Electronic Device Repair Business

Profit from people’s computer problems no matter how basic photo cred Keira Bishop

People are spending more and more money on electronics.  i-this and i-that, tablets, smart phones …  But the problem is that nobody wants to take the time to fix them.  The big companies are pushing the idea that every two or three years people are supposed to replace these things–so if it stops working you should just replace it.  That logic might work for the millionaires in Silicon Valley; but for a typical family this could easily mean over one thousand dollars per year.  So any way you can bring down this tab will be a win-win.  You help people save money; and you make some money for yourself.  In a typical household there are several thousand dollars of devices: computers, tablets,video game systems, cameras …  Chances are some of them will break down.

Two ways to profit from refurbishing or repairing electronic devices

There are two opportunities to make money by fixing these devices (1) repair service and (2) pick up items that people are practically giving away because they are broken, re-condition the items, and sell for a nice profit.

Almost all the information you need is on the net for free  For instance the website ifixit.com has step by step manuals with pictures showing how to fix hundreds of products; and they are building repair manuals on tons of products.  And other people have put up how to fix it videos on YouTube.  The community of people who believe that you can repair items, has built a knowledge base free for your use.  Ifixit produces and edits their work.  The deal is they target ads for the stuff you need to do the repair.  That’s fine because you are not forced to buy from their suppliers. 

(1) Electronics Repair Service

With a little bit of skill and minimal tools you can have your business up and running. The tools you need can be had for a couple hundred dollars.  According to one of our readers, “computer guy,” in Irvine, the starting rate for repair or upgrading is $69/hr.  There is an additional cost for driving to a customer’s location.  Many customers feel uncomfortable disconnecting all the cables and will be willing to pay for your time driving out there.

This is an ideal business to run out of an inexpensive office or sublease in a retail store.  As people are busy, you can add to your service by offering pick up/delivery and mobile repair.  As with other businesses, you could operate this out of your home.  But this creates a problem.  People will not want to turn over their most valuable piece of electronics to “some guy working out of his garage.”  You will also need a website to seem credible, and do advertising on Craigslist, bing, and google.

We found these videos on a YouTube channel from ifixitpro  that talks about the business.

This is a video from ifixit’s CEO that talks about how they provide training resources that will help you get into the business

Connect with Customers via Geekatoo

This is a way for customers to connect with local talent to help out with computer repair, installing a new system, networking, or fixing other tech things that go bad.   The bring up the point that they will do the job for less than the Geek Squad, but their “geeks” don’t have all that overhead–the retal store, the official cars, uniforms, or advertising.  (One question, if their computer is not working, how do they access this site?  And if they don’t know what they are doing how do they know what job specs to put up for bid?)

For more info on becoming a Geekatoo http://geekatoo.com/geeks#

Connect with customers on Taskrabbit

TaskRabbit is available in Orange County and LA.  We checked out their technical task section, and found that a lot of consultants are helping people repair computers, deal with software issues, web consulting and installations of home theater systems…  The advantage of this over Craigslist is that the service says it vets — background checks — people on the system.  So people feel safe.  They also have an interactive mapping system so that people can connect with someone close by.

The TaskRabbit Life from TaskRabbit on Vimeo.

Electronic Repair Franchise Opportunities

We haven’t run across a lot of franchise opportunities.  But why would you want to pay franchise fees anyway?  Well, if someone is going to invite you into their home or hand over their phone or tablet with personal info on it, will they go to someone who seems like they are established or some dude on craigslist?

The biggest player in this space is the Geek Squad at Best Buy.  Their main asset is their name recognition.  When people need something fixed, they know that name.  And hence they get the first call.  We are not criticizing the service, their investment in branding and advertising has paid off.  And that’s what you should be paying for if you invest in a franchise.  If it’s some company that no one has heard of, why pay?

Icracked.com icracked.com This business sends a qualified tec to a home or workplace to repair broken smartphones.   Basically they get around the consumers problem of having to deal with some strange guy from Craigslist, and they also can fix phones and other ios products immediately.  They can do it for a lot less than the big cell phone companies will charge you if you walk into their retail store and are forced to “exchange”  your phone for a new one.  The alternative people face from the cell phone stores is that they can wait for a couple of weeks for repairs covered under warranty.  Most people cannot go that long without a phone, so they end up paying a lot for a new one.

