One of the biggest drawbacks to being a solopreneur is the lack of tech support. When you work for a large company, these is usually an IT department. When your computer won’t work or your network is down, you know exactly who to call for help.
When you work from home, or even if you have an office or storefront, it’s not always so clear who to call when you have a problem.
Whether it’s a hardware or software program, you feel like you’re on your own. Plus, if you’re bootstrapping you may not want to spend the money on help, particularly if you think you can fix it yourself.
Of course, what looks like a quick and easy problem can rapidly turn into a full day (or many days) problem if you’re like me and know a little bit, but not quite enough.
In fact, in many cases, unless you can get the problem solved in less than an hour, it’s probably a good idea to get help so you don’t waste days on technology rather than running your business. Believe me, there’s nothing more frustrating than coming to a Friday afternoon and realizing your entire week has been spent on technology problems rather than on making money.
So where do you turn for help with computer problems?
In my case, I’m lucky. My husband is very knowledgeable about computers. He used to set up networks and do repairs professionally. He set up our in-home computer network and can usually problem solve most hardware problems.
However, since he’s my husband and not getting paid, tech support is kind of like mowing the lawn or taking out the trash. It may be high on my priority list but it’s not necessarily high on his. That’s the drawback with family help; you can’t just call them on demand like you can when you hire someone.
If you’re not lucky enough to be married to a computer whiz, look to teenagers in your neighbourhood or local high school. There are a lot of teenagers who are very tech savvy. If you can locate one nearby you may be able to hire them for considerably less than a pro. Some may know hardware and networking, while others may be a whiz at programming and setting up websites.
Just a word of caution: a teenager might know the technology but they likely don’t know much about marketing so don’t rely on their advice when it comes to designing your website. They’ll try to convince you to use the latest cool tools, but cool may not be what sells.
If there are no kids nearby (or your problem occurs during school hours) check out some freelance computer repair people. While the large computer stores may not do house calls, sometimes a freelance person will. Often these people are doing it as a sideline to a full time job while others may be doing it as a full time business. Check the local chamber of commerce, other business people or even the computer stores for recommendations.
Your local computer store
Check your local computer stores. Some do have good tech support people. They may have inexpensive service plans for small businesses. Phone around and take a close look at independent computer stores. They may be a little more flexible than the chains. They may even have someone who can walk you through a solution over the phone.
Look for virtual help. There are many virtual assistants and other professionals online who can help you. There are a number of software tools today that allow your virtual tech support to go in and change settings and fix software problems remotely. Ask other business people who they use.
If you have a product or service a computer professional might need, consider setting up a barter arrangement with a local computer professional. This can be a cost-effective way to get the occasional help you need. This kind of arrangement works best for problems that have quick and dirty solutions. However, a barter arrangement is somewhat like using a family member for tech support. What may be a red alert problem for you may not make it in the top ten for the other person.
Google and YouTube
If you’re really convinced you can or need to do it yourself, check out YouTube. If it’s not too complicated an issue, you may find a video that walks you through the process. This is particularly true for popular software programs.
Google is another good source. I know just enough HTML to get into trouble, however, with the help of Google I’ve been able to find sources that allow me to go into my blog and chance the code enough to change the font, colours and some basic formatting without messing things up too much. Often just by Googling exactly what I want to do, I can find a blog post that will walk me through the process step-by-step.
If you really need your computer to run your business, if you can’t go a day without accessing email or the internet, then get some tech support in place before you run into troubles. Then you know exactly who to call in the event to trouble.
Andrea J. Stenberg
How do you keep your computer up and running? How do you manage your website? If you’ve got a story about what you do, or have done in the past, please share your experience here by leaving a comment.