Do I need a license or degree to fix computers?
Hey Dave. I am 17 years old and i have been working with computers since i was 6 (apple Macintosh; floppy always got stuck). I am good doing stuff to them like removing viruses, upgrading OS, etc. Anyway I want to open a small business in my home, where I can fix computers around my neighborhood. I already started some time ago, by means i have some good references here. My question is, I heard that you need to have some kind of degree to be able to fix personal computers, And without one you could be prosecuted by the law. Is this true? Should i stop fixing computers?
Glad to hear that you've already launched a successful business out of your home helping out people in your community with their computer issues. When I was 17 I think I was still trolling the neighborhood looking for cars to wax as a way to make a few bucks. :-)
In terms of your question, you definitely don't need any sort of college degree or even a high school diploma to run a business, whether it's a restaurant, a high-tech startup or a computer repair business out of your apartment. There are some professions where you can't get a professional license without certain academic credentials, but you're far removed from that area.
To legally run a business, however, you might need a business license from the local city clerk or county clerk if you're not in an urban area. They're usually quite inexpensive but you will then be obligated to pay taxes to them on anything you earn (over and above what you'd owe the Internal Revenue Service and your state Department of Revenue, if you're in a state with income tax).
Note I say "might need". A quick look at the Denver, Colorado Business License requirements shows that not every business needs a license, though if you want to run a tattoo parlor or sell hot dogs on the street, you will indeed need to register.
Now, having spoken the official party line, I will also tell you that even in areas where the city wants every business to register, you'll find that a significant percentage of contractors and service providers, whether house painters, gardeners or computer repair folk, skip the process anyway, choosing to keep their business under the radar, as it were. If you're not earning a huge amount of money, that's probably a reasonable path to take and if you find that the business is exploding and you need a storefront and employees, then you can get all the licenses necessary.
It's the old dictum of "It's easier to seek forgiveness than ask for permission" and really, worst case, you won't go to jail anyway, you'll just find that you owe some back taxes and perhaps a small penalty in addition. But if you're earning, say, $400/week, then your local business taxes are going to be really small anyway, maybe 5%? That's $20/week or $1040/year. Plus 25% penalty that's still only $1300, worst case. You can survive that. :-)
What I would encourage you to do instead of worrying about a degree is pay attention to liability issues. Specifically I suggest that you need a good "limits of liability" contract that customers sign when they give you their computers, a document that protects you from them claiming that, say, you messed up and owe them $1000 because that's how much money they lost because the virus destroyed their documents. Dig around on Google, you should be able to find standard contracts, or go to somewhere like Best Buy and ask them what they use for computer tech customers (and copy it!)
Good luck and congrats on building a successful business. That's quite an accomplishment!
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