Wise Bytes

Wise Bytes

2 employees
41 years in business

About this pro

I have nearly 40 years of experience helping computer users. Today my clients live around the world. In addition to helping people solve their computer hardware and software issues on PCs (Windows) and Macs, I teach computers at the Woodland Adult School. I also tutor users remotely, usually by having them safely and securely connect to my computer.

I am normally available 24/7/365 which allows me to accommodate users in ANY time zone. Best of all, in the event I am not available, I have a number of associates trained by me who can fill in.

I enjoy being one of the few women in this field where, given accurate information, I have never failed a client. Nothing beats the satisfaction of hearing "it works!"

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Woodland, CA 95776
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What is your typical process for working with a new customer?

Talk, sometimes by email exchange, to verify the issue(s), explain what I believe to be the cause, and then detail what I want to do to resolve the issue(s).

If the customer wants to proceed, we will work out when (normally immediately). The first step is a secure remote connection to the computer(s) so that I can take a look and verify that the planned approach does not need modification.

As I work, I explain what (and why) I am doing. I will also ensure the customer understands what, if anything should be done after I disconnect -- for example, follow a maintenance schedule.

When the client is satisfied, I explain how to remove the remote access software and then I disconnect.

What education and/or training do you have that relates to your work?

Nearly 40 years spent teaching others to use their software and to maintain the computers and associated peripherals such as printers, scanners, and specialized scientific, educational, artistic, etc. equipment has taught me much that others never had the opportunity to learn.

In the 80s and early 90s, I was the Executive Director of FOG International Computer Users Group. Under my direction, FOG grew from less than 200 members in the South Bay (Silicon Valley) to over 30,000 members organized in chapters around the world.

I built a tremendous reference library with manuals and technical notes for most of the hardware and software being sold.

I had regular meetings with engineers and programmers for whom I frequently beta tested new and updated equipment and software (l had an excellent reputation for being able to find problems others missed).

I wrote articles for the FOG newsletters and software for the FOG disk libraries. I also trained volunteers to answer member questions, initially via phone calls and snail mail and then via FOG bulletin boards and finally via Internet email.

My training was informal but my teachers were industry leaders.

Do you have a standard pricing system for your services? If so, please share the details here.

Depending on the source and type of client (home, commercial, or municipal), I charge $90 to $150 per hour with a $75 minimum for remote service.

If travel is required, I charge actual expenses plus $75 per hour.

In some instances, I will negotiate an all-inclusive flat rate.

How did you get started in this business?

After nearly 12 years with FOG International Computer Users Group, I realized that I was doing the same tasks day in and day out. It was time for a change. About that time a company approached me with a contract for 40 hours per month covering computer maintenance similar to what I was doing with FOG and adding bookkeeping. (A bookkeeping business was the reason I bought my first computer only to discover that the software I wanted did not yet exist so I was planned, before being distracted by the infant users group, to create a program. I never got back to that project.)

The offered position would pay about the same as I was earning as FOG's executive director so I accepted and submitted a 30-day resignation notice which was expanded to six months when it was agreed that I could reduce my hours to allow the fulfillment of the new venture.

I established a consulting business under the name Wise Bytes. I had not received my new business cards when I starting getting calls. Before long I had as many clients as I felt I could properly service. I set up a waiting list and started having a glorious time -- each job was different so there were no boring days.

Around 2008 or 2009 I was asked to beta test new software that would allow me to work on computers remotely. I said yes -- I could now work with people who had moved too far for me to work onsite.

Then I got an email from a former client who was involved with an NGO in Tanzania and needed help setting up a new office with computers, printer, etc. complete with management and training guides I would need to write. Between email and my remote connection software, we got the job done. My client got a promotion and I had a new entry for my CV.

What types of customers have you worked with?

Home users, small (less than 50 employees) and home-based businesses, police departments and other municipal agencies, and a few nonprofits (the latter were mostly pro bono).

Describe a recent event you are fond of.

A customer called. In the background, I could hear the shrieking of her computer and I recognized that she was in tears. Eventually, I discovered that she had been connecting to a client website in order to upload a 300-page manuscript she had just finished editing and preparing for publication. In her excitement over finishing the two+ month project, she did not take timmake a backup on an external drive before getting on the Internet. She was sure that all of the work done in the past few days, none of which was backed up (she refused to have a cloud account and kept forgetting to run the software I had installed so she could back up all of her work on an external hard drive), was gone.

I've known Linda for more than 20 years and helped her set up each of her computers in turn. I warned her frequently that one day, probably when it was least convenient, she would regret not maintaining multiple current backips. That time had come.

It took a bit of time to calm Linda so that she could follow directions and answer questions. I told her what to do. She followed directions. I connected to her computer and in a short time, her computer was able to back up the manuscript and connect to the client's website for delivery.

A few days later, a package arrived. Inside was payment for my services, a lovely note of thanks, and a case of very nice wine later shared with Linda and our friends.

Oh, and she let me set up a cloud account to continuously back up all of her work!

What advice would you give a customer looking to hire a pro in your area of expertise?

Find a consultant or small computer business with an established track record. Rarely do the big box stores have experienced staff available (these companies tend to train young people who then move on to a better-paying jobs); frequently they will ship the computer off to the technical department. Unfortunately, rarely can they tell how long it will take to get the computer back.

Choose a technical genius with at least five years of successful experience in the business. If the business is run out of their home, they are more likely to solve the problem quickly and for a lower cost as there are no big overhead expenses as for a store, office, and/or employees.

Best of all is a referral by a friend or relative happy to describe their successful experience in the face of disaster.

What questions should customers think through before talking to pros about their needs?

1. Be prepared to describe as accurately as possible the sequence of events leading up to the current situation. Be prepared to answer questions about what you were doing, what keys you might have pressed, what you saw on the screen or heard from the speakers. Before you start calling for help, take the time to write down everything you can remember. Note that experienced "techies" are likely to recognize the situation after hearing only part of your report.

2. Ask how long the person has worked with computers and whether they are self-employed or work for a company. Also, ask how/where they were trained (a recent college graduate may be able to write an operating system but not have a clue as to how some computers power on).

3. Ask what computers they normally work with as most people specialize with a single type of computer, for example, Windows PC, Apple Mac (or iPad, etc.), or Unix/Linux.

4. Ask what they charge and when they would be available to work on your computer.

5. Ask if they guarantee their work and, if so, what are the terms.

6. Do not hesitate to say you need to think about it or that you need to consider your options or that you need to talk it over with your spouse, boss, etc. If you feel pressured to make a quick decision, say "Thank you," hang up, and look elsewhere.

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