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Part Two: Technical Self-Employment For All 270

MoNickels writes "I've posted part two of the article series encouraging the unemployed to take up freelance technical support, including advice on knowing if this work is right for you, marketing yourself, learning on the job, handling and educating clients, managing the business, the temperament required, and the negative aspects of the work." See part one if you missed it.
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Part Two: Technical Self-Employment For All

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  • by ambisinistral ( 594774 ) <ambisinistral@noSPam.gmail.com> on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @03:06PM (#6618128) Homepage
    Don't print your business card in Elfin. Showing up to your first meeting with a potential client dressed as a Klingon is a bad idea too.

  • by kmak ( 692406 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @03:07PM (#6618140)
    What do you do about health insurance?
    • You either don't have it, or you PAY A BIG WAD OF MONEY for it.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        There are insurance plans that cater to the small business.. You may even go in with other small businesses and buy a group plan, getting a better deal. Remember there's strength in numbers. That's one of the reasons you see multiple doctors working under one roof. Kind of like marriage. :)

        The same idea applies to many other aspects of one's business. Office supplies for example. Use your imagination.
    • by pogle ( 71293 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @03:09PM (#6618171) Homepage
      3 words: Don't get sick...
    • by tbase ( 666607 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @03:10PM (#6618182)
      Ummm, I don't know, maybe pay for it, like you do when you're working for someone else? Just because 100% of it isn't coming out of your check, doesn't mean you aren't paying for all of it. It's all part of the expense of employing you, along with unemployment insurance, worker's compensation, etc. That's why freelancer's generally charge a much higher rate per hour - they have to pay that stuff themselves, instead of having someone else do it for them.
      • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @03:50PM (#6618662) Homepage
        Ummm, I don't know, maybe pay for it, like you do when you're working for someone else?
        Yes, yes, spoken very authoritatively and with the requisite amount of condescension for a Slashdot poster.

        Fact is, however, insurance is a much better deal when you get it through an organization than if you get it as an individual. That's because health insurance is a numbers game. If they can sign up an entire company, it's a pretty safe bet that not everyone in that company is going to be hospitalized at once. If it's just you they're signing up -- who knows what your problem is?

        So it isn't just a matter of whether you're employer is paying for it or if you're paying for it yourself. As an individual, you're typically going to pay a higher monthly rate and still get a higher deductible or fewer benefits. Coverage for your children or spouse is going to be still more.

        So maybe the question shouldn't have been, "what do you do for insurance," but "how do you get good, quality, comprehensive healthcare in the United States as a self-employed person"?
        • ...except that you're completely wrong. Groups are underwritten as, well, groups. Group insurance is very cost-effective for older or less-than-healthy members who would otherwise be paying a lot of many for a comparable policy. It is very cost-ineffective for young, healthy males (we don't get pregnant) who are, in effect, subsidizing the first group.

          You're right about one thing: health insurance is a numbers game. An office of young, healthy employees will have very good rates, albeit a little highe

        • by tbase ( 666607 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @04:38PM (#6619414)
          Yes, yes, spoken very authoritatively and with the requisite amount of condescension for a Slashdot poster.

          Right back atcha :-)

          Excellent points, especially for the clueless whom I'll reply to directly in a moment...

          You clearly state the other side of the coin - I was addressing the comment from the standpoint that many people think that the $30 a paycheck that gets deducted is what their insurance is actually costing them. Not even close. First of all, it's pre-tax, so it's even less. Second, most employers pay a good chunk as a benefit.

          Obviously a group plan will be cheaper per person, assuming that the groups mean health demographic is roughly the same as the individual's. But when you compare making say $15 or $30 an hour as an employee to say charging $60 to $120 as a freelancer, you should be able to afford good, quality comprehensive healthcare. It's simply a cost of doing business like anything else. And like many things, it's more expensive for a small business than a large one.

          The same goes for comparing rates of a business with 30 employees to a business with 300. Are you going to turn down a better job with a smaller company because the health insurance is more expensive? The problem is that the 'one man operation' only has himself to consider, so he often considers health insurance as optional, or too expensive to afford.
    • by confused one ( 671304 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @03:12PM (#6618195)
      You charge enough to cover your expenses. Including insurance (not just life, business insurance covering liability, insurance on your equipment, etc.)
    • Blue Cross of California. works fine for me. cheap.
      • by bigman2003 ( 671309 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @04:07PM (#6618891) Homepage
        I had Blue Cross catastrophic insurance.

