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So you want to start a tech business? - Using your skills

ToolboxHandy with a computer? Want to do more than just fix your friend’s laptop when they download a virus? Find out how to use your skills to start a business.

What are my skills?

It might be obvious to you what skills you’ve got: if you’ve taught yourself a programming language, for example. However, if you want to sell your skills, you need to think about it in more detail. Ask yourself:

  • What can I do that other people can’t? You might think that some of your skills are so simple anyone could do them. Keep your eyes open to work out what other people struggle with that you can do easily, whether it’s soldering a circuit or writing a shell script.
  • What can’t I do – yet? There might be something missing from your existing skills that would make them even more useful. For example, if you understand HTML and CSS, learning JavaScript or studying web design would help you make the most of those skills.

How can I make money?

The next step is to work out how you can sell your skills. This is simpler for some things than others: for example, if you can put together a good website then you can go into business doing web design for local businesses. Here are a few possibilities to consider:

  • Anything you can make and sell can be the basis for a business. You might have a big idea of your own, but if not you can offer your services to people who have an idea but don’t have the skills to make it happen.
  • Fixing people’s problems will always be a good source of business! You can advertise things like computer repair in local newspapers or shop windows. For some computer problems, you could offer help using remote control software like CrossLoop, which will let you solve people’s problems from your own home – and let them pay you for it, too.
  • Consultancy might sound like something for big businesses to waste money on, but it just means using your own expertise to give advice to other people. That could be advising a local business on setting up an online shop, or helping them work out what computers they need. However, you’ll have to convince them you know what you’re talking about, so you’ll need good qualifications or experience. You need to be very careful as you could be held legally responsible if you give bad advice.

What do I want out of it?

  • I want to make a few quid. If the business is a more fulfilling alternative to a Saturday job, you can keep it small and low-risk – doing occasional work for local companies, for example.
  • I want to build it into a career. If you’re hoping your business will really take off, you’ll have to be prepared to grow it. This might involve studying for extra qualifications or certifications, learning new skills and, eventually, employing other people.
  • I want to gain experience. Any kind of business will provide valuable experience, but if this is your main goal remember that making money isn’t the only way. You could offer your skills for free to a local charity, or contribute to an open-source software project. These won’t make you money now, but they’ll look great on a CV and will help you refine your skills.

Know the law

There are some legal issues you’ll have to deal with when you start a business:

  • Registering your business: Whether you have to register your business depends on how it is structured. As a general guide, you probably won’t have to register unless you start taking outside investment.
  • Tax: If you make enough money, you’ll have to pay income tax on it. This means filling in a tax return every year. You’ll also need to register as self-employed within three months of starting the business, or you might have to pay a fine. Find out more about dealing with tax
  • Protecting your idea: If you’ve had a great idea, you wouldn’t be too pleased to find someone else profiting from it. Take a look at our guide to protecting your idea.

More help

There’s lots more business advice in the Business & Finance section of the Knowledge Bank. The government also runs a free business advice website at http://www.businesslink.gov.uk.