Mobile Computer Repair Technician The Buzz


When your hard drive dies or your printer won't print, you take it into the repair shop. But what if the repair shop came to you? Entrepreneurial technicians are making house calls for computers -- and tapping into an expanding market.

"I've got a shop where people can bring their computers, but often they don't want to because perhaps it was originally set up by someone else and they don't even know how to unplug it," says Keith Hayes, owner of PC House Calls.

Clients pay $40 in trip charges before repairs, but still request the service.

"The market demands it," says Hayes.

It doesn't necessarily take a lot of money to get started. Hayes' initial overhead costs were minimal, but so was the income. But things picked up.

Hayes says residential customers often provide business referrals.

"The way I look at it, you can't turn anything residential down because you have to build up your clients and sometimes it means taking on small repair jobs."

His hourly labor rates are $40 for residential and $70 for business. Other charges range from $60 for a virus scan and clean to about $150 for a complete computer setup, including one hour of introductory training.

For same day service, customers can expect to pay more.

One of Hayes' recent clients had wedding invitations and her fiance's important work data on a computer that needed immediate repairs.

"She was in a total panic, but I just happened to have the needed power supply from an old machine...a real coincidence. So, in less than an hour I made $176. There's money to be made if you know what you're doing," says Hayes.

Andrew Lund, president of Geek Service International, says his company charges $88 an hour. But he acknowledges that it's difficult for a small one-or two-person operation to charge that amount.

His company employs service technicians who do mobile and on-site work.

"The mobile service is really a courtesy service, but in some cases is required," he says.

Training and experience are essential for success.

"There's probably lots of room in the industry for new techs starting out on their own, but I think it's best to do work for someone else for four or five years. It's an industry where a person really needs to apprentice," says Lund.

Working in a real-world situation, he says, is how technicians develop problem-solving abilities.

"Excellent problem-solving and cognitive abilities and good people skills are definitely an asset. More than education...it's those type of skills (that are required)," says Lund.

According to Lund, some technicians have university degrees in computer programming while others have college or technical school backgrounds.

"Still other techs have learned from the school of life, no formal training -- they just understand what goes on inside the computer and have an aptitude for it."

Hayes says there are "sharp people out there who are not certified," who don't have the industry standard A+ certification.

But he believes the certification training is important.

"It really is necessary, because it's bragging rights. Would you take your car to a certified mechanic, or just to Joe Blow?"

"Experience is probably the thing that works most for you," says Carl Lackey. He owns a one-person mobile computer repair company.

"There's no end to the new [computer] symptoms...and you have to figure out which component -- hardware or software -- is causing the symptoms."

After a career with IBM, Lackey did contract work for five years before becoming self-employed.

Lackey collects a pension and doesn't rely on his repair service for his total income. He notes that for a young entrepreneur, repairs alone may not be enough to sustain a business.

"There's never been any money in computer repairs. The money to be had, if any, is in service contracts and side businesses like software sales. There's no money in it and it's so competitive. Tutoring is the real profitable thing," he says.

Using only a website and word of mouth to attract customers, Lackey says he provides a more personalized service. He adds that many people, especially seniors, appreciate the personal touch and his affordable rates -- often half of what his competitors charge.

Armed with training and experience, as well as people skills, mobile computer technicians face perhaps their biggest challenge.

"The most challenging thing is when it gets busy and backed up, there are long hours. I'm looking at a place...where I can live on one side and work on the other so I can be home more. It's quality of life," says Hayes.

Lund agrees that long hours away from family are tough.

"We are out at all hours. It's the sort of business where if something goes wrong, people need it fixed now."

Links

Computing Technology Industry Association
Learn about certification

Geeks On Call
A successful mobile computer repair company