        My wife (now ex) needed to have her appendix taken out. Cost me about $7,000 out of pocket. They don't pay for silly things like bandages, IV's, food, etc. They pay for the doctor, and the surgery.

        Two years later, she had to have her gallbladder taken out (they shoulda just taken her brain out at the same time) that one cost me another 8-9 thousand. (Emergency room coverage is really, really bad)

        Catastrophic insurance is pretty crappy, and after having these two episodes, I think that Blue Cross is one of the crappiest.

        People may complain, and hate HMO's, but when your biggest priority is covering your ass (financially) they can't be beat. Those two surgeries combined would have cost me $10 with Kaiser.
        • Catastrophic insurance is pretty crappy,...

          That's the key. While I can't speak for Blue Cross in particular, I can state with some degree of confidence that pretty much all catastrophic policies are ... well ... catastrophies. (insert groan here).

          What would be more interesting to note is what you would have paid WITHOUT the insurance. Catastrophic insurance is really only intended to keep you from losing your house or otherwise assuming an unbearable debt load. Although in your case you might not be a

    • by Malc ( 1751 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @04:06PM (#6618861)
      ... you insensitive clod!

      Seriously though, I am so glad I no longer have to worry about health coverage. I moved to Canada a few years ago, and it was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I'm happy to pay for it via my taxes. I think we get good value for money. I don't have to worry about not being given the best insurance deal because I'm an individual and not a huge corporation looking to cover thousands of people. I also know I won't see any of the doctors bills if I get hurt reminding me that I'm ultimately responsible even though my insurer has also received a copy. I don't have to worry about my or my family's health should I unexpectedly lose my job/contract.
    • by arnie_apesacrappin ( 200185 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @04:08PM (#6618905)
      Being a consultant, I carry my own insurance. I know it seems like a pain, but it is quite easy. I used ehealthinsurance [ehealthinsurance.com] to find a policy that fit my needs.

      One thing to ask yourself is, "how much do I get sick?" If you're single and rarely visit a doctor, a very simple policy could be good for you.

      The company that employs me as a consultant offers health insurance. For me being single, it would cost $65 a week, for a minimum expenditure of $3380/year. The policy I have costs $130 every three months, for a minimum expenditure of $520/year.

      But, the coverage isn't that great. The policy covers zero percent of the first $2000, then eighty percent of the next $8000 and everything after that each calendar year. So if I became really ill, I'm looking to pay $2000 (1st $2000) + $1600 (20% of 2K to 10K) + $520 (yearly premium) for a grand total of $4120.

      I've been working for this company for about a year and a half. I've been to the doctor once, with the visit + meds costing about $250. Add that to six premiums, and my total output comes to about $1030. If I had paid for my "employer provided" health care, I would have already spent over $5000 plus any co-payments.

      Now there is the fact that the "employer provided" healthcare is paid for by pre-tax dollars and I'm paying after taxes, but the difference unless I become quite ill still doesn't matter.

    • by pongo000 ( 97357 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @04:27PM (#6619227)
      Form a legal corporation (or LLC, or LLP, or whatever) with two or three other individuals. Then you're eligible to negotiate group rates. You don't even have to like the people you're organizing with; just find some like-minded individuals who need insurance but don't want to be bilked by individual policy rates (if you can even get an individual policy -- good luck).
    • by kfstark ( 50638 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @05:05PM (#6619845) Homepage
      If you are leaving an existing job, look at a COBRA plan to extend your existing insurance for 18 months. You will pay slightly more than the group rate, but it will guarantee you coverage. Do NOT let your coverage lapse!!!

      The following is my personal experience and should not be taken as complete truth since I am still working through the process. Since my father-in-law is an accountant, I have been getting good advice to guide me through this process.

      Until recently, I was able to keep insurance for my family through my wife's insurance. Since my wife no longer works we are looking for insurance for the four of us.

      Surprise! my son's bout with pneumonia (sp?) more than 1 year ago has caused all sorts of problems with acquiring individual insurance. Not only will they not cover my 4 year old son, they want to increase the rates on the rest of us by 50%. This amounts to quite a sum of money.

      We stopped the process of trying to get insurance online and contacted an agent. We still couldn't get reasonable insurance and no company wanted to cover my son. However, we have been informed that we cannot be refused insurance if we sign up as a group. This will also keep our rates lower than the quotes we had been getting.

