Look at any 10 small companies today, regardless of the industry they
are in, and you will find 5 or more that have no full-time technology
staff. Instead you will find someone who is probably regretting they
ever told anyone that they knew something about computers. Too often
these de facto technology workers want nothing more than to get back
to doing the job they really love and leave the technology issues to
someone else. As you might imagine, this can be a marvelous opportunity
to jumpstart your career.
Offer a helping hand
The first thing you need to do is keep your eyes open for those people
who are tired of bearing the technology standard. It probably started
with a simple request to set up a few PCs, but now they have to maintain
all the computers in the office. You can often find these people
posting questions in computer help mailing lists or forums. Watch
requesting assistance with what you might consider basic issues.
Do you get a sense of frustration from the message? Does the sender
as if they are fed up with technology?
If you can help this person out, make an introduction. Perhaps they
could use more of your help. Oftentimes, they would love to have
your assistance, but they need help in selling it to their management.
companies will figure they are already getting technology support
for free, totally disregarding that their employee is not doing
are paying them to do. You can help your new acquaintance to make
a case for your services. Offer a free evaluation meeting to check
their needs and make some recommendations. Show them how you can
solve their more pressing problems, like software and hardware
in much less time then their in-house technology worker.
You should also talk about how you can be an on-call resource to
the in-house staff. Maybe they don't need you every week, but having
skills available can significantly reduce downtime and increase productivity.
Once you get your foot in the door of a small company you will quickly
find that the workers there will come to depend on you more and more.
Your hours will increase regularly as old problems get killed off
and new uses are found for the company's technology. Hopefully,
ad hoc technology worker will be freed to get back to their own work.
It is important that you service this company to the best of your
abilities. These arrangements can last for many years and help
to keep your cash
flow stable as other projects come and go. If you need to spend more
time on another project, arrange to have another consultant manage
the account while you are busy. Once the project ends you can return
to the company.
It is not uncommon to be called back to a company you once thought
had forgotten about you weeks or even months after your last visit.
Often these calls come at the best possible time, when other projects
are stalled or non-existent. Stay in contact with the company with
regular telephone calls or emails every few weeks.
Despite what some people might think, don't make the company too
dependent on you. While it might generate a bit more income in
the short term,
it will eventually destroy the long-term relationship. Forcing the
client to call you for each and every small change works fine when
you have the time to service the company. The minute your schedule
becomes more crowded you will not be able to service the company
in a timely manner and that will generate much ill will. Give your
the tools they need to get through their daily issues. They will
still call you in on the more difficult or time consuming projects.
You can build you high-tech career by looking for opportunities to
be helpful to those people who may have fallen into a high-tech career.
There are a myriad of small companies that have a need for high-tech
assistance, but can't afford a full-time staff member. While it is
certainly more work to service many small companies instead of working
a 9-5 job, it can also be more challenging and more rewarding.
Comments, Questions, Reviews?