How to start an IT consultancy

There's a lot more to IT support than turning it off and on again. Here's how to make your offering stand out in a crowded market

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What is an IT consultancy and who is it suited to?

So, you want to be the superhero service provider who bursts into offices to save the day? Or rather fix people’s computers? IT consultancy is a popular option for those looking to start their own business. If you have the know-how and the techy smarts, you can offer an invaluable service to almost every business out there. After all, who doesn’t need IT support these days?

That cuts both ways, though. It is a crowded market, and these days IT consultants offer everything from run of the mill IT support, helpdesk and onsite services, to server monitoring, disaster recovery, security and offsite backup. From the get-go, you need to work out exactly what your offer is, and how you can convince your clients that your business is the true superman of IT support.

To set up an IT consultancy, you really need to know your stuff. You’ll be up against people who live, breathe and dream ICT, and you’ll need to be on their level. Saying that, if IT is your passion and you’re a pro on the inner workings of PCs, the sine qua non of servers and the set-up of networks, then don’t worry too much if the letters after your name don’t have anything to do with third level or vocational qualifications.

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Roger and Paul Timms of Maindec, an established third party IT services and support provider that’s been going strong for some 30-odd years, believe that you shouldn’t worry about qualifications. Roger started the business 32 years ago, and he was not at all qualified in terms of having gone to university.

“Don’t let a lack of qualifications hold you back too much. It takes a little bit more than qualifications,” Roger says: “It’s good to be one of the ‘Alan Sugar brigade’!”

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You’ve got to have the entrepreneurial spirit. You’ve got to be committed. And most importantly, you should have a good idea of the area of the marketplace you want to attack. When Roger started out, the market was very buoyant: IT was new, and there was a lot of pioneering going on. There were a lot of opportunities. Now, it’s very competitive and the market is quite crowded. So make your IT offering stand out.

“It’s very important to find your niche,” Roger advises. “And just be in a position very positively to sell that to people. If you know what you’re good at, you’ve got to sell it.”

Ready to get started? Find out everything you need to know about how to start your own business here.