      How do you qualify as a group?

      You need to have two people involved in your company. I formed a single member Limited Liability Company (LLC) in California about two years ago. I have since added my wife as a member of the LLC and we suddenly qualify as a group and can apply for group medical insurance. We are doing this now, so I don't have estimates on costs. However, I would like to mention some other steps I have taken because of this.

      Normally, an LLC does not require you to be a W-2 employee of the LLC since the money passes through the LLC to you as an individual. This means that you don't have to file a corporate tax return or employer tax statements. I did not want the burden of managing all of the paperwork that comes with hiring employees and printing paychecks. Surprisingly, the payroll companies (ADP in this case) are very cheap and handle the paperwork for you. I will pay a total of $50/month for all of my payroll and tax reporting requirements.

      Why would I spend $50/month on this?

      When you have employees, you can set up an employee medical reimbursement plan on a pre-tax basis. Without an employee medical reimbursement plans, you can only deduct medical expenses in excess of 7% of your income (I think this number is changing). With a medical reimbursement plan, you can deduct 100% of your employees medical expenses (vision, dental, prescriptions, copays). However, you need to have employees for this. Since my wife is already doing the books and my billing, I hired her and gave her a salary (less than my salary of course).

      What does all of this mean?

      It means that you should consult an accountant. There are a number of ways to reduce your tax burden and get better insurance. Some of the things that seem expensive and a pain in the ass might not be. Learning the ins and outs of business practice can be time consuming and may not seem that important when deadlines loom. This is why you pay an accountant and follow their advice. If you are earning $100k/year and wasting $10k on insurance,taxes or other business expenses, you can afford to take some time to fix your expense structure or pay someone to fix it for you.

      Good Luck,

    • by Reziac ( 43301 )
      There are group health insurance policies available for the self-employed. One trade outfit, called something obvious like "Association of Self-Employed Persons" (can't remember exactly) has a $100/yr membership fee, and as a member you can get Blue Cross coverage for the lowest available group rate.

      It's the same outfit that runs TV ads occasionally, and yes, they are legit.

  • Great Checklist (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dlosey ( 688472 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @03:09PM (#6618161)
    The personality checklist fits the bill of both a technician and an entrepenuer very well.

    I'd also say it is a pretty decent description of the typical slashdot reader, IMHO
    • In MY opinion, he's waaaay too much into the whole slashdot thing. His bland comment about other techs not reading slashdot was a real eye-opener. You know, it is actually possible to have a rewarding career in computers without ever ONCE reading slashdot. He makes several other offhanded comments that reveal just how parochial his world-view is.

      Besides, who wants to do windows tech support for a living? That's what it is, doing freelance support for small businesses. They only call when they have huge

      • Re:Great Checklist (Score:4, Insightful)

        by edverb ( 644426 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @07:20PM (#6621260)
        In conclusion, small businesses are ghetto. They're frequently late with payments, as well.
        Not so, if you don't offer payments. I get paid upon completion of the job. (I'm not the author, but it's obvious he's insightful about being an ISV via his experience) If a small business can't agree in advance to pay upon completion, then I don't take the job. It's a simple matter of managing your receivables by not allowing them to accumulate.

        I realize that critizisms like "how parochial his worldview is" sound impressive, they just happen to be wrong. The bit about ignoring the print magazines is spot on, you'll find exposure to 50x more useful (and interesting) concepts reading Slashdot than you ever will reading "Top 10 Mobile Devices for 2003!" in one of the many periodicals offered beside the checkout in Staples.

        I imagine you're a tech too, and have experience of your own, but to encapulate that whole article into some "worldview" box of your creation is ridiculous. This article consists of practical advice, not a manifesto.

        Lastly, can you think of a more never-ending source of revenue than repairing Winblows boxen when they crash (as they occassionally do ;-)...at $75-$120 an hour?!? Sure I use GNU/Linux myself personally (and I recommend it as often as possible to my Windows clientele), but I'm not above whipping a Windows machine into shape when I'm getting $75 an hour to do it. Heck, it's fun. Some of my clients are already getting used to Mozilla and OpenOffice.
  • My brief collection of "must knows" after a year of consulting:

    1. Dress neat, above all else. Work out too. If you are good looking, PHBs don't care whether you know anything or not, especially the female ones

    2. Never admit that you don't know something - act like you know everything that has to do with computing

    3. Charge fair, but on the high end. If you charge too cheap, the PHBs think that you aren't skilled

    4. Never linger. If Accounting is having problems with a database client, get in, find out wh

    • by smitty45 ( 657682 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @03:17PM (#6618261)
      "2. Never admit that you don't know something - act like you know everything that has to do with computing" Terrible idea. Every dweeb out there has enough ego to support pretending that they know everything. I keep my clients by being able to admit I don't know, then find out. They appreciate the honesty, instead of the pseudo-consultants that talk up a storm.
      • by prator ( 71051 )
        They appreciate the honesty, instead of the pseudo-consultants that talk up a storm.