They also make money from buying old ios products.    According to this Forbes Article link Typically IT veterans, iTechs are a select group: Fewer than 1% of the applicants survive three interviews and a background check. They meet customers 30 to 50 times a week to fix and purchase phones, earning around $60 per repair and $25 for buybacks; iCracked makes money selling them replacement parts at a 20% to 40% markup or marking up purchased phones for resale. The company also sells do-it-yourself repair kits for $20 to $150 each, some 35% of sales. 

Basically, you will be more like an independent contractor than an employee of their company.  We didn’t see anything about a franchise fee or other details on their website.  See their tec recruting commercial here http://vimeo.com/79122752  The company has a full online traning site, suppoprt for techs, and provides all the parts you will need.

UbreakiFix ubreakifix.com/franchising  This operation has been around a long time, at least for htis industry–since 2009.  The deal is that the have a proprietary web based portal that shows tecs how to fix the phones with videos, and how to source the parts.  They estimate the amount of time to do a fix, so you don’t undercharge.  And it’s a professional operation so customers feel safe.  They require owners to have $200,000 net worth with at least $100,000 in liquid assets.   But unlike a lot of franchises, they allow you to partner with others to meet the requirements.  There is no minimum experience per se, but a technical background is helpful.  It is possible to purchase an existing franchise, but they seem to discourage public sales of franchises so it’s hard to know how to buy one.  They don’t disclose franchise fees or start-up costs on their website.

Data Doctor  According to their website you need at least $50k in net assets to qualify and it will cost in the range of $122k-175k to get going with an approved store, equipment …  They also take a 5% cut of gross sales.  datadoctorsfranchising.com/requirements/

Is this cost worth the franchise fees?  Well if most people haven’t heard of them probably not.

So how do you build credibility for your business?

  • Get Published.  People will google you and see if you have anything up on the web.  If you have stuff published, even in a not so well known publication, they will feel better about doing business with you.  Just to point you in that direction, This is a list of OC online Publications,  list of OC newspapers, and this is an article about how to write a press release.
  • Get a website.  If you are reading this page you probably know how to do this.  It doesn’t have to be fancy.  Be sure to include what you do and your experience.
  • Get a business address.  People will google you, and if you are working out of the UPS mailbox place or your bedroom — well not good.  Get an office even if you don’t plan to go to it everyday.
  • Get some professional stationery–business cards, invoices, and stickers.  Put the sticker on everything you fix with your web address and phone #.  The next time something stops working–even if its two weeks later– people will forget who the nice guy/gal was who fixed their previous device.  Google online printing and check out sites like vistaprint.com
  • Get recognized.  Join the local Chamber of Commerce, and Better Business Bureau BBB.  They welcome new businesses and generally speaking to be a member in good standing you just have to pay your bill–that is assuming you have not caused problems in the past.  You can then put their logos on your webpage and advertising.   Also if you have any training certifications, let people know even if they are not directly relevant.  It shows that you have some training.

 

(2) Refurbishing and Reselling

Where do you get used Products ?

  • Ask.  Put up an ad on Craigslist, or in a local Newspaper.  “We buy ___ Name of product___ working or not.”  The idea is that you make it easy for people to part with their stuff.    
  • Search for “pallets of” on e-bay.  These tend to be items that a retail store, landlord, or whole seller has been stuck with.  Often times they are returns, and the only issue is that they don’t look new enough to stick back into a box, and the box is missing.  And they don’t want to display “used” items in their store because that would hurt their image.
  • Liquidation.com www.liquidation.com  They get returned stuff from major retailers  And manufacturers also dump stuff they cannot sell on them.   (Nightline story about them from 2012)  Again, people return this stuff for a variety of reasons from they changed their mind, their wife got mad, it had a scratch, or it could be easily fixed but they paid for a working model.  And they group things into categories like pallets of microwaves, or electronic goods.
  • B-Stock Supply bstocksupply.com  Same deal as Liquidation.com.
  • Property Room www.propertyroom.com/c/electronics  This is the e-bay for stolen stuff that has been seized by the cops.  If they cannot find the rightful owner or the owner doesn’t want it, it goes on this site.  An owner, for instance,  might not want her old cell phone because she has replaced it.  For instance, lots of 10 or 20 cellphones going for about $7/phone.  Even if some of them don’t work, there is a profit to be made on reselling the ones that can refurbished and resold.  Some might just need a cleaning and new battery.

