BlackBerry MigrationIf you haven’t been keeping up with news reports, it seems all but certain now that the BlackBerry’s days are numbered. Once the king of smartphones, the BlackBerry simply was blindsided by the iPhone and could never recover.

At this point, most of my clients have migrated away from the BlackBerry (a lot in the last year), but there are still people out there who aren’t aware of the precarious state of the platform. This is a good opportunity to inform your clients of the BlackBerry situation and possibly earn some revenue by helping them migrate to a new smartphone.

What smartphone will you help your clients migrate to and why?

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Nest and iPhone AppAs the market shifts to The New World of Technology, we technology professionals need to look at ways to keep up. One thing we can do is take advantage of new products to offer services around them. I have a good example for those of us who offer services to the in-home market and/or small businesses.

If you aren’t familiar with the Nest, it is basically a very smart thermostat. With Wi-Fi connectivity, sensors galore, plus web and app integration, the Nest is a geek’s dream thermostat. Check out Nest’s web site if you haven’t already.

If you’re half the geek I am, by this point you’ve probably stopped reading long enough to order one for yourself! But more importantly, how can you leverage this little gem to help your clients – and earn some income in the process?

At first glance, why would a technology professional consider installing a thermostat? In this case, because the thermostat is so high-tech, there is plenty a technology professional could do for a client. Don’t get trapped in the idea that someone won’t pay to have this device installed for them. If you’ve been in the technology industry as long as I have, you know that there are many people out there who highly value their time. They’d gladly pay you to install something like this for them and have it working perfectly before they start using it. At the very least, if you are keeping your clients informed of new technology like this, you’re staying top of mind and they’ll appreciate that you’re sharing your expertise with them.

Another way to leverage the Nest is to form a strategic alliance with an HVAC company, handyman, or contractor. If they do the physical installation of the Nest you could follow-up with the technical setup. That way each partner in the alliance can tap into the other’s clients.

Do you have any other ideas for New World Technology devices that technology professionals can promote to generate some revenue?

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Who's Your Target Market?I guarantee it’s not “everyone” or “anyone with a computer”. But I bet a lot of you reading this think that is exactly who your target market is. And if you are a specialist in a particular technology, you probably still think your target market is much larger than it should be. Let me fill you in on a little secret: if you try to market to everyone, you’ll resonate with no one. And your business will suffer as you scatter your efforts chasing every potential customer. The most successful technology professionals are those who pick a target market they love and focus all their energy on serving that market. I must thank my lovely wife, who is my business partner and business consultant herself, for introducing me to this concept many years ago.

It’s actually a very simple concept, but an extraordinarily difficult one for small business owners in any field to accept. And it seems that we technology professionals, being stereotypically ego-driven and hard-headed (and not necessarily blessed with people skills), have an especially difficult time coming to grips with this idea. “My skills apply to any business!”, we’ll say. “Everyone has technology and I can help them!”, we believe. The difficulty comes in separating the theory from the practicality. Yes, in theory, every business and every individual is highly dependent on technology and we can probably help every man, woman, and child in our city, state, and country if they’d let us. But the reality is that as independent professionals, we only have so much time and energy. We can’t help a fraction of the people out there even if we worked 24 hours a day. The practicality comes in recognizing there is plenty of business out there and if we focus our efforts on being the best professional in a particular target market, we will thrive.

Yes, this seems counter-intuitive at first. We all want to try to maximize the number of people who know about our services. After all, it would seem that the more people who know about our services the more likely we are to gain business. But know this –  what is truly important is not how many people we market to, it’s how many people IDENTIFY with our marketing message. Most people who are marketed to will quickly forget all about the message. The only people who remember you are those who truly recognize that your service or product will fill a need they have. So why waste your time and money marketing to people who aren’t listening? Focus your efforts on those who really see the value in what you provide. And guess what – when you are highly successful in your target market, people outside your target market will seek you out. You will get more customers of all types by focusing your marketing on one target market.