        I agree. I think that it is horrible advice to tell someone to act like they know everything. Everyone that I've ever known that interviews prospective employees always says to be honest about your knowledge.

      • by MrLint ( 519792 )
        Even if your clients dont know anything its certainly clear when someone is flailing. Knowing when you don't know something is wisdom. Knowing how to find what you don't know.. thats smarts. If your customers trust you because of your previous work telling them you will find out or you have to research is ok. People don't like being lied to.
      • by mao che minh ( 611166 ) * on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @03:33PM (#6618455) Journal
        I just landed a gig at a law firm (a rather large one) to install a bunch of imaging systems and "fix" their mail server. They decided not to use their usual guy because "he didn't always know everything that we needed, and would have to go look it up (sic)".

        It depends on the client. Some don't mind. Some view incomplete mastery of a trade as laziness and/or ignorance.

        Afterall, they all know that they could always find someone else.

      • by Zooka ( 457908 )

        "I keep my clients by being able to admit I don't know, then find out. They appreciate the honesty, instead of the pseudo-consultants that talk up a storm."

        Exactly. If you don't have the answers to simple questions, then you you're just doomed. But no reasonable person expects you to have all the answers to all the difficult problems. "Hmm, I don't have the answer to that one now, but I'll have it for you by this afternoon." - has always worked well for me. It shows you not only to be honest, but smart,

    • by Zooka ( 457908 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @03:24PM (#6618361)
      2. Never admit that you don't know something - act like you know everything that has to do with computing

      2a. Never get caught in a lie. Admitting you don't know something might be a negative, but it's better than proving yourself to be deceitful.
    • '3. Charge fair, but on the high end. If you charge too cheap, the PHBs think that you aren't skilled "

      I charge about 50% less, simply because I don't have the overhead of my competitors. Most, if not all, of my clients dropped their previous service when they realized that they got better quality, cheaper, than others who were out to gouge.
      • I charge about 50% less, simply because I don't have the overhead of my competitors. Most, if not all, of my clients dropped their previous service when they realized that they got better quality, cheaper, than others who were out to gouge.

        This isn't about gouging so much as setting expectations - charge too low a price, and people will think something's amiss. It's like selling a new BMW for $15000.

      • I charge about 50% less, simply because I don't have the overhead of my competitors.

        You have to be careful with that sort of policy. A lot of serious business will look at a price differential that big, and ask what you're not telling them. Some places automatically ignore the highest and lowest bids for any job. Better to accept that people want to pay for things so they feel they've got a quality job done, and charge 80-90% of the market rate instead. Think of it as a downpayment on your honesty in ch

        • I'm up front with my clients, and have to be, since they're the only advertising I use. The price difference, is mainly people taking way too long, doing things like installing network cards and such. It's not a hard thing to do, so why should a $20 card with a manual and drivers, take three hours to install? Why should a basic html template for a small business cost $1k? I've been doing this for 6 years, mainly as a side job, and this has never popped up.

          If I needed to bid on a job, I would give them a fa
    • by Shant3030 ( 414048 ) * on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @03:46PM (#6618606)
      2. Never admit that you don't know something - act like you know everything that has to do with computing.

      Interviewers can smell bullshit from a mile away.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      2. Never admit that you don't know something - act like you know everything that has to do with computing

      Until two months ago, I would have violently disagreed with this.

      But recently, we interviewed this guy for a full-time position in our company. He had been a consultant for some time, and he had taken your point number 2 to heart. To say that he was cocky is an understatement.

      He got a few of my technical questions wrong. This wouldn't have been that bad to me, but he was so cock-sure and arr

      • "2. Never admit that you don't know something"

        this works great until something needs to get done quickly, you really DON'T know what you're talking about, rack up the timesheet for thousands because you're flailing, and then have another consultant tell the guy writing the checks that you didn't know the 5 minute answer.

