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Star Techies

As computers become more indispensable, computer consulting becomes more profitable.

As computers become more indispensable, computer consulting becomes more profitable.

Every day, computers become faster and more sophisticated. Unfortunately, computer users do not. Throughout the history of computing, these truths have remained painfully self-evident: Computer technology progresses at breakneck speed, while the people who use computers break their necks trying to keep up.

Perhaps that's why computer consultants continue to be in high demand, despite a relative flourishing of computer literacy among businesspeople. As computers have become more indispensable in the workplace, the need for high-tech expertise has only intensified. Consultants who can set up complex information systems, troubleshoot office networks, train business owners on Internet usage, or provide teams of programmers for short-term assignments (to name but a few consulting concepts) face a massive market.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, computer programming, data processing and other computer-related services brought in a whopping $114 billion in revenues in 1993, the last year for which figures are available. Between 1988 and 1993, computer-service revenues grew nearly 60 percent, up from just $67.7 billion in 1988.

Computer consulting is a competitive field, but it's also flexible. Successful consultants may operate as staffing services, which are similar to temporary help firms; as individual "guns for hire;" or as subcontractors to other firms. Start-up costs for a solo business can be downright meager: Consultants who work on-site for clients sometimes plug in without buying equipment or outfitting an office. Even when your aspirations are loftier, capital requirements are not especially intense. Talent, more than tooling, seems to determine business success.

Gayle Sato Stodder covers entrepreneurship for various publications. She lives and works in Manhattan Beach, California.

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This article was originally published in the January 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Star Techies.

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