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If you have expertise in IT, starting your own network engineering business can be a great way to monetise your skills. However, after years of working for someone else, venturing out into the world of entrepreneurialism can seem daunting. In this guide, we've broken down the steps you need to take to get your business up and running, from choosing a name to organising the legal side of things.
A network engineering business is responsible for building and maintaining an organisation’s IT system. This can involve various tasks, from introducing secure physical and wireless networks and daily troubleshooting, to researching and implementing new technologies.
Here’s a quick checklist of essential steps to starting a network engineering business:
To start a network engineering business, you will need to have experience working in IT. You should have a general understanding of how to plan and implement computer networks, and provide technical support for organisations. Designing and operating a network requires good communication, leadership and project management abilities.
Network engineers require IT skills that include:
Running your own business also requires administration, sales, management and marketing skills. It's important to come up with a detailed business plan that will help you stay on track for success and a marketing plan that will build up your customer base. We touch on how to implement these key skills later on in this guide.
A network engineer will typically have a degree in computer science, computer engineering or information systems. A diploma in network engineering will give you the computer skills and knowledge to get started. A diploma typically costs around $20,000, while degree course fees are usually closer to $60,000.
Alternatively, industry certifications from technology companies, including Cisco, Microsoft, Citrix, Red Hat, and VMware, provide training on different types of devices and network security systems.
A well-thought-out business name can make all the difference when it comes to success. Here are a few things to consider before you settle on one:
Before you start selling your computer engineering services to clients, you need to make sure that your business is fully registered. To do this, you will need to decide which legal structure to operate the business under. Your business structure will determine who makes the key decisions and how to pay tax, among other things.
If you're opening a network engineering business by yourself, you'll need to register as a Sole Trader. This will give you absolute control of the business, including taking responsibility for important decisions, as well as any profits and losses. When you open your business with a friend or family member, you will need to register it as a Partnership instead. In this case, two people will be sharing the responsibility.
Alternatively, you can choose to register as a Company. Generally, this is reserved for businesses that will grow and expand into a national or international enterprise. Companies can be more expensive to set up and are owned by different shareholders who share the business's financial burden.
Once you have decided on the name and legal structure, you should register for an Australia Business Number (ABN). Government authorities, including the tax office, use this to identify your business.
Your business plan doesn't need to be a complicated or lengthy document, but it should give you an overview of how your business will function, and how it will grow and evolve over the years. If you want to start a network engineering business, here are some key questions to answer in your business plan:
To start a network engineering business, you'll need a special set of tools and equipment. Some essential items to have in your toolbox include:
You will also need a particular type of computer software to help with troubleshooting and analysing networks. For this, you can choose from software such as SolarWinds, Nmap, PuTTY or EVE-NG.
To protect your customers and your business, it's important to have all of the correct legal procedures and documentation in place. You can organise this yourself using online legal templates or onboard professional help by consulting a small business lawyer.
Here are a few legal documents to get started with:
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For your business to succeed, you'll need to price your services so that they are competitive with other network engineering companies. Start by researching businesses already serving the market you are looking to enter and see what they charge. Is there a gap in their offering that you can target?
You will also need to make sure you can generate enough revenue to cover the costs of running the business, such as equipment, office supplies, transport costs, etc. Annual salaries for network engineers can range from $90,000 to well above $100,000, depending on experience, so you could use your expected salary as the basis to calculate an hourly rate by adding a mark-up to cover costs.
Having a clear marketing plan with a combination of offline and online strategies will help you to identify and attract customers. Focusing on a specific niche will also help you stand out among the multitude of computer service firms in the market.
As well as setting up a website to market your services, register with online directories and make use of social media, so that potential customers can find you. Business cards and brochures are also an effective way to market IT services offline, for example, by distributing them to office managers at companies in your local area.
Most recently, a new wave of online marketplaces has created a hassle-free space to find local customers. Websites such as hipages, Airtasker and Oneflare allow you to create a profile to advertise your services or respond to local queries in your area.
How do I build up a team for my network engineering business?
You will likely want to hire several engineers with different skill sets to operate your network engineering business. Outline the type of employees you need and write job descriptions with the qualifications, experience and qualities you are looking for to help define their roles. Start by inviting industry colleagues you know to join you, then you can approach recruitment agencies or online employment sites.
Are network engineers in demand?
As the world becomes more and more reliant on digital technologies, the need for network engineers will continue to grow at an exponential rate. In fact, some specialists have gone as far as calling it a "future-proof" career, with 11,100 more people expected to be working in the sector by 2024.
What areas could my network engineering business specialise in?
Choosing a niche can help you to differentiate your business. Some of the areas you can specialise in include:
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