        Hiring people because they are cocky (even if they have skills to back it up) is so 1999. I'm so glad that the Age of Primadonnas is over.
    • From the article: It's better if you have your own laptop to take with you.

      I'd go this one better: make sure it has the latest version of Windows on it, if not the last two or three on distinct partitions.

      I'm not a freelancer, but I recently gave freelance web development a go while I was, ah, "between jobs." My one big client came back badmouthing the work I did two months after the project was completed, mainly because I telecommuted the entire project from home using my Mac OS X desktop. This slowed
    • Why shouldn't you linger?
  • by teutonic_leech ( 596265 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @03:14PM (#6618228)
    I didn't study non-stop for the last 11 years just to join the ranks of technical support. The whole reason for me to get into technology and eventually into IT was to 'build cool sh...t' - not to listen to some technophobe bitching about why her/his system got corrupted after opening some suspicous email attachment. Seriously, is that all we'll be relegated to do? Hey, I rather start laying bricks then - at least I have something productive to look as the fruits of my work. Just my two cents, I bet many will disagree - but I'm not wired that way...
    • are you assuming that the people reading the article have been trained for years only to work in a less-skilled position ?

      or do you think it's possible that some people reading the article are fresh out of college history majors who like computers and would make excellent money doing technical support ?

      some people like (and make LOTS of money) doing technical support.
    • by artemis67 ( 93453 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @03:32PM (#6618444)
      Everyone has different goals for their careers, though. Your goal is to build cool stuff; mine is to eventually build my own business. If I could walk out today and duplicate my current income by freelancing, I would absolutely do it.

      But I take issue with the article's author that there is enough freelance tech support for everyone. A lot of programmers are going to naturally fall back on that as their jobs move overseas, and it will quickly become saturated.

      Beware of anyone promising a "one size fits all" fix for this downturn...
      • I'm with artemis on this one.

        I want nothing more than to be running my own business, reporting to noone except for my clients and my self.

        A lot of programmers are going to naturally fall back on that as their jobs move overseas, and it will quickly become saturated.

        This is assuming that the average programmer is -able- to do technical support work. I've worked with guys (and gals) who, outside of their IDE, knew -nothing- about the software on their systems and how to fix it. -These- are the programm

        • The corollary to this is that I have known many exceptional programmers, possibly even brilliant ones. The types whose algorithms flowed unflawed from their fingertips, and whose knowledge of the systems and software involved were deeper than mine ever will be, but who could never possess the interpersonal skills and level of patience required to support an unsophisticated client base.

          This career path is decidedly not for everyone.
    • The new world order being built has a clear line between the Aristocracy and their service help. They're trying very hard to eliminate the pesky "skilled service help" who actually expect to be treated like, and paid like, the peers of the Aristocracy.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Maybe you don't understand what tech support may entail?

      I worked for myself for about 8 years doing freelance computer work (more or less "tech support"). It's amazing how knowing what the computer is capable can expand the scope of solutions. My "tech support" over 8 years involved installing and setting up networks for many small businesses, writing and debugging scripts to automate catalog updates from the mainframe that held pricing info to the PC that held the catalog layout, custom programming in Bor
    • Think from a business perspective: why *wouldn't* IT become commoditized? It's a cost center, ultimately. Your "shit" being twice as cool will almost certainly not return double the investment. For most IT functions, good enough is good enough, and the less businesses have to pay for it (in toto, not just up front) the less they will.

      It's still a world of stuff, not bits. The economy of bits is pretty quickly worn out. Housing, clothing, transportation, health - these are the needs that people will constan
  • by thorgil ( 455385 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @03:17PM (#6618263) Homepage
    You mean I can charge people for the work i do?!

  • Glamour (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nycsubway ( 79012 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @03:28PM (#6618408) Homepage
    This reminds me of the glamorous lifestyle that so many people 'enjoyed' in the late 1990s. It sounds as though he is simply piecing together most of his life in a way that respresents success. I wouldn't see it that way. It seems he knows how to talk to people, not engineer things. The way this person writes tells me that he doesn't know much more about computers than his 'clients'. He is simply a person who enjoys talking with people, and is relatively intelligent so he can learn the things his clients dont bother to read about.

