The owners of many IT companies and Managed Service Providers (MSP’s) start their careers by working as sole technicians, often serving the domestic market – fixing home users PC’s.
I myself found went down this route. For 3 years I provided support to a large number of home users, doing everything from setting up Wireless networks in homes, to fixing printers, to cleaning viruses infested PC’s (again, and again, and again it seemed… ).
But then a revelation takes place. You begin to appreciate that you don’t own a business, you own a job. You also realize that you are selling your time for money, and that if you want to earn a decent income, the low-rates you are charging to home users multiplied by the same amount of hours in each day mean that you’ll never reach your income goals.
And so you make the decision to start focusing your attention on the business market.
Here’s 3 tips for making the transition from working with home users to business clients.
Raise your rates
Home users are typically ultra price sensitive. You might be charging your existing home user clients anything from $60 an hour and lower.
Your instinct, therefore, is to charge something similar to this for business clients. You’ll struggle to believe that you can charge more than that for your services, based on what you currently perceive to be your own value.
This is a trap I’ve seen a lot of IT companies moving from serving the home user to business market fall into.
If you under-price your services, then you’ll cause a lot of potential clients to question why it is you are so cheap often significantly, you will be perceived to be offering good value and the amount of business you will win will increase.
Wait a minute! By charging more, I’ll win more business?
Absolutely. Do some market research and find out how much your competitors charge. Then at least match those prices. Preferably charge more. Then watch as you win more business.
When dealing with home user clients, especially price conscious home users, it’s not so much who you are but whether you can get the job done – and cheaply.
When dealing with business clients, they want to know they are dealing with somebody trustworthy, legitimate and professional.
You can help to build this professional image and engender trust by taking a few simple steps.
- Offer a landline telephone number, and not just a cell phone number. A single cell phone number suggests a sole Technician. A landline number is still much more trusted. If you’re worried about missing calls when you are out, employ the services of call answering service or utilize Voice-
- Have proper business cards printed. While cheap flimsy cards are OK when you’re dealing with home users, if you offer a business a wafer-thin dog-eared business card to any typical business owner – they’ll immediately perceive you to be less than a stellar business owner.
- Dress the part. Jeans and a polo shirt may have been OK up until now, but if you want to walk into business offices and be taken seriously – it’s time to consider your appearance. Dress for the location. If you’re working in a factory environment, a shirt with your logo on and smart trousers and shoes might be appropriate. If you’re working with a professional services client (such as an accountant or solicitor) then suit, shirt and tie might be more befitting. If in doubt, go with the suit.
- Invoice promptly. And by promptly, I don’t mean a month later. Invoice the same day as you complete any work. This will ensure you have a better chance of being paid promptly while the work is fresh in the clients mind. Make sure you include your bank details and any other relevant information on the invoice. Ensuring you bill in a timely fashion for the work you’ve done shows you’re a serious business, not a part time hobbyist.
Give up servicing Home Users
Finally, and this is often the toughest step – you’ll need to give up servicing home users sooner rather than later.
This might be hard, especially when you’ve built a loyal portfolio of clients who need your help and who you are earning income from, but trying to juggle home and business users is a very, very tough gig and I’ve yet to find a successful IT company that does it well.
But just because you’re growing, doesn’t mean you need to simply dump your home user clients. Build up a relationship with another Technician in your area who is perhaps at an earlier stage of business evolution than you are. Start to sub-contract home user work across to them and when you’ve built up trust based on good quality work and professionalism – speak to them about handing over your home users.
You might come to an arrangement around referral payments, or you might prefer to simply know your old clients are being well looked after. Either way, you’ve found a good home for your home users.
Then, notify your clients that you’ll no longer be offering services to home users. Express gratitude for their long term support, and give full contact details of who they can contact for their future support requirements. Assure them they are in good hands, and that if they are unsure, they can still call you for advice.
Finally, make sure to let them know that if they want you to visit them in their business or work lives, you’d be happy to do that.
I personally won a lot of business clients based on home users I’d worked with before. If you make it explicitly clear that you’re now working only with businesses, you’ll find plenty of referrals based on your previous good work.
It might feel like a wrench to leave behind an often comfortable lifestyle business servicing home users, but ultimately, if you truly do want to stop owning a job and start owning a business – it’s a necessary step.