Servers

10 mistakes that rookie IT consultants make

IT consulting is a tough, competitive field, and there are ample opportunities to mishandle the job. Erik Eckel offers some cautionary advice for IT consultants who are just starting out.

IT consulting is a difficult, complex industry. I've seen numerous competitors enter the market, only to fail. Everyone from large electronic chains (does anyone remember CompUSA's business consulting effort or Circuit City's Firedog initiative?) to local independents have come and gone. Despite frighteningly large marketing budgets (including symposium sponsorships, television commercials, and print advertising), complex marketing strategies, splashy fleet vehicles, and eerie team-building propaganda, competitors often fail within just months.

And there's a reason. IT consulting is a dynamic, ever-changing industry that requires practitioners to maintain multiple skills. Rapid technological shifts frequently change the way you work, the tools you use, and the operational procedures you require. To meet that challenge and stay in the game, you must learn early on how to avoid some of the more preventable pitfalls. Here are 10 mistakes that consultants often make when they're starting out.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download. Also, this article was originally published in TechRepublic's 10 Things blog.

1: Underestimating total project time

None of us is perfect. Unforeseen issues always arise. There are no "simple" projects. Consultants must take those issues into account when preparing project cost estimates.

The very first time I ever estimated a simple Windows Small Business Server rollout for a client with seven employees in two locations, I budgeted eight hours to "deploy the server." In developing my estimate, I included time to unbox and install the server, set up DNS, configure the VPN, join the second location to the VPN, register the domain name, configure MX records, create data shares, set permissions, and configure and test email accounts. Let's just say it took longer.

New consultants must be particularly careful to review project plans before settling on a final estimate that is forwarded to the client. Such estimates should be first run by veteran IT staff for feedback whenever possible.

2: Failing to properly document project scope

Why did my first server deploy take longer? In conversations with the client, when discussing the project, I was focused on the tasks associated with deploying the server. The client already had a peer-to-peer network in place. I saw my role as simply dropping the server on the network, joining workstations to the domain, configuring a VPN to give a remote but key employee data access, and introducing email.

But the client thought a "server deployment" included installing a couple network printers with network scanning functionality, upgrading Microsoft Office software on eight workstations, implementing site-wide antivirus, and other tasks. Such disconnects are the IT consultant's fault.

Clients are not technology experts. It is the consultant's responsibility to ensure that the client's business needs and objectives are understood and that the technology deployed matches them. Whenever estimating a project now, I provide clients with a project plan that lists specific bullet points. I don't just state "deploy server," "configure DNS," etc., as most clients don't know what that even means. Instead, before starting a project, I go through a project plan with the client that reviews tasks I will perform and the specific functionality those tasks will provide ("Users will store their files on the server's X drive," All users will send/receive email using Microsoft Outlook 2007 on their desktop workstations," "A new network printer will enable scanning documents and storing them over the network to a Z drive hosted on the new server," etc.).

3: Underestimating hardware costs

Just as it's easy to underestimate the time and labor required to properly complete a project, hardware costs frequently become a source of trouble. Here's one common scenario: An IT consultant specifies a particular gigabit switch or router when assembling a project budget using a temporary price because a vendor is offering promotional pricing (and the temporary price cut may NOT be evident when researching pricing). Or a server configuration may be priced using unique components. Ten days may pass before the client approves the purchase. Then, when the consultant proceeds to order the items, the server configuration and promotional pricing (or both!) are no longer available.

I see it all the time, even with one leading Texas-based computer vendor's promise of 30-day price locks. And I've yet to see one of these changes work in the consultant's favor. Whenever preparing project estimates, always note that hardware costs are subject to change. Be sure, too, to always include shipping costs in estimates. Clients should find no surprises when receiving a final invoice, but if the consultant neglects to include shipping costs in preliminary conversations, such fees will prove problematic.

4: Trying to master all technologies

An IT consultant cannot master all the technologies clients require. It's not going to happen. Some busy consultants will service three or four clients a day. There's no way that consultant is going to develop comprehensive expertise with all the myriad applications clients wield, such as Dentrix (dental), Timberline (accounting), QuickBooks (financial management), Intergy (physician practice), Act (database), Prolog (project management), Aloha (restaurant), and SEMCI Partner (insurance), as well as routing platforms (Cisco, SonicWALL, WatchGuard, etc.), Windows desktop and server operating systems, antivirus solutions, Exchange email, and others.

