I Like a Challenge
We were told as kids that we could be whatever we wanted. It’s true; the Obama administration hasn’t (yet) told me what I should do for a living. However, the other thing we were told was that if we were smart and went to college, someone would hand us money when we graduated.
This, for my generation, is not so. I have a business degree from a good school… where’s my money? My fancy job, a secretary perhaps? The truth is, educated or not, people in my generation have to be creative, and make their own moves. (No, not you, pyramid scammers.) That is my challenge, and after much thought, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Mirror in Space (Bonus points for those of you who got the reference.)
Rewind to the summer of 2008. In a time of extreme confusion about where my career was going, and having just euthanized a startup business gone sour, I headed to Maine, where my brother was living at the time. While I was there seeking his advice about what to do with myself, I received a phonecall from one of my dad’s friends. Though I can’t remember what the exact issue is, I still remember the scene well. He had a computer question of some sort and I diagnosed and explained the reasons behind the issue. We set up an appointment for me to check it out when I got back.
After I got off the call, I went right back to worrying about myself. In response, my brother noted the ease with which I walked my caller through some troubleshooting steps and made the recommendations.
“Why don’t you embrace who you are? You were really good just then. It’s easy for you, but to most people this stuff is really intimidating. They need you.” I half-listened and half-agreed. I flew home, went back to work at my normal, stable day job, selling computer parts on eBay. Then suddenly, two years passed.
Right Under My Nose
By this point I was making one appointment per week to fix somebody’s computer. People called me all the time because I was just “their computer guy.” What was once an aggravation was now a slightly annoying but welcome addition to my income. As time went on, I absorbed the tools and skills to turn even the most difficult close-call stumpers to simple fixes. I had a briefcase, a travel/test laptop, a portfolio of legal OEM reinstall discs, tons of advanced diagnostic software such as Memtest 86+ (takes all the guessing out of RAM issues), and the knowledge of what’s good and what to avoid.
At that point the weekly recipe became, Hey Marc my computer is slow/Okay no problem/Purge any spyware/Give some pointers/Add a dash of Ubuntu/Serve chilled/Your computer will now last you five more years/I get money.
One of my friends noticed the constant influx of calls and challenged me: “If you’re in this much demand, why don’t you make a serious business out of it?” Up until that point (and even at the time of this writing), none of my pie-in-the-sky business plans had taken off, and I realized it would behoove me to start out a bit smaller. I printed some business cards and started mailing them out to everybody I knew.
Here we are in the Spring of 2011 – I’m now the President of Teknosophy, LLC – The Computer Exorcists (SM). While I haven’t been able to quit my dayjob just yet, I’m getting closer every week, and have built up a pretty regular evening business.
Why am I different from any other jamoke fixing computers? Well, that’s where my education comes in. I’ve differentiated myself based on the observations of my clients – and here’s what they’ve said:
- I make things “just work” – I remove most of the constant security and update warnings that bombard users while they work.
- I can teach you new things, show you how to get the most from your equipment, in plain English.
- Most of the time I come by referral and have plenty of references. I’ve got over 10 years experience, as opposed to your neighbor’s cat’s aunt’s nephew who pirated MS Office for you.
- I cut to the chase – I’m not restricted by a corporate script and am not afraid to warn someone of a bad product.
- I enjoy chatting about things other than computers and try to make the business relationship about more than just maintaining your computer.
- I don’t smell funny.
In summary, I pride myself on being the layer of abstraction between you and your virusbox.
Short Term Promotions
The flight of business cards from my desk to my friends’ mailboxes continues. I also donated two gift certificates to a fundraiser for my alma mater, and am giving away a total of $2,011 this year to anyone who refers me new customers. Beyond that, I’ve contracted with Facebook for regionally-targeted Web advertising, and am planning on calling Groupon next.
At this point, I know people out there need me, it’s just a matter of time, effective advertising, and eventually expanding to other cities! Come to think of it, this article should form the basis of the Teknosophy business plan!
I’ve embraced my calling and would like to make Teknosophy my full-time job this year, but I know I can’t do just this forever. The good thing is, this business will give me the freedom to move onward and upward – starting the next TiVo, Google, or simply going back to school.
When I was a kid I thought about becoming a meteorologist, or a Spanish teacher, or a car restorer. Later on, I added cigar monger and smoothie-maker to that list. I might end up being one of those one day, but not before I’ve given my calling a fair shake.