How I Started My IT Business
I’ve been giving you lots of information and ideas and hopefully providing you motivation to improve or get on the right track to be successful in IT. How did I earn the ability to tell you how to do it? Well, I did it myself. First and foremost my 20+ years of experience – 18 professional, four years of IT school including working those four years as a work-study student in the IT Department of the Financial Aid Office, in addition to that Commodore 64 and High School classes. My years of progressive experience is where I get most of this material. However, I’m still learning and taking my advice as I write and publish these articles.
Here’s the story of how I Did Something Now, Really Worked Hard, Created New Habits, Used my Time and Money Better, Made a Change, Made Mistakes, and how you can do the same while learning new skills to improve your IT career.
The first part (Getting Started) took me a while. Honestly, I thought for many years about what I would do besides my day job, which was very comfortable and I had no reason to do anything else. I chose to focus on my family – getting married and raising children. I spent too much of my money and free time on non-value added items. At some point a few years ago I decided that I wanted to change, and finally committed to spending my money to CREATE value, which is where the formal effort to create Tech Career Mentor began.
For me, the initial commitment had to be a big one. Knowing myself and my habits and tendencies I chose to buy a $1300 MacBook as a way to immediately invest in myself and commit to doing something. I had no other reason to buy a Mac other than to use it to start a business. I decided instead of procrastinating and coming up with excuses, and instead of using my money for other junk that provided no value towards my long-term happiness, I would buy a personal laptop which would enable me to create this business. Immediately after I purchased the Mac, I focused on the technical aspects of the company, because that’s what I knew best.
Domain Name Registration
The first step was naming and “branding.” I brainstormed many ideas for a name and searched domain name availability. It did not take me long to decide on “Tech Career Mentor,” but it was a process. I’m still not 100% sure I have the best name and am currently playing with other options, but I committed to it and checked the box to move the process along.
For me, email is in my wheelhouse. Mail administration is my most in-depth technical ability and I’ve been installing, configuring and administering Microsoft Exchange servers for almost 20 years. Setting up my Office 365 tenant was super fast and honestly, I enjoyed this part. I had an operating email address within an hour after registering my domain, all setup via an Office 365 E3 Plan. Over-complicated for most of you, but for me, I wanted to retain the control and the “fun” of running the full Exchange Online tenant. I still enjoy poking around my O365 account and playing with its capabilities and making minor settings adjustments.
Setting up a site, as simple as commercials or ads make it seem, was the area I made the most mistakes and changed directions many times before I settled on my current solution. Initially, I had the right idea to keep it simple, so I purchased a Wix account. However, I soon found out that Wix was TOO simple, and the lack of options and technical control provided was not a fit for me.
After Wix, I moved to a hosted Drupal site using an AWS AMI from the AWS Marketplace. This task, unfortunately, swung the pendulum too far in the other direction. I wasted far too many hours running the EC2 instances in AWS and figuring out how to configure Drupal and MySQL and 3rd party backup solutions. (Although this experience helped me in my day job!) Overall, it was a waste of time and money for TCM. It was during this period that my brother said to me something that is worth repeating: Focus on the business, not running the business. I was spending too much time messing around with technology (which was cool), but I wasn’t paying enough attention to creating the actual product, my advice and mentoring.
So next was WordPress. I chose WordPress.com which is one of the most highly regarded hosting sites on the internet. But again, I made a mistake. It turns out that the level of customization is limited, and I needed a middle-ground. When I turned to Fiverr.com and sourced a fantastic WordPress designer, I found that I needed a more customizable WordPress hosting company.
My final and current location is a WordPress site hosted by BlueHost which gave me (the end-user) the ease of WordPress content management but gave my outsourced designer the capability to apply the templates and design required. I can perform (or I can outsource) advanced server administration tasks, but day to day operations of content management is simple.
There you go. I made several hundreds of dollars worth of “mistakes.” However, had I not gone through this process I would not have been able to learn what I ultimately needed to know about website hosting. I had no way when I started to understand what service would be the best solution for me and my business. I committed, I tried and tested and eventually I was successful. It was only after combining several aspects of the company and being reminded by my brother to focus that I found the right solution.
After a few months of nights and weekends getting through technical items, I started to focus more on the business side. I laid out a real Business Plan. I formally registered the business as an LLC and retained Financial and Legal support and services.
I don’t know why but a business card was significant to me. I’m a little old-school. It physically, tangibly represented this business to me, and I wanted something in my hand that I could feel like progress. However, I spend too much time and money on three (yup – 3!) different versions of my card. To this day I still haven’t handed out more than maybe 10, out of about 1000 ordered. It’s just not necessary at this stage of my business. Creating and paying for a business card was too soon, for no reason; and it was a mistake.
Instead of a business card, I used an idea we had for a technical conference where I ran our booth in Las Vegas. We used 3″ x 3″ cards, color, laminated, front-back. It provided a much better impact than a boring business card and allowed me to write my services and value-add proposition on a very portable marketing slick. I have handed out many of these cards, and I plan to continue to hand out many more. Lesson learned and applied.
Four-Hour Work Week
I can’t say enough about how this book and Tim Ferriss’ blog, podcast and other books have motivated me. I’ll get into more in a later planned article about engaging in smart conversations often. But some of the primary motivation to start TCM and how I intended to accomplish tasks came from The 4-Hour Work Week. I layered in other books to supplement information about marketing and side-hustle tactics including the often talked about topic of time and money management.
One big idea I got from 4HWW and my brother reminded me of, is to focus on the goal of the business, not RUNNING the business. I don’t want to be a businessman. I’m not entirely sure I want to be an entrepreneur in the real sense of the word. What I want to do is help people all over the world that have an interest in improving themselves in the IT field. That is my passion. That is my goal. Not running a WordPress website, or configuring mail servers. I had to remind myself of this early and often as I made mistakes in the choices I made to create TCM.
After I learned to focus and made my mistakes on choosing the correct website technology I furthered that focus, along with the lessons in 4HWW to start to use outsourcing to do the tasks where I have no experience. I mainly used Fiverr.com but also sites like Thumbtack to hire consultants for small one-off projects. As I mentioned, I hired a designer from Fiverr to do my website. I hired a writing specialist to help me with marketing language for ads, Facebook and the images on my site. I hired an artist to design my logo. I hired someone to turn that logo into an embroidery file. (My logo will make an appearance on my shirt in upcoming videos!) I know I could have done many of these things myself, and some I did try myself believing it was “cheaper.” In the end, it was much more efficient to outsource these one-off tasks.
Never Stop Learning
If you found yourself on this site through Facebook, Social Media is something new to me, and I am testing. Facebook ads have given me a way to pay a small amount of money and run A/B testing on ads and marketing language. Marketing as a skill is also something very new to me, and I’m learning as I go! Updating this article, I have recently sourced my first “InfoGraphic.” I believe this is a great way to introduce my material to those that need it, but it also works well on today’s social media platforms like Instagram (something else that is new to me and I’m learning!)
Now It’s Your Turn
I hope that this example, after all of my previous articles telling you what to do provides an example of how you can achieve your goals and make them a reality. Now that we have a good base of values, habits, time and money management, focus, and a motivational example, I’ll start to get more specific about things like Training and Certification, Soft Skills such as Communication and of course I’ll get into resumes and interviews.
Thank you for reading, and please keep in touch!
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