New and old market for computer consultants
by Douglas E. Welch
December 10, 1999
© 1999, Douglas E. Welch
If you are building a business around computer training or consulting,
you might have already spotted an interesting trend. One of the fastest growing segments of computer users today are
senior citizens. My own experience has shown me that helping these
users on their journey into the computer world could prove to
be very lucrative for many years into the future.
Time & Money
The influx of seniors using computer technology is due to a number
of factors. First, many are retired or semi-retired. This finally
gives them the time to investigate computers and all that they
can provide. Without the stress of a day job, these new users
finally have the time to explore the computer revolution. In many
cases they are jumping in with both feet.
Second, due to changes in our society, many seniors live at a
distance from their children and grandchildren. The use of email,
video conferencing and instant messaging allows them to stay in
touch with their families even when they are scattered around
the globe. The typical weekly or monthly phone call from GrandMa
is quickly being replaced with near daily emails. Photos don't
have to be developed and mailed any longer either. They can be
viewed on the Internet almost as soon as they are taken. This
can help grandparents feel they are having an effect on their
grandchildren's lives beyond the yearly birthday or holiday presents.
Third, the cost of computers has fallen dramatically in the last
few years. Never before have you been able to buy so much computing
power for so few dollars. This gives seniors easy and cheap access
to the Internet and therefore, their families. Computers are so
cheap, in fact, that they can even be given as gifts from one
or more family members. My sister and I recently purchased a new
computer for our parents. Not only does it give them better communication
with us, but it opens up a whole world outside the small farm
town (Pop. 2,000) where I grew up and they still live.
There are several important guidelines to remember when you are
working with seniors, though. Although your clients might be computer
novices they are also probably experienced and successful businesspeople.
I make it a point to never talk down to them. They might not understand
a computer concept immediately, but if you allow them to feel
silly or stupid they will quickly find another trainer.
One important tool is drawing from their existing experience to
develop analogies. This will allow you to use their existing knowledge
to explain and illuminate computer features and operations. Engage
your client in conversation and learn where their experience lies.
It will help both of you have a better time.
Even though your clients might have a state-of-the-art computer
system it is important to remember that many of them are on a
fixed income. Price your services reasonably and offer price breaks
for people willing to make a longer commitment. In my case, if
a client pays for 6 hours of training in advance I will take $5/hour
off my usual rate. They get their training for a cheaper price
and I get money up front to help my cash flow. The client can
then use the hours in any combination they wish. I also recently
started a series of small group seminars. If they don't mind sharing
with a group of people (I limit it to no more than 10/seminar)
they can get their questions answered at a fraction of my private
Don't forget about bartering your time with your clients if they
can help you or your company. Recently, I bartered private training
with a client who is leading me through the dark forest of incorporating
my business. He is a lawyer with many years experience in this
area and it will end up saving me many "out-of-pocket" dollars.
If you adapt to these new clients you will find some of the most
loyal customers around. I receive some of my most striking praise
and support from these clients. They want to see me succeed and
I must say, that certainly gives me a boost when business is being
troublesome or slow.
If you want to expand your consulting business, reach out to the
many senior citizens who are taking their first steps into the
computer world. You will find that you are developing long term
clients who will return to you again and again.
Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant
in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with
other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on
Douglas' web page at: http://www.welchwrite.com/
He can reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org