Determine which platforms you'll master. Then make sure you know who to call for assistance when troubleshooting problems with the remainder. Whether you're contacting the software manufacturer or another consultant to assist when servicing a platform with which you don't have expertise, you're performing a service for the client. Ultimately, clients typically don't care that you know every nuance of every program - they just want a dependable partner they can call when they encounter technology issues.

5: Waiting to send invoices

Consultants, especially those starting a new business, are particularly eager to jump on new projects. It's seemingly best to always be billing. Given the choice between taking downtime to develop and mail invoices or go onsite to complete another service call, rookie consultants almost always favor knocking out additional service calls. But there's no cash flow when invoices aren't going out.

New consultants must schedule time, daily whenever possible, to write and distribute invoices. A CPA client gave me great advice. He recommended I always send invoices within a day of completing work. He told me studies reveal customer satisfaction is highest when invoices are received quickly.

It makes sense. Every day a consultant delays sending an invoice, clients forget a little more the pressing need that demanded the repair or service. When bills arrive three weeks or a month later, cash flow not only suffers, but customers are more likely to believe charges are excessive. This is because the business and operations interruptions and resulting trauma and downtime the consultant corrected have been forgotten.

6: Scheduling too many calls

When planning a typical workday, consultants should schedule one or two hours of time for every hour billed. Essentially, that means two to four service calls are the most that can be reasonably accommodated on any given day. A fair rule of thumb is that each member of an IT consultancy traveling onsite to resolve client issues should bill 20 to 25 hours per week. Any more than that, and you begin stretching resources too thin.

When scheduling client calls (I aim for four billable hours per day, which I have consistently met for years), you must include time for administrative and operational work. Numerous tasks require a consultant's attention, including managing payroll, accounting, QuickBooks data entry, internal IT, advertising, and marketing tasks.

7: Failing to market the business

Rookie consultants, whether working for a firm they own or as an employee within a consultancy, typically strive to maximize billable hours. The desire for billable hours sometimes comes at the expense of obtaining new clients and chasing larger projects. These consultants should do more than just report to work and service existing clients. They must take time to attend BNI, chamber, Rotary, and other networking meetings. They should distribute business cards at every opportunity.

Some consultants don't believe they have time for additional marketing responsibilities. That's a common mistake. The fact is, many business networking events end before 8:00 AM, so there's no excuse for new consultants not rise early and attend networking events before their regular work day begins. Recently, a longtime friend and insurance agent reminded me that, by scheduling 7:00 AM and 7:30 AM meetings every day, he's opened an additional 250 meetings a year on his calendar. That's impressive.

8: Overlooking travel costs

Many consultants, especially those new to consulting, don't realize the costs of travel time. Traffic is expensive. Very.

Consider the facts. If an IT consultant charges $115 an hour for onsite commercial work, and traveling to client sites consumes just six hours a week (it's likely much more), the opportunity cost of traffic and travel time to the consultant exceeds $30,000 annually.

Those costs must be captured. Typically, IT consultancies capture them in the form of onsite service fees, inflated first-half-hour rates, or other surcharges. Just this past week, a plumber completed work at my residence. The bill included a $35 "truck fee." That's nothing but fair. In addition to paying for fuel and wear-and-tear on a fleet vehicle, the plumbing shop needs to cover the time spent traveling to my home.

New IT consultants must remember to charge 30% to 40% more than their regular onsite rate for the first half-hour or simply add a flat-rate callout fee.

9: Charging too little

There's a natural temptation, especially among new technology consultants, to believe the rates they charge are expensive. But running a business costs money, lots of it, and technology solutions are complex. Consultants must remember that their expertise, and the delivery of onsite service especially, possess great value. Hourly onsite support rates vary from $85 to $125 or more per hour. But that doesn't mean a new consultant must charge just $85 per hour.

To the contrary. Local market conditions are usually the largest factor. The costs of delivering services is higher in Boston, where taxes, fees, parking, and other expenses are naturally higher than in Louisville, KY, where the costs of living are less. Thus, an IT consultant in Boston should expect to earn a higher hourly rate than a consultant in Louisville.

10: Working Saturdays

Technology consultants operate within a pressure-packed environment. This is likely the single greatest factor I underestimated when opening my own consulting shop almost four years ago.

