Q: I would like to start a computer repair business from home. Do I need to be certified, or is my personal experience enough? Do I need a license?
A: While we have yet to hear of a state that requires a professional or occupational license to do computer repair, it's wise to verify this with the agency in your state responsible for such licensing. You can find links to the Web site of virtually every regulatory agency in North America at the Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation's Web site. If you find out you don't need a license, it's still a good idea to get something in writing from the appropriate agency stating that fact before you start your business.
Even when licensing is not required for your business, however, certification is often expected by corporations and other sophisticated customers. Certification also establishes you as a specialist, thus enabling you to charge higher rates for your services. Think of it as a way to establish your credibility with prospective clients and keep up with changing technology.
Fortunately, you can find many sources of training that lead to certification: community colleges and trade schools, correspondence courses in print and on CD, and online education. You can learn about these many avenues in Anne Martinez's book Get Certified and Get Ahead (McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing).
Paul and Sarah Edwards' most recent book is The Entrepreneurial Parent. Send them your start-up questions at www.workingfromhome.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.