A Weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch





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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.

Special Needs

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 training rate.

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:

He can reached via email at

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