Most clients don't call for help before critical systems fail. Instead, they wait. Then they try to fix it themselves. Next, they enlist the assistance of the local computer geek on staff. Often, the consultant is called only after these efforts - and those of the business owners' friends, colleagues, and neighbors - have failed to resolve the problem. As a result, IT consultants spend much of their time running from raging and complicated fires to blisteringly complex crises. It is fatiguing work. Many days, my technicians and I are physically and mentally exhausted by 2:00 PM.

Inevitably, clients request that consultants work weekends. I almost always say no. It's not that I so feverishly guard my personal time. Instead, as I mature and spend more time within the industry, I've come to understand the importance of approaching complicated issues with a fresh mind and properly fed body (of which I'm not making light; too often my staff and I must skip lunch because of new-client crises). How many times have you struggled with a complicated Windows issue at 1:00 AM, only to quickly solve it the next morning after getting some sleep and a decent breakfast?

The same principle is true within a consulting firm. Rookie consultants must take time to help their bodies, physically and mentally, recover from the rigors of their profession. That means minimizing weekend work, for better or for worse.

What works for you?

My office staff and I are passionate about technology. We truly enjoy diagnosing and repairing technology problems for clients. But the work is stressful, administrative tasks can prove maddening, and some days are more rewarding than others. What tips or tricks have you discovered that help technology consultants run smoother operations? Post your comments below.

About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

60 comments
Erik Eckel
Erik Eckel

Some readers have added interesting comments on rates. Naturally, in large metropolitan areas, hourly rates may rise to $130 to $150 or more per hour. But, having talked to many consultants throughout at least the United States, I think it's rare that commercial IT services are delivered for much less than $100 an hour. It's kind of hard to pay salaries, fuel and telecommunications bills and other business-related expenses when charging any less, even if you're in a rural area.

ahusmc
ahusmc

This is some of the best basic consulting advice I???ve heard in some time. Thank you!

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

Some will steal your clients right from under you. Had an experience where a friend of mine had a contract that we worked on together. He haphazardly did the "phonebook" approach and found a guy who was expert in a particular technology. Next thing that happened is that admin passwords were changed and the account was gone. Moral of the story is only subcontract to people you know and trust because your reputation is on the line and they are less likely to try to steal your contracts. If you have to go outside of your trusted circle, make the sub sign a non-compete agreement with this particular client.

seaport
seaport

I've made #1 and #2 in several projects. What I learned was that #1 and #2 are like two sides of one coin. So I document project scope and the estimated time for each task and use that document to respond to my boss' pressure. Also, very important, I update that document after the project is done. It takes a learning process to make a good estimate.

rpnadal08
rpnadal08

I agree with most of what you wrote about Erik, but, unless your a IT consultant is a big metropolitan area can does fees be supported. The new guy who is reading this and starting up in the IT field will get the wrong impression on what he should be charging. Most of your rural small cities can not support such fees on a continuing base. As an IT yes you have to stay on top of you game, but, you also have to stay on top of the financial demographics of your area, if you're going to run your own business. There is more to this game then just been a top notch IT person! Some questions you must ask yourself; 1: Should I open a store front? 2: Or should open an office front? 3: How much working capital I need? 4: How much realistically can I afford? 5: What should I charge and how much can my area support? 6: Should I carry a basic stuck of parts or order as need it? In today's bad economy the IT person has to be very business savvy or else he will go by the way of the DODO Bird. For example the area I support the most that can be charged per hour is $35, oh I could go higher, but, after 27 plus years, I have watch my competition come in and go out! Work with you clients and always meet them halfway in the price game.

gechurch
gechurch

That's a great article Eric. I'm still guilty of basically all of those 'sins'! I might have to show #6 to my boss! He works full-time on a contract with a government department that loves spending on IT. We've sent some ridiculously large invoices their way.I'm not even convinced they read them before paying. Suffice to say he doesn't have to justify his time. On the other hand I have to account for basically every minute of the day, and he is disappointed if I'm not billing at least 80% of my time.

