Getting out of prison and not sure what to do for work? Are you a technical oriented person who likes to fix things? If so, you might consider starting a cell phone repair business.
According to business industry research company IBISWorld, the cell phone repair industry is a $4 billion business in the U.S., and it’s expected to continue to grow. There are no major players with more than 5 percent of the market. In fact, many businesses who do cell repair are small shops or single proprietors.
It could be a good business for the right person. But who is that person?
What it takes
We asked Matt Rubio, Jr., the store manager of MD Wireless in Pleasant Hill, Calif., who began repairing phones in his father’s shop when he was 13 years old – 12 years ago. And here’s what he had to say about the qualities you need to be successful running a cell phone repair business.
“You need good eyesight, because the screws are very small,” he says. “You also need a steady hand and the patience to continue working on things that don’t always want to cooperate with you. You must have attention to detail and be able to focus on what you are doing.”
You also must be a quick learner, using past knowledge to work on newer phones. Retail skills are very important too, and it doesn’t hurt to be friendly.
“If you find it rewarding to solve problems, this may be the type of job you might want to get into,” he says.
Where to begin
Once you’ve decided that cell phone repair might be the job for you, you need to learn how to do it.
MD Wireless offers a four-day training course. The hands-on instruction covers basic repair for different types of cell phones, a day devoted to iPhones, an introduction to microsoldering and information on how to set up a business, create a business plan and get parts. The classes are small, and the tuition is $1,000.
Other hands-on classes are offered by:
- Wild PCS Cellular Repair Training Center in Las Vegas
- Cell Phone Repair Academy in Chicago
- CellBotics Performance Training Center in Atlanta
- Wireless Training Center in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Toronto
With tons of Internet resources these days, is it possible to learn cell phone repair for free online?
“It’s possible, but you don’t really have the help. You can go on YouTube, but it’s sometimes difficult to get answers to questions. It’s also possible to get misinformation online,” says Rubio. “We only have two or three people or even one person in our classes. So it’s one-on-one.”
He also said that once people take a course, they can go online to learn more in-depth information.
There are multiple sites with tutorials about cell phone repair. Some are free, and some cost money. Here are a couple of the better examples:
Udemy – Udemy has a variety of cell phone repair courses, including some that are free.
ifixit – The ifixit website includes an incredible number of easy-to-follow instructions on how to fix specific cell phones. Once you understand the basics, this is an invaluable resource.
Planning the business side
After gaining knowledge of, and experience in, repairing phones, it’s time to try to make money.
It’s possible to do this in several ways. You may want to approach existing cell phone repair shops to see if they need any extra help. Doing that will increase your experience level, if they decide to hire you.
Or you might decide to go out on your own from the beginning. There are two ways to start your own business. The easiest and cheapest way is to start small, and do it yourself.
“If you’re doing it yourself, you might need from $2,000 to $5,000,” says Rubio. That would be used to buy tools and parts for the various phones you expect to fix and expenses related to the vehicle used for the business.
“To advertise, most people post stuff on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and OfferUp, and tell their friends. And they do their repairs in their home. Or in a car or a van with a stable flat surface,” Rubio says.
Once you get some experience, it’s possible to set up a store, which, according to Rubio, will cost between $20,000 and $40,000. And when you decide to open a store, he recommends carefully checking the demographics of the places you’re considering for the location of that store.
Large cities have a lot of competition, but if you were to open a store in a city of 50,000 to 100,000 in population without much else around for another 50 miles or so, you would have a good chance of succeeding, he says.
Marketing is crucial to success
Keep in mind that, like all businesses, marketing is key. You may be the best cell phone repair person around, but if you can’t attract customers, then you won’t be successful. A lot of business, at least at the beginning, may come from word of mouth, whether through friends and family, or satisfied customers.
You also need to create a marketing plan that may involve a variety of tactics but should include a website, social media (a Facebook page, for example), flyers or brochures, and business cards to hand out to people you meet. You may also want to join your local chamber of commerce, especially if you’re in a smaller city or town. This will offer lots of networking opportunities and a chance to get to know other businesses that might refer work to you.
Some cell phone repair technicians partner with someone who can do the marketing for them, so they can concentrate on what they do best – fix phones.
Editor’s note: At this year’s Global Homeboy Network Gathering, we discovered Cracked it, a London-based nonprofit that, like Jails to Jobs, is a member of the network. A unique social enterprise, Cracked It operates a five-day repair bootcamp that teaches formerly incarcerated young people and at-risk youth between the ages of 16 and 24 how to repair cell phones and create a business doing so.