise to help other companies set up and train similar employees. In fact, the following is a list of 15 ways you could package information into saleable information products:

1. Write a book on the subject 2. Speak on the topic. 3. Create educational video tapes. 4. Create audio tape programs. 5. Write articles or a column for magazines, newspapers, or trade publications. 6. Publish and sell a newsletter. 7. Train or conduct seminars. 8. Provide consulting services. 9. Produce prepackaged training programs. 10. Develop a product. 11. Design a computer-assisted instructional software program. 12. Create a television show. 13. Originate a radio program. 14. Sell your knowledge as a database through an online service. (CompuServe, America Online, Prodigy, etc.) 15. Disseminate your expertise via a computer bulletin board system.

What do you do if you DON'T want to do the same type of work you have been doing, but still want to start a PC based business?

First thing to do is take inventory. What other things do you do well and enjoy doing? Make a list of your skills, talents, abilities, interests, contacts, and hobbies. In my book, there are a lot of business profiles for making money working at home and many that can be worked part-time. All of the 101 businesses make use of the personal computer, or PC. They can be worked other ways, but the computer makes the business easier, or more efficient, to run. There are some opportunities for mail order type work, but the majority of the home-based jobs, are actual jobs to start with like secretarial, word processing, desktop publishing, desktop video services, etc. The table of contents for my book follows this report.

I strongly advise against picking a particular computer- based business simply because it is currently popular or has high-income potential. If you don't really enjoy the work, you won't stick at it and the chances of your business succeeding will be minimized.

The businesses that are in my book have been profiled because of them being able to be run with a personal computer. The PC is either the focal point, or the major reason, for the business being so successful.


1. The Moonlighting Plan; Keep your full-time job while you develop your business as a side line. When it takes off, you can go full time.

2. The Part-Time Plan; Work a part-time job to provide a base income while you're building up the business. When your business equals the base income, drop the part-time job.

3. The Spin-off Plan; Turn your employer into your first major customer or, if ethically possible, take a major client with you from your previous job.

4. The Cushion Plan; Find a financial resource to support yourself with while you start your business. Your cushion should be large enough to cover your base expenses for at least six to twelve months.

5. The Piggyback Plan; If you have a working spouse or partner, try to cut back your expenses so you can live on just one salary until your business gets going.

6. Do Temporary Work; Work through a temporary agency or job shop while you build your business. Most such agencies offer enough flexibility that you can take on some temp jobs while you are building income from your business. You could also be gaining, or improving, skills you could use in your business. ===================================================


Michael A. Tims is a retired high school math teacher but has run a mail order business as a sideline for over 20 years. Being a self taught computer NUT, one of his passions has been to find unique ways to use a PC to enhance or enable a small business venture.

Mr. Tims has written numerous magazine articles on PC basics or using a PC in business and is the author of the published book, "101 Computer Related Businesses", as well as a syndicated column called, "PC Biz of the Month".

Visit his new web site at www.matcopublishing.com and let him know what you think of it. Many other articles may be read at www.matcopublishing.com/articles.htm


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