    I dont think this person describes most of the people who regularly read slashdot, the scientists, engineers and people who like to solve problems and learn technical things. He is more describing the ideal world than something that can actually be attained. And, this is something that very few people can actually do to make a living.
    • he can learn the things his clients dont bother to read about.

      You can make that argument about any specialist.

      e.g., That lawyer, he's not so good at law, he just read law books so that his clients don't have to.

      It seems he knows how to talk to people, not engineer things. [...] I dont think this person describes most of the people who regularly read slashdot, the scientists, engineers and people who like to solve problems and learn technical things.

      So ... you're saying that everyone on slashdot is a
    • Re:Glamour (Score:5, Informative)

      by MoNickels ( 1700 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @03:56PM (#6618727) Homepage
      The way this person writes tells me that he doesn't know much more about computers than his 'clients'.

      I don't have to point it out to you that I am indeed technically qualified, but I will. How do you think I've run the tech for entire 65-person offices? My good looks? Do you want references, or what?

      If it sounds like I'm writing about people who don't know what they're doing, that's because I'm talking about the beginning stages, where I was about ten years ago. I know plenty now.
    • Re:Glamour (Score:2, Interesting)

      by arf_barf ( 639612 )
      I was tempted to moderate you down but rather respond to your post:

      I guess you might be correct by classifying most /. As '...scientists, engineers and people who like to solve problems...' But one thing you have to understand that it doesn't matter how technically good you are unless you know how to SELL yourself. This applies to almost all fields: graphic design, web design, programming etc.

      I see it every day. Sometimes I wonder if some of these people have autistic tendencies ;-)

      Anyhow, here is g

      • Sometimes I wonder if some of these people have autistic tendencies ;-)

        Why wonder, when you can find out right now [wired.com].

        And it's not such a joke, really. There is a surge of autism diagnoses [bbc.co.uk] among children of computer professionals in Silicon Valley. The argument is that geekiness and autism have the same genetic root.
    • Re:Glamour (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Jason Earl ( 1894 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @04:37PM (#6619384) Homepage Journal

      Glamour my @$$. There is nothing remotely glamorous about doing tech support for small businesses. It's all about showing up, getting things to work, and getting the heck out. He runs a one person consulting business. At the end of the day his stuff either works, or he doesn't get paid. Yes, talking to people is a requisite part of being in business for yourself, but that doesn't mean that he doesn't have to actually fix his clients problems.

      $50 to $100 may sound "glamorous" to someone who has never been in business for themselves, but the fact of the matter it is that this fee is so low that larger consulting firms can't even pretend to compete. Those prices simply don't leave any room for overhead. Once you take into consideration that you only get paid for "billable" hours, and the fact that you get to do all the bookkeeping, billing, tax work, etc. it isn't nearly the deal that it appears to be. Being a plumber or an electrician is probably more lucrative.

      It's definitely doable, and there really is plenty of work. However, it's hard work, without paid vacations (or respite of any kind :).

      • Re:Glamour (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Reziac ( 43301 )
        I think the original "glamorous" comment was being sarcastic -- for a while in the '80s and '90s there was this social-climber thing of being self-employed (as if this automagically created a self-made millionaire), and it had nothing to do with the tech or consulting fields. Tho come to think of it, I wonder if it may have contributed to the dot-bomb mentality that followed.

        Anyway -- working for yourself doesn't mean you have to do all the billing, tax records, etc. too. If you don't want to do it, farm i
  • It sucks... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ironpoint ( 463916 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @03:32PM (#6618448)

    Damn, tech support sucks.

    Tech support sucks because people don't want you touching their Porn Station 9000, aka company laptop. Thats sound like a good idea from a sanitary standpoint. Note to users: I will not sit on your lap to work on your computer. MOVE.

    Employee: You guys gonna help me?

    Nick Burns: Show me what you're doing..

    Employee: Well, I'm trying to save it.. so I downloaded it..

    Nick Burns: Uh-huh.

    Employee: ..and then I pushed..

    Nick Burns: Yeah.

    Employee: ..this button, and I..

    Nick Burns: Uh-huh. Yeah. MOVE! God, do you run the Internet on this thing? It looks like it's got a 28.8, or something! [ techies laugh ]

    Jingle: "'Cause he's Nick Burns, your Company Computer Guy!"
  • Old lady... (Score:4, Funny)

    by superpulpsicle ( 533373 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @03:34PM (#6618467)
    I helped this old lady on some freelance work way back with Corel wordperfect. Was that a mistake. Here are some questions I got...