How do you identify your target market? Let’s ask a few sample questions. Do you prefer to work with businesses or individuals? But even more specifically, what types of businesses or individuals do you like working with? Myself as an example, I enjoy working with creative professionals, as well as lawyers and doctors. The reality is I could probably make a living serving only one of those target markets. But I enjoy the diversity, so I focus more on how the business thinks of technology. I enjoy working with professionals who want to leverage their technology to maximize their profits. I don’t really want to work with businesses who see their technology as a cost-center or a necessary evil. I’ll let other technology professionals handle that work. Because finding your target market is not all about the money. It’s about being happy in your work as well. If you can fill your time only with clients that value your work and the work is highly satisfying to you, you’ll be wealthy with both money and happiness.

If you’re a specialist, such as a database admin, you may think that’s a target market already. And it is, but I bet you could get more specific and as a result, be more successful and happy. For example, what size company do you prefer working with? Some of us prefer smaller companies. Others prefer working with large corporations. The way you market to those two markets is quite different. Where would you rather spend your time and money? Perhaps you prefer working with the software of a particular industry. Make yourself known as THE go-to guy or gal for that particular software. Many consultants have been successful offering themselves as a third-party, independent authority on a particular software or industry.

The definition of a target market can be almost anything you would like it to be. You just need to figure out what that is and how your services fill their particular needs. Your goal should be to make it almost TOO specific, because for most people, they make their target market too general at first. Just keep in mind that your target market should be one that you truly enjoy working with and usually things will take care of themselves from there.

Do you work with a highly-focused target market? Would you prefer to work with a particular type of client but don’t know how to target to them? Share your target markets (or preferred target market) with us here and let’s see if we can help!

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Corporation vs. LLC

by on June 22, 2012

Corporation or LLC?I just stumbled upon a good article from Mashable discussing the different types of Limited Liability Company structures that are available to small businesses. The IRS web site has a good overview of the different types of business structures available and their tax implications.

When I first started doing in-home and small business work on the side, I didn’t do anything regarding business structure. I just put the money I earned into my personal bank account … and claimed the earnings on my personal tax return, of course! In other words, my business was structured as a Sole Proprietorship. Later, when I decided to run my business full-time, I was advised to create a Subchapter S Corporation, or S-Corp, which has worked well for my consulting business with no employees other than my wife and I. Several years later, I learned about the option of forming an LLC and was curious. It seems that LLCs could provide some advantages, however, in the state of Illinois, they are (were?) more expensive to form than in other states, so it made little sense for me to change my business structure. However, for independent technology professionals looking to start up a company, it is definitely worth looking into structuring your company as an LLC. Every state has different laws and regulations regarding forming an LLC, so consult with your attorney (and possibly your accountant) before making a decision in this regards. You do have an attorney and an accountant, right? If not, stop what you’re doing and start researching reputable attorneys and accountants right now!

What type of business structure does your company have? If you’re getting ready to start a company, what type of business structure are you considering and why?

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Entrepreneurs - GrasshopperI thought showcasing this video would be a great way to kick off the Solo Tech Pros blog! We entrepreneurs can use a little motivation whenever we can get it!

Entrepreneurs can change the world – Grasshopper

Incidentally, this video was passed along to me by another Independent Technology Professional. If you have any ideas for this blog or any interesting information to share, please feel free to pass it along to me.

With regards to the Grasshopper virtual phone system/service, I’m currently investigating it as it seems like it might be a great fit for many of my clients … as well as a solo tech business. Do any of you have experience with Grasshopper or any similar services?

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The Independent Technology Professional is a vital component to the success of small businesses and individuals everywhere. Without Independent Technology Professionals, most small businesses would not have the ability to research, deploy, or support the technologies crucial to their productivity. Individuals in the home would similarly have very little resources to make the most of their technology needs.

As technology use has exploded over the last twenty to thirty years, the number of Independent Technology Professionals has also mushroomed. While many tech pros are excellent with the technology they service, most unfortunately have little training or knowledge on how to run a successful business. As the industry matures, only those Independent Technology Professionals who set themselves apart by keeping their customers happy and running efficient, profitable businesses will continue to be successful.

Solo Tech Pros was launched with the mission of becoming the premier resource for Independent Technology Professionals. Drawing upon the 10+ years of experience attained by the successful independent technology company Marcel Brown Technology Services, other solo tech pros will be able to get the insight needed to accelerate the pace of their own success.

Welcome to Solo Tech Pros! Please spread the word to other Independent Technology Professionals you know, as the bigger the community we build, the more we can all learn from each other.

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