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  • identifying clients ?

    this is part of a medium term strategy for me. I'm considering striking out on my own when we come back from overseas (so about 18 months away)

    Anyway - I'm currently employed with an organisation that's been growing for 10 years, but they started with a very niche market, that's still the main focus.

    I know there's 14 bazillion companies out there, that will all be able to do what I'd be offering - I have no particular niche right now.

    I want to start my own business, and support small businesses with IT requirements. I know it's a long hard slog, and we haven't yet decided if we'll be in a position to take the risk. However - I'd like to be in a position where, if we decide the risk is palatable, I can go right at it.


    Anyway.. long winded... but.. how do you identify clients.. ?
    I mean, sure I could do letter drops and things, and go into businesses.. but.. i'm a bit confused about how to go about it.
    I know about tenders - and maybe that could be the way to go.
    But what i'd be looking for initially is smaller environments, that don't need 24x7 attention, but are able to provide me with say 8-16 hours a week maybe. then slowly add more, through word of mouth, advertising.. whatever.

    How do i find the initial client(s) ?
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  • #2
    Re: identifying clients ?

    Franchise.
    Door knocking for initial clients.
    Word of mouth.
    Referrals from happy clients.
    Personally I wouldn't send emails. Perhaps a letter with a followup visit a week later.

    Hard to add anything else without knowing your niche market PLUS 18 months is a long time in IT.
    1 1 was a racehorse.
    2 2 was 1 2.
    1 1 1 1 race 1 day,
    2 2 1 1 2

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    • #3
      Re: identifying clients ?

      I don't have a niche, really.. and that's possibly part of the flaw in my plan.

      Ideally i'd be aiming at small enterprises - 15 workstations, maybe 1 or 2 serves, no dedicated or regular IT guy..

      I'm planning to hit up my father in law over christmas.. he runs a small financial planning place.. they don't really need IT support at all, but I could use it as an example... go in, review, identify potential issues, and provide a report on how some of those issues coul dbe addressed, and why that would add value to the business.

      things like that..

      Long, slow, hard road if we decide to do it.. but I was talking to my partner about it last night, and she agrees, mostly, that if we can pony up the cash to cover my not working for 6-12 months, she's happy for us to take the risk.

      I'm confident I can do the work on a technical level.. it's just finding the work..
      I have a lot of thinking to do..
      Last edited by tehcamel; 2nd December 2009, 09:01.
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      • #4
        Re: identifying clients ?

        Based on your posts here, I'd say you do have a niche and it seems to be in systems and network management. Your posts are always insightful and technically sound.

        Starting with your father-in-law sounds like the right thing to do as he probably has many contacts in his field that have small companies with no dedicated IT staff. I know here in the USA that the small business sector is often underserved because many service providers don't typically go after the "mom and pop" type shops. If you can manage to build a client base of smaller companies that need occasional IT service you could probably build a nice business for yourself.

        In any event, if you do decide to go out on your own I wish you nothing but success.

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        • #5
          Re: identifying clients ?

          problem with the F-I-L is he's in wagga and I'm in Melbourne (5 hour drive each way) and I highly doubt he'd have any sort of regular work.
          However - my intention would be to use him as a 'reference' case
          Maybe hit up my father as well, who works for a NFP supporting junior sport in Canberra (8 hour drive, each way)

          but If I can do the same thing at both.. it gives me a basis to say "well i've performed this work for these clients, here's an example of what I can do for you"

          Even considering the idea of saying to potentials "well, how about I come in for a day/half a a day, which ever depending on the size of the organisation, do an evaluation of what you have now, and provide you with a summary report of things that I could do to add value to the IT side of your business. That's offering you 8-16 hours, free of charge, and you get a report at the end of it, that you can do what you want with."

          Obviously, the report would show enough that i'm capable of providing value, but not give so much information or ideas that it can be taken to someone cheaper, or with a more extensive background.

          thank you both for your comments and feedback, in particular yours joe - I've got faith in myself, but it's nice to hear from other people.
          The partner of the company i work for seems to have faith, however he's stepping back and allowing a new manager to take over the running of our section, and I'm not feeling the same sort of faith or respect any more.


          That's partly what's driving my ambition here, however it's been something I've considered many times before. I just feel that, if i'm going to work silly hours, and put my heart and soul into what I'm doing, I may as well do it for my own benefit, rather than making someone else money..
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          • #6
            Re: identifying clients ?

            I'm thinking your F-I-L and your F probably have a network of contacts in their respective fields. It's like the old cliche "I'll tell two friends, and they'll tell two friends...". Soon enough, you've got a list of companies within comfortable driving distance to start campaigning at and building from.

            The consultation idea sounds good. If you can get them to buy into the idea and if you can provide real insight into how your services can add value to their business (by making them more productive, efficient, etc) then that may motivate them to give you a shot and also to pass your name along to their associates and clients.

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            • #7
              Re: identifying clients ?

              thanks..
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              • #8
                Re: identifying clients ?

