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View Full Version : Time to put a price tag on your services...



amingv
April 17th, 2009, 05:26 AM
Hi everyone, for a while now I have been pondering about something and I just can't get around to thinking an answer that satisfies me.

For as far as I can remember, I have tried to offer computer assistance to whoever asked for it, helping them with as little knowledge as I have and learning a lot in the process. Of course, this has always been a free service, even to people who aren't necessarily my friends/related to me: I just enjoy it that much.

Now I have gone back to college, after a short hiatus for reasons beyond my control, and as I come back to my hometown some of the people I used to help have promoted me as a responsible guy who works decently well (although I'm sure they're just being nice). I figure since I'm in college again any little profit I can make from helping people can help me stay on books, courses, etc, which to me seems like a neat idea, but there's the problem: I find it so very difficult to put a price tag on the services I offer that is both ethical and profitable.

I've made some calls to PC shops to estimate an average of prices for computer repair (which to them seems to consist in wiping the HD and reinstalling windows without even trying to fix the problem at all), and though very profitable I just can't bring myself to ask for those ridiculous amounts to a customer.
I recently set up an Internet Cafe from scratch for a NGO, and though it's hard work I decided keeping the bill low was the thing to do (The Internet Cafe is to provide service to children/students and to offer language/computer courses), but the decision is often not too simple when I work for other people or friends of friends.

All this boring buildup is just to ask you: what concept should I take into account when deciding what to charge to a customer for my services?
If you own a PC shop or work as a freelancer, should I just follow the prices on the market (however ridiculous) or am I just thinking too much about it?

Please in your answer explain if you talk as a service provider or as a customer, I'd really appreciate some light on this.

BGFG
April 17th, 2009, 06:36 AM
Just be fair to yourself. It takes us a good few years in some cases to acquire the knowledge that many take for granted and that knowledge IS worth something. Tailoring a system to JUST work for someone can take some doing.

At the end of the day, IT guys have bills to pay just like everyone else. Neighbors and friends of friends can be a pain, but if you don't switch on the professional when it comes down to business, you'll be caught where i was for a while and just be a broke guy doing favours.

better to be respected as a businessman than taken advantage of as a friend.

iponeverything
April 17th, 2009, 07:01 AM
I was flexible on this. Work for individuals or friends was based distance amount of time spent and difficultly of the problem and whether or not I actually solved the problem. If I didn't know or particularly link the person -- I would not do the work at all. Sometimes if I didn't know them, I would call them first to get a feel and decide. Life is way to sort to even waste a minute on some people. Once I went into a place as a favour and realized quickly that this person was going to a PITA, I told them "look, I am not the right person for this job - and don't have any suggestions" -- Generally it was just flat $20 or $50 -- just so they didn't feel like they were taking advantage of me. If I was doing work for a non-profit that I liked and the scope was limited (decommission a exchange server, secure the network or install a backup system) many times I would do the work for the cost of the plane ticket and hotel + $20/day )

For Businesses, even home based, I did a flat rate that varied from $30/hr to $75/hr depending on the type of work and the business. Security and big brother type stuff had the highest rate.

Keep in mind that I also had a good job at the time so money was not a big deal. If I didn't have a job the structure would have been totally different.

I think that the most important thing is to set expectations. Make a quick assessment and tell them up front -- here is what I think - and here are options based on that assumption -- and here is the likely cost for each option.

Icehuck
April 17th, 2009, 07:07 AM
Price yourself 10% lower then what the local repair shops charge. This way it makes it seem like your service is a better deal. Make yourself some business cards and get some referrals. You can make a bunch of pocket money while getting your degree.

I currently charge $120 to come out to a person's house which covers the first hour. After that it is $80 per hour of work afterwards. I do this for two reasons:

1) I'm an IT Professional and after 8-12 hours a day doing my normal job, the last thing I want to do is fix someone's computer.

2) If you need the repairs you'll pay it or you can take your chances with the kid at the local retail store/repair shop.

sideaway
April 17th, 2009, 07:29 AM
I'm at University (or College) and freelance my skills, I have a little system.

I've been doing this for 3/4 years, and initially I charged out my services for $30 for a callout, that covers the first hour, then $20 every hour after that. If it was dropped off, I charged based on the difficulty on the job. You just have to use your judgement, average job came out to around $60 per computer, I suggest getting yourself a dual port monitor (or two) and a KVM switch.

I generally insist on them dropping the computer off, as I can get a lot more done.

Also take e-mails - e-mail them when you're avaliable (if you go away for college/uni etc). It's a great way to get consistent clients that you enjoy dealing with, they'll have you round for just a computer check up, it's a really easy thirty bucks.

Now it's a minimum charge of $40 with $30 from every hour after that if they don't want to drop it off. and just charge on the difficulty of the problem if dropped off.

amingv
April 17th, 2009, 04:36 PM
Thanks for the replies so far. They certainly have illustrated me on some points.

Can you give me some parameters for pricing small-easy jobs though? (those that take some 10-15 minutes tops to fix and that shouldn't even need my assistance in the first place). I always drift in space like an idiot when some big eyed user asks me what do they owe me for updating their antivirus and running a scan... it's like they're begging me to rip them off.

I've learned to never estate to a customer if the problem in question was simple or hard, but how should the really easy ones be judged for pricing?

Bodsda
April 17th, 2009, 04:46 PM
Ive always gone with pricing for time and expertise rather then the problem. but never be more expensive then a repair shop. Perhaps have a guide of (PC World - 20%) or (If you can find it cheaper I'l lower my price)

Therion
April 17th, 2009, 04:47 PM
$50 = "Popping the hood" +1 hour of my time.