    -Why didn't Corel wordperfect come with a pen?
    -Where do I buy ink if the typewriter runs out of ink?
    -If I press delete does that delete everything?
    -I heard it comes with a dictionary. Can I upgrade to an encyclopedia set?
    -Does this program open on sundays and saturdays?
    • Upsell (Score:2, Funny)

      by Animats ( 122034 )
      Every one of those questions is a sales opportunity:
      • Why didn't Corel wordperfect come with a pen?
        Would you like to buy this tablet computer, on sale this week?
      • -Where do I buy ink if the typewriter runs out of ink?
        We're having a sale on inkjet cartridges...
      • -If I press delete does that delete everything?
        To delete everything so that nobody can ever read it again, you need this special program.
      • -I heard it comes with a dictionary. Can I upgrade to an encyclopedia set?
        Of course. Just click [britannica.com]

    • Seeing the days of Corel Wordperfect referred to as "way back", I suddenly feal really REALLY old. And I'm only in my mid-20's!
  • by scorp1us ( 235526 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @03:41PM (#6618546) Journal
    I've done side work for years. Never made much at it. My parents told me to never talk about money, and so I feel uncomforable at billing time doing something I enjoy.

    I really need to know how much to bill grandma.

    $30/hr for a not related grandma?
    $45/hr for others?
    $90/hr for PHBs?

    Of course it'll vary depending on the work and the client, bit some pricing structure would be of great help to me!

  • My life work. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @03:50PM (#6618650) Homepage
    Basically, this article hit the nail on the head. Unfortunatly, there are way to many geeks out there with a holier-then-thou (think EGO)attitude that really pisses clients off (they are not customers, you want to keep there business). Not only that, but those type of geeks are anti-social. If you really want to been in the on-site end user support industry, you must have the nack for salesmanship and the love of technology. This is job you must LOVE to do. If your in it for the quick buck, then your just going to be another looser all future prospects for the rest of us entrepreneurs .
  • by gatkinso ( 15975 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @04:04PM (#6618829)
    ...an unemployed (God knows the real reason why), person off the street working on my network... while he is learning his job via OJT.


  • by bytesmythe ( 58644 ) <bytesmytheNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @04:06PM (#6618867)
    A few of these caught my eye...

    -- I almost always solve my own computer problems on my own, or as the result of my own research.

    Sure. Google is an amazing resource.

    -- My friends, coworkers and family often turn to me for help with their computers and peripherals.

    ... and I am in no hurry to exacerbate the situation by subjecting myself to it intentionally.

    -- My own computer probably would work very well if I didn't keep installing alpha, beta, development and trial software on it all the time.

    I love fdisk.

    -- I can usually quickly find what I'm looking for on the Internet.

    Oh god... no comment.

    -- I read constantly, and just about everything.

    Right now it's Slashdot.

    -- I rarely have a problem explaining myself.

    Well, you see, officer...

    -- I am somewhat sociable, but I can work for long periods on my own, too.

    Sociable? ME?? Hahahaha!

    -- Although I hate the term "self-starter," that's what I am.

    No, I'm not! Procrastination is the root of all goofing off.

    -- I believe all computer peripherals and devices are hot-swappable unless someone else is around.

    What, is this Schrodinger's Computer? Once, I closed my eyes and with no one else watching, I jammed an old PCI Voodoo card into the AGP slot with the machine still running. The damn thing worked until I opened my eyes and its wave function collapsed...

    -- I only keep my AOL account so I can more easily get my email from any web browser anywhere.

    What geek would pay money to AOL when it's cheaper to just sign up with a host that provides webmail?

    -- I get a lot of spam, but I block or filter most of it, so it's not an issue for me anymore.

    I don't give out my email address to everyone and their grandmother, so spam isn't a big problem to begin with.

    -- Unix is like a lover to me: I don't understand it very well, and it makes me angry sometimes, but I am still in love with it.

    This one is just too sad. Sure, unix has some kinky command names, but nothing like actually engaging in their real-life namesakes.

    -- I have some computer books on the shelf, but I only use them as references, not as literature.

    This should be just the opposite, I think. I bet a lot of computer geeks read computer literature, not just "manuals".

    -- I see nothing wrong with strapping a wireless PDA with GPS to the dog so that we can log his roaming patterns through the neighborhood.

    The gadgetry (and possibly the dog) would get stolen in my neighborhood!

