Thursday, July 3, 2008

Business

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm trying to get into the business of providing computer support. At first, my plan is to start doing what I have the most experience with: solving Windows problems for home and business users.

Well, there are a lot of people out there making a living doing just that, but I have the knowledge to do much more, just not the experience. For example, one of my recent hobbies has been learning to use Linux. Now that I've crossed that hurdle, I need to figure out how to fix and maintain it so I can make some money.

Learning how to use a new operating system, for me at least, isn't a time-consuming or very difficult affair, but learning how to dig into its guts is. I'm a very intuitive person, but to learn how to repair Linux requires a lot of reading, which takes time.

Besides Linux, I also have this fancy $100,000 college degree in computer science that I'm not doing anything with. Computer Science is the study of how computer programs are created and how they operate. So it's really the next level of knowledge. I've discovered these levels of knowledge can be applied to all kinds of products. In ascending order of specialty, there are three types of people: those who know how to use a product, those who know how to fix it, and those who know how to make it. (Well, I guess there's a fourth: those who don't know anything.)

I'll continue this philosophical discussion in a future post. For now, I want to talk about two different business models that I'm testing.

The first is the one I started trying last September. It's a little more traditional, but still is 100% Internet based. What I did is I created a computer repair web site that looks just like a business. It has a business name, its own phone number, prices, hours, and everything else you'd expect. I placed ads on yellowpages.com, Yahoo's directory, and a couple others. Currently I'm spending $60 each month on advertising and I'm getting almost no business. Usually not even enough to cover my advertising costs.

The second business model that I'm experimenting with takes a more candid approach. Instead of a me-dot-com web site, I'm using the space my alma mater gave me. On it, I have a support page that tells everyone I'm a college student looking to make a few bucks that will do the same jobs Geek Squad will for a lot less. It tells everyone I have a degree in computer science and I know what I'm doing. The .edu domain validates my status as a student, and also gives my PageRank a boost, hopefully along with my credibility.

Speaking of credibility, my student web site needs it. My commercial web site just looks a whole lot better. For one thing, it has a name, and my student page doesn't. But it's also laiden with tables and old web site design principles. So I need to spend some time learning the newer techniques and brush it up.

I also need to get people to view the web site. Google has sent me an email offering me $50 in free advertising. At first, I thought the ads would cost $0.10 per click like they did in the 90s, but I soon discovered that some keywords can cost as much as $10 per click!

So I've been reading a few things about how AdSense and AdWords work. Hopefully, I'll be able to pool all this information together and not only get cheap advertising, but also make some money by putting ads up on my own web site.

For now, I've got work to do. If you need something else to read, read my web site!

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