                What side of town are you on? (Might have something that could provide some income)

                I would suggest joining Melb SMB IT. It is an SBS Interest Group that is affiliated with Melbourne PC Users Group. $60 per year. It is an excellent place to network and the world famous Henry Craven is an active member along with a plethera of other knowledgeable people.

                Got some other ideas once I know where your hunting ground is.
                1 1 was a racehorse.
                2 2 was 1 2.
                1 1 1 1 race 1 day,
                2 2 1 1 2

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                • #9
                  Re: identifying clients ?

                  thanks buddy - I'll definitely look into that

                  I'm living in williamstown area atm, not 100% sure when we get back from the UK tyhough. probably the same area because we love it here
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                  • #10
                    Re: identifying clients ?

                    getting further along with the idea.. working out how to structure the busines (company, shares held in a trust) and business names and things like that
                    on the plus side, we've identified that the name we want, is available, despite the fact that we originally thought it wasn't availabnle


                    next steps are to complete my mini business plan, outlining forecast finances, what we aim to do, how everything will happen, and then discuss with the inlaws over christmas, and early new year, speak to an accountant and set things up.. I'd rather set up the com[pany and have it dormant for 18 months or whatever.. than risk someone else taking the name we want..


                    I'm going to try and continue this thread as a "how to start your own contracting business" thread.. but we'll see I can be a bit lax about things sometimes
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                    • #11
                      Re: identifying clients ?

                      I've worked for a few small companies over the years and getting a foot in the door is always an issue. I've done quite a few jobs where we've "speculated to accumulate" such as doing an install of AV or something like that purely for the software cost and not charged labour as an introductory offer. It's something you can maybe afford to do early on in a business if you are not too busy if you think it will payoff in the long run.

                      Having a few contacts and some reference cases never hurts either. I don't know about over in Australia but here in the UK there are several eBay type websites where you can "bid" for contract jobs as well, which could be a good way to get started.
                      BSc, MCSA: Server 2008, MCSE, MCSA: Messaging, MCTS
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                      • #12
                        Re: identifying clients ?

                        Having spent the last 10 years in the SMB tech support business I would say...

                        Make sure you know your competitions labor rates and Barely under cut them. It is very tempting to go way cheaper in the beginning because you usually can afford to. The problem is the established companies can afford to lose on hardware and labor and will attempt to put you out of business, don't make them mad.

                        Find the niche, I am now lucky enough that I work for only 1 company, but the niche in my area is Thin Client and Visualization. Which is now my side income.

                        I can also say that you should probably push the managed service/maintenance angle as it has been all the rage in the service industry lately and most small IT companies are still working on the break/fix model where income is highly unpredictable. It is much better to get those monthly payments coming in with good solid Service Level Agreements in place.

                        good luck, 10-15 years ago it was very easy to go into this business..it's way harder now.

                        Oh yeah...Every certification you can think of and then a few....!

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                        • #13
                          Re: identifying clients ?

                          thanks both of you again.
                          I'm definitely going to kepe my eye on the Tenders market, and see if i can pick up small govt. tenders or things like that.

                          REgfarding maint. contracts, that's defininitely one of my key milestones.

                          the idea of doing "speculate to accumulate" is a great idea, and is probably similar to my core idea of going "I'll do a site review, for nothing, and give you a report at the end of the day stating what I could fix."

                          re certs, I've got my MCSA, and I'm about to (assuming all goes well) get my MCTS upgrade. I've also got MCDST, ITIL foundation, Help DEsk Analyst, and i'm being offered PRINCE2 foundation material, which I'll pribbaly take up on as well.
                          I'd love to pass MCITP:SA as well before we go overseas.. but we'll see how tomorrow goes..

                          thanks guyys
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                          • #14
                            Re: identifying clients ?

                            Originally posted by tehcamel View Post
                            getting further along with the idea.. working out how to structure the busines (company, shares held in a trust) and business names and things like that

                            I'm going to try and continue this thread as a "how to start your own contracting business" thread.. but we'll see I can be a bit lax about things sometimes
                            Talk to an accountant. You can start as a Sole Trader using your own name and you don't need to have it Registered.
                            If you decide on a Trading Name that is not your own, then you to Register it. Present rate is $72. http://www.business.vic.gov.au/BUSVIC/HOMEPAGE/
                            Next step is Pty Ltd business name. This is usually done through an accountant and can be setup for as little at $1,000. You need a minimum of 2 Shareholders (at 1 share each) and is not recommebded if your income is uder $100 - 120,000. Works well if your wife doesn't work so the income can be divided between the shareholders (and therefore tax). Lots more legalities involved and required for a P/L than for a Sole Trader.
                            1 1 was a racehorse.
                            2 2 was 1 2.
                            1 1 1 1 race 1 day,
                            2 2 1 1 2

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                            • #15
                              Re: identifying clients ?

                              been having some chats to my fil over christmas.. whoasked the pertinent questionabout how we would get clients.. i gave him my spiel and suggestion, and he';s like "most people would just ignore you if you cold call, it's all done through old boys networks, and contacts.."

                              So I will start lookin at the melbourne SMBIT group (need to be trading first :P) and a few other groups as well.. see what I can find.
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