Keep a Paper trail.  Police have been going through Craigslist looking for stolen stuff.  The good thing about Craigslist is that anyone can post an ad and it’s free.  The bad thing about Craigslist is that anyone can post an ad and it’s free.  So if you are offering great stuff at a great price, you might receive a call from the police who are trolling the site looking for people fencing goods.  And since cellphones, cameras, laptops … look the same someone will tip off the police if your ad shows up the day after their item was stolen.  You may have to prove you bought the stuff.  Keep your sales records.  ABC Nightline Store–Portland Police.

How do you sell refurbished products?

  • Swapmeets
  • Online: Craigslist and E-bay.
  • Amazon.  Amazon has made it easier for small volume vendors to be listed on their site as they compete with e-bay.
  • Independent Cell Phone Retailers.  Boost and Virgin operate on CDMA.  If you can provide higher end cell phones to local retailers at a reasonable cost…  (we are checking on this.)

 

Brick and Mortar Computer Resources

You don’t need to have a lot of parts on-hand.  There are several stores in Orange County that specialize in selling to the IT community:

The Micro Center in Tustin

–let us know if there are any other good locations we have missed.

The key challenge will be finding customers.  People like a name they know like the G-Squad.

Resources and Tools

Belkin Anti-Static Wrist Band with Adjustable Grounding | This tool is important. If you are working inside a computer a static electric shock could zap out a part on the mother board.

|PC-Doctor Service Center 7.5 Computer Diagnostics Repair Kit | This was highly recommended on Amazon.  It comes with software that allows you to do diagnostics and print out reports for your clients.  It goes for around $400, but there is some price variation.  This one tests up to Windows 7, so they should be coming out with a new model for Windows 8.  It does not test Macs

|Metro Vacuum ED500P DataVac 500-Watt, .75-HP Electric Duster | Once you open up a computer you will realize that there is a ton of dust.  Some computers overheat just because a blanket of dust develops over the heat sink and mother board.   You can use canned air to blow it out or a mini-vac like this one to get rid of the dust.  It goes for about $60

|Computer Repair with Diagnostic Flowcharts: Troubleshooting PC Hardware Problems from Boot Failure to Poor Performance, Revised Edition | The Laptop Repair Workbook: An Introduction to Troubleshooting and Repairing Laptop Computers | These books have been popular for years. If you are not sure what’s wrong, these will take you through a step by step process to figure out the computer’s problem.

Upgrading and Repairing PCs (20th Edition) | This is a four pound book that has been very popular–version 20!! You will want to buy the actual book rather than the electronic version as it’s just easier to flip through the book, and look at the illustrations.

We really haven’t found any good books or tool kits for Mac’s.  Let us know what we’re missing.

You will be helping your customers with:

  • Installing Software or Re-installing software
  • Replacing PC components that may go bad over time such as the power supply, disk drive or memory.
  • Installing new after-market components.
  • Running anti-spy where and anti-virus software to clean up the system.
  • Removing junk-ware programs that have become installed on the computer.
  • Making the computer work with new components by installing drivers.

If you read this list and said to your self, “that’s not a big deal, why would you need anyone to do this,” you may have found the perfect first time business.  A lot of computer users are afraid to open their computer or try to install anything.  They work for big companies or the government that hires an IT Guy (usually it’s a guy) to fix these things.  And they have no ideal how to deal with this on their own.

If anyone knows of good books for trouble shooting Macs please let us know.

There are three ways to go: Business Startup Plans that have most of the information you need and Franchises.

 

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