As an Independent Computer Consultant, naturally you're hoping to earn as much income as possible while maintaining a very satisfied and loyal client base.
The problem faced by the vast majority of independent computer consultants today however is that they still base their income on the number of hours they're able to bill in a day, week or month. How can this model possibly provide either a reliable income or a happy customer?
If you're billing by the hour, how can you possibly count on revenues being steady on an ongoing basis, when the need for your services is so volatile?
By providing "reactive", hourly support, you're basically waiting for things to break to be able to keep yourself busy. If things aren't breaking, your clients will be reluctant to pay additional hourly charges for you to just "check things out" and make sure everything is running ok.
If you have only a few clients, they're going to have to each provide a significant amount of hours to meet your financial requirements. In a time when small business owners are trying to reduce expenses wherever possible, squeezing them for the hours you need to survive will be challenging and will not help client satisfaction.
If you're able to land many clients, where it should be easy for you to maintain a busy schedule, you can be sure that more often than not you'll have more fires to put out than you can handle at one time and customer satisfaction will again suffer. Plus, from personal experience I can assure you that there will be many times where you'll be putting in far more working hours than you would ever want to fixing a serious problem that you wish you could have prevented in the first place.
Fortunately, there's an easy solution for today's Independent Computer Consultant. Stop billing by the hour and charge flat, monthly fees for a proactive maintenance plan, with which you can provide round-the-clock monitoring, remote computer support and on-site service (for which I personally charge an additional hourly fee).
Billing your clients a flat, monthly rate can provide you with a stable income that you can rely on, while requiring you to work far less hours to do so.
If you use a reliable monitoring application (which can be done very inexpensively), you'll be able to identify potential problems early and reduce the unexpected emergencies that keep the hourly-rate consultant so busy (and their clients so unhappy).
A bulk of the daily service requests are minor end user issues, which if addressed remotely can often be resolve very quickly. The daily support requests from a full client list of about 4 or 5 small business clients (40-50 end-users) can be supported remotely in about 1-2 hours a day, including monitoring their system logs.
On-site support can be provided for this handful of clients in about 2 hours a week each. This is a number most small business owners find acceptable, fair and manageable. If you charge an additional hourly rate for these on-site hours, you can supplement your flat-rate income nicely.
Because you're working proactively, your clients will have fewer problems and higher productivity. Your remote support services will increase your response time dramatically, also improving your clients productivity. And they'll see you less often.
All these things will contribute to INCREASING customer satisfaction.
If you structure your base, maintenance plan fees properly, a small client base of four small business customers can provide an Independent computer consultant with a full-time income, while requiring you to work about 10-12 hours a week.
It's clear why the business model to follow when starting a computer consulting business as an independent computer consultant is flat fee, proactive managed and remote support.
Robert Peretson is the founder of Perry Consulting, a New York based MSP, who's been providing IT Support to many of the city's most progressive and prestigious small businesses since 1996.Robert is also the editor of http://SuccessfulComputerConsulting.com, a website dedicated to helping growing MSPs to succeed through proper business development practices and proven IT Marketing strategies.