“Turn Your PC Into A Profit Center”
Even though personal computers have been around for several
years, the market is still growing in many areas. With some
imagination and initiative, you can join the thousands of
entrepreneurs who are using computers to make money in such
businesses as word processing, bookkeeping, desktop publishing,
and computer training or sales.
Don’t despair if you don’t have a computer, or even if you
don’t know much about them. Today’s computer equipment is
relatively inexpensive, making computer-related businesses
among the least expensive to start.
The software you can use as the basis of a business is generally
easy to learn and use. With some software, you can go from novice
to expert in just a few weeks, if you make an effort to learn and
spend time practicing.
Here are eight ways you can profit from computers. Don’t be
afraid to adapt each idea to fit your preferences and the needs
of the people in your area. In particular, you may want to
incorporate several of these services into one business, possibly
increasing your profit potential.
Typing reports, papers, dissertations, letters, and other
documents for students, writers, and businesses is a common way
to make money with a computer. Indeed, word processing is just a
high-tech version of the old-fashioned typing service.
The difference is that word processing allows you to turn better-
looking documents in less time than a typewriter. Further good
word processing programs let you include headlines, footnotes,
and special symbols in documents with little hassle. This
flexibility increases the value of your service to potential
College campuses are always good places to get customers for a
word processing business. If you live near one, prepare attractive
flyers to post on bulletin boards around campus. It may also pay
to take out a small ad in the campus paper. Stress fast service,
since students are notorious for waiting until the last minute to
finish assigned papers.
If there is not a college nearby, try advertising in the classified
section of the newspaper and mailing flyers to businesses. Small
companies may be particularly good customers for word processing
service because they may not have secretaries on staff. Larger
companies may use you for overflow work or for long projects in
which the finished copy must be perfect.
Rates vary depending on where you live; check with other typists
to see what they charge. It should be no problem in most places to
get $1 per double-spaced page. Be sure to charge extra for
footnotes, headlines, or other special formats, since these take
more time to type.
Because its capabilities are so amazing and useful, this new
technology promises to grow by leaps and bounds within the next
several years. With desktop publishing software, and a laser printer
to produce flyers, brochures, booklets, books and nearly any other
material that needs to be designed and typeset. The documents that
you produce are “camera-ready,” meaning that they are ready to be
printed up with no additional typesetting, layout or paste-up.
As a desktop publisher, you can offer both graphic design and
typesetting services at a very competitive price (much lower than
customers would pay for a separate graphic designer and typesetter).
Even better, if you are a writer ( or can associate with one) you
can produce complete documents, from idea to finished piece.
Desktop publishing is one of the more expensive computer businesses
to start. A good laser printer may run $2,000 or more, and desktop
publishing software, including a full range of graphics and
typestyles, may cost up to $1,000. If you’re starting on a tight
budget, you can probably put off buying the laser printer. Just
work out an arrangement with a print shop or some other business
that has a laser printer in which you may print out your finished
Because desktop publishing is more involved than word processing,
it’s more difficult to set prices. The best way is to charge by the
job, basing your fee on an hourly rate. When a potential client
comes to you, estimate how many hours the work will take, and then
quote a package price for the job. (Most customers prefer a package
price to paying you an hourly rate, since they can budget in advance
how much the project will cost.)
Businesses, charitable organizations, professional, and anyone else
who needs high-quality printed pieces are potential customers for a
desktop publishing business. Print shops don’t offer graphic design
and typesetting may be willing to steer clients who need these
services to you. Direct mail solicitations also may be effective
in promoting your services, especially if you include some
impressive samples of what you do.
BOOKKEPING, TAX PREPARATION
Many business people love running their businesses but hate the
financial record keeping necessary for smooth day-to-day operation.
But failure to keep careful records can cause problems at tax time
and whenever else a clear financial picture of the business is
needed. If you have experience in bookkeeping or accounting,
helping business people to keep their books can be an excellent way
to make money with your computer.
With spread sheet software like Symphony or Lotus 1-2-3, you can
keep detailed records of clients books, take care of billing,
prepare balance sheets and financial reports, and keep the client
aware of his or her financial standing. (Clients will really be
impressed if you use graphic software like Harvard Graphics to
prepare charts and graphs that show the financial status of their
Base fees on the size of the business and the amount of time you
need each month working with the client’s books. You may want to
charge additional fees for extra services such as preparing tax
forms, financial statements, and balance sheets.
Small businesses–especially retail stores, with their need to
keep inventory–are prime markets for a computerized bookkeeping
service. The soft-sell approach works best when promoting this
type of business. Clients want to feel that their finances are
in the hands of someone who is conservative and trustworthy, not
a pushy promoter.
Most businesses can benefit from having one or more personal
computers, but very few managers have the time to research fully
the hardware and software available when making choices. If you
know computers, you can provide a valuable service as a consultant,
helping clients avoid costly and frustrating mistakes.
Consultants begin by taking the time to learn about a client’s
business. Thoroughly interview the manager or owner to find out
what he or she expects a computer system to do. Observe employees
to see what they do and how they might benefit from specific types
of equipment or software.
When you’ve arrived at a recommendation, write a report and meet
with your client to discuss it. After changes have been made to
suit your customers, you can assist further by recommending low-
cost sources of equipment, and setting up equipment once it is
Consultants typically charge per day. Even if this fee is over
$100, emphasize to potential clients that your good advice can
be worth many times what it costs, since you can suggest cost
saving and efficiency-improving purchases.
Computer trainers teach people how to use specific types of
equipment and software. For examples, when a company begins
using a new word processing system, its employees must be
taught to use it. A computer trainer conducts these training
sessions, either one-on-one or with an entire group.
The most effective trainers are good listeners as well as
talkers. Before training employees, ask them about other
software packages they’ve used and what they intend to do
with the new package. After all, there’s no point in spending
two hours telling someone how to do “mail-merge” with a word
processor if they never have need for that feature.
Begin by specializing in only a few popular software packages
that you know well. Prepare a mailer listing your areas of