$30 an hour thereafter.

Charge by the hour, not the job. The latter will come back to HAUNT you, I promise.

Edit: Forgot to mention... I also do (what I call) a "Fluff & Buff". This is your basic clean, scan and defrag of a Windows OS. I have my own personal choice of tools for this job that I know work well but choose your own and decide how far you want to take things. The idea is that you're running a battery of applications like one or more AV scanners, an anti-malware, a registry cleaner, crap remover, etc. and then do updates and such. The stuff they should be doing weekly/monthly but probably aren't. If you can write batch files this operation can be all but fully automated so even though it can take several hours, I charge less for it since I don't have to babysit it.

This is real bread-butter stuff and has paid for more than one rebuild over the years.

beercz
April 17th, 2009, 11:15 PM
I do freelance work and I charge 25 per hour.

I-75
April 18th, 2009, 12:03 AM
Open Source Software price tag

http://www.sdtimes.com/BIG_INVESTMENTS_IN_OPEN_SOURCE/About_BLACKDUCK_and_OPENSOURCE/33421


$387 Billion Dollars

lisati
April 18th, 2009, 12:09 AM
You might want to take into account who the work is for and cost of basic materials (e.g. any CDs you need to burn)

I tend not to worry too much about charging close family for stuff I do for them but for everyone else, as long as any reasonable costs are covered, with a little left over, I'm happy.

doas777
April 18th, 2009, 12:27 AM
I insist that they drop if off at my place, preferably early friday evening (so I still have plenty of time to parrrrty).

I usually charge $20 for simple stuff and $50 for backup nuke and rebuild (they know that they are responsible for reinstalling apps and devices, unless they drop them off too).

If they need parts, i usually select them sit with them and assist in the ordering, and install them when they arrive.

The most i have charged for labor on a box has been 80$, but often folks pay me 50 when I say 20 so it works. For some of the employees of the dept I support at work are the most underpaid folks in the building, so money is often tight for them. I'll occasionally finance parts for folks, with payment plans, or do simple stuff pro bono.

above all else, this is not a business. I am not doing this for fiscal enrichment, but as a hobby/favor to the people in my life. I expect the same understanding in return however. I do the work on my timetable, i take no liability, and there are no warranties.

if your trying to make money, this is not the way to do it. but it is a good way to get to know coworkers out of the office, accumulate favors, and in general help folks out.

best regards,
franklin

Icehuck
April 18th, 2009, 12:31 AM
I forgot to mention this in my previous post. Get yourself a laptop and some sort of imaging software. This way after you rebuild the machine you can easily restore it to its original state(in case of dying HD) or make restore CD's for your customer. It will make your life easier in the long run and it also makes you look good in your customers eyes.

Also point out that your prices are for cash paying customers only. If they want to pay by check, invoice them for more money. Paying by check usually means they want to write it off for taxes which means you have to claim it as income. I would double those prices or increase them by at least 75%. I'm not telling you not to claim it as income if you get paid cash. Just showing you where you can charge more money.

If you are doing work for a business you should at least double your rate. If you only charge a couple hundred dollars they won't even bat an eye at the price.

Firestem4
April 18th, 2009, 12:43 AM
I had very much the same problem as the OP. I have a continually hard time trying to judge how much my time and work are worth to myself and others.

When it comes to friends, relatives, even clients on a professional level. I am sure all of you understand, how easy of a task it is for us to do a simple reformat of the operating system. It is menial to me...How can I expect 50 bucks for that? (Just using a random number, not any real statistic im sure).

I also fail to realize just how long i've spent acquiring all of this knowledege... Literally in my case: my entire life. I have been self-taught since day 1.

However this doesn't affect me too much as I don't do much freelance work. I would like to but I am hoping my current part-time job expands to a more permanent basis as was originally concieved.

(By the way I am 19 years old, no college, no certifications, no work experience except for my current job. I have only my word to back me up on my skill. So - talk about an upward battle)

doas777
April 18th, 2009, 01:10 AM
I had very much the same problem as the OP. I have a continually hard time trying to judge how much my time and work are worth to myself and others.

When it comes to friends, relatives, even clients on a professional level. I am sure all of you understand, how easy of a task it is for us to do a simple reformat of the operating system. It is menial to me...How can I expect 50 bucks for that? (Just using a random number, not any real statistic im sure).

I also fail to realize just how long i've spent acquiring all of this knowledege... Literally in my case: my entire life. I have been self-taught since day 1.

However this doesn't affect me too much as I don't do much freelance work. I would like to but I am hoping my current part-time job expands to a more permanent basis as was originally concieved.

(By the way I am 19 years old, no college, no certifications, no work experience except for my current job. I have only my word to back me up on my skill. So - talk about an upward battle)

I've been exactly where you are at. At the time I would have looked askance at anyone who recommended what I am about to recomend to you, but it may save you a few years on you path, so here goes:

if your in the US, fill out a fasfa and enroll in your local community college. even if you just take a few tech classes, it'll be worthwhile. apply your passion to go beyond the curriculum. There is a lot more to a formal education that is apparent on a degree audit, and it'll change your life. it sure as heck did mine.

best regards,
franklin

amingv
April 18th, 2009, 06:03 AM
Thanks for the answers, I'll try to take them into account.

As I expected, it seems like there isn't an easy way to price services, but I think I can better judge some situations now...

To those who also gave me some advice on how to improve my service/efficiency, thank you as well.