    So, do I qualify to be an entrepreneur?

    • "-- Unix is like a lover to me: I don't understand it very well, and it makes me angry sometimes, but I am still in love with it.

      This one is just too sad. Sure, unix has some kinky command names, but nothing like actually engaging in their real-life namesakes."

  • Way back when I was in college I was doing some desktop publishing for a company and this older manager guy wanted me to show him how to use the computer ... he was so computer illiterate he could hardly use the mouse to "click and drag".

    I remember trying to get him to select a certain menu item, and he was like, "Where is it?" I said, "Right here ... " and pointed at the monitor, practically touching it to make sure he knew exactly where it was. He said, "Oh, I get it!" and started touching the screen wi

  • by Nova Express ( 100383 ) <lawrenceperson.gmail@com> on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @04:10PM (#6618947) Homepage Journal

    Kang: Technical Self-Employment for all!

    Crowd: BOOOO!

    Kang: Technical Self-Employment for none!

    Crowd: BOOOO!

    Kang: Alright then, Technical Self-Employment For some, tiny American flags for all!

    Crowd: YAAAAAAAAA!

  • by pongo000 ( 97357 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @04:35PM (#6619361)
    I work from 50 to 70 hours a week.

    This isn't anything to brag about, nor is it something to write articles about.

    Nobody becomes financially self-sufficient by trading their time for a monetary equivalent. Who wants to work 50-70 hours workweeks? The proper way to do it is to spend a little money up front starting your own corporation, then hire someone else to do the work for you, such as the author of this article. Use the time you save by hiring someone else to do stuff meaningful to you. After all, no one wants "Worked 70-hour workweeks" on their tombstone when they die.

    • Well, I'm not bragging about working 50 to 70 hours a week. I'm just pointing out that those are the hours it takes.

      Realize, of course, that about a third of that time is spent in transit (which I count as working, since I am clearly not playing) or at home writing proposals, writing reports, putting together and sending bills, answering non-emergency email, making notes for my own use, reading the tech sites and discussion forums, and keeping my updaters/patches/service packs up to date.

      Which is what I s
  • No job, freelance! Best thing for a tech your age. If you can fix my PC again, I'll pay you, but I never said you had a job. Meat! I'll send you a nice box of Christmas meat!
  • by syukton ( 256348 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @05:56PM (#6620401)
    The client I mentioned earlier who is very sweet but not very bright was one of those clients who refused to learn, and a client I had to let go. She's very young, too, in her early twenties. I believe she was perfectly capable of learning what she needed to know, with a little bit of effort, but she constantly called on the same issues. And I constantly had to recite the same solutions over and over. She refused to be educated (see below for more about client- and self-education). She's one of those people who are used to relying too much on others, and are happy with being told there are no stupid questions.

    Hmm. Sweet young lady calling every day about the same stupid issues. hmmmm. I'd like to venture a guess here that maybe she's turned on by your intellect and wanted to screw you eight ways from tuesday. Now that, my friend, is the kind of client you pass on to another reasonably intelligent tech, unless you're willing to take it yourself. ;)
  • by KKBaSS ( 665194 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @06:03PM (#6620485)
    Snag a local non-profit & help them, get them going with all the latest
    slickest stuff from novell and what opensource has to offer as a show of what you can do.
    http://www.giftsinkind.org/ has a great Novell product donation policy, &
    http://www.techsoup.org/ has some other good stuff too (i want that 24port
    cisco switch, can i be a nonprofit too? :))

    Also check out www.computerclub.org/nonprofit.htm, that has some good links
    on it also, & had good luck with members of www.cristina.org too like reboot
    from Atlanta.

    Plunk a couple of these very satisfied not-for-profit companies up as testimonials to your work & you may very well be off & running with your own consulting biz. Just dont forget about the nonprofits once you actually have paying clients.
  • by pmorrison ( 513514 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2003 @06:47PM (#6620916)
    but 'From Serf to Surfer: Becoming a Network Consultant' by Matthew Strebe gives the same sort of advice on the same topic in great depth. Highly recommended if you want more information. Also recommended 'The Secrets of Consulting' by Gerald Weinberg, great for understanding pricing and the value of your time among many other things.

    I was self-employeed for 1.5 years after the internet consultancy I worked for folded... I made as much money and had more free time (some of it spent biting my nails about when the next gig would start). In my experience the advice in the articles and these books is pretty solid.

Trap full -- please empty.