SamFrench
SamFrench

When it comes to hardware purchases, I am all abouut the client taking care of that themselves. I'll do the spec, I'll recommend vendors, and I'll even do a spreadsheet of comparitive pricing if that's what they want to spend their money on. Most of the companies I work with have their own purchasing process and their own people to do it. Not only that, but when the stuff comes in, invariably it has to be asset tagged before it disappears into the data center where most people from the accounting dept. aren't allowed. I'm also a huge fan of adding a "spare parts" inventory to most large orders. Things like hard drives, monitors, lengths of Cat-5 cable and 4 port hubs are always needed on-the-fly and if you're ordering a lot of other stuff from the same vendor, a lot of money can be saved by throwing a few more things on the list. The biggest mistake I made when I first started out was not documenting behind myself. TAKE NOTES AS YOU GO. YOU'LL NEVER REGRET HAVING DONE IT!!

supersum
supersum

Many of these mistakes generally happen as a consulting project get larger and the firm grows. Its difficult to manage a business when you first are starting out. If a seasoned consultant makes these mistakes then i would not call them seasoned.

khayes84
khayes84

Great post. as a professional what types of relationships do you need to establish with vendors to order parts for customers or how do you get your consulting firm started the right way?

AFloresH
AFloresH

I would rather say immature IT Consultants, and also as an addition to point number 4, not only trying to master many technologies but asking only one person to become the ultimate guru without even let them to train a little... for the sake of the market

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Not on 1. I usually give time estimate that fits a comfortable workload, unless the client says up front it's a rush job. Sometimes they say "Yeah, we needed it in a hurry, so we got someone else", and they couldn't have told me about the rush beforehand? Oh well, it's their loss, too ;)

LewSauder
LewSauder

Erik, this is a great list for new consultants. Some of the other things that will insure their success is remembering the soft skills of consulting. For instance, developing a relationship with the client, taking time to understand their business and their issues allows them to develop trust and develop a rapport where they may turn to you for additional business. You touched on it with estimating and scope, but it's very important to manage the client's expectations so they always know what to expect from you and so you can occasionally exceed their expectations. A consultant should also maintain a professional image with the client in areas of dress, communication, meeting management, etc. Lew Sauder, Author, Consulting 101: 101 Tips For Success in Consulting (www.Consulting101Book.com)

e_caroline
e_caroline

This is a great article. I have run an onsite income tax business for 30 years that also tends to fall over into some IT work every so often. I've got dual citizenship so to speak... fully qualified in taxation and in IT-of-the-small-biz-sort. I tended to serve mom&pop businesses where accounting & taxes and the computer-or-two were intimately connected "problems". I also found myself giving advice to startups where all of these points were part of the "standard lectures"... that always include a lot of "Don't forget to charge for ...." and "Don't forget to allow for...." type points. Every one of these points applies to any kind of consultancy... in a general sense. It is great to see them collected in one place. This list with reasonably obvious adaptations could apply to a whole range of on-site service professions.

maclovin
maclovin

This is for ALL admins. I almost cried when I read the part about sleeping and waking up the next morning and figuring out the problem quickly. I can't count the number of times this has happened. And, so I have really been cutting back on the number of CRAZY hours (trying to anyway) I've been working. When in doubt, WALK AWAY. That's no joke. Then come back, and you'll figure it out, OR find another way around it. If people are yelling at you, politely (I know it's hard) let them know of the complexity of the issue and explain that it would be easier to solve 12 hours from now, rather than taking 13 hours total fixing it. This sounds impossible for many things, but just use discretion.

mjh2901
mjh2901

Take Lunch breaks and sign off at the end of the day and come back in the morning is one of the most important things to do. You have no idea how many mind killing issues have been fixed while sitting at a restaurant for an hour during lunch, or the solution comes to you in the shower the next morning. Always bill enough to take the client or that one tech savvy guy that tried to fix the problem out to lunch, its amazing how often they wind up telling you some small piece of information over a low pressure lunch time conversation that places you on the proper track for the fix.... Money and time well spent.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

I've seen otherwise "seasoned" consultants make some of these mistakes, too.

Marshall_70
Marshall_70

physically and mentally exhausted by 2pm? Yup, you're in IT.

dsocall
dsocall

What a great article and advice. I am thinking of going back to business for myself soon and have found a lot of value in your suggestions.

ccie5000
ccie5000

Excellent summary. In one short article you've captured consulting wisdom that could take an individual months or years to learn - or that he might never learn on his own. Well done.

chowwk
chowwk

"But the client thought a ?server deployment? included ... Such disconnects are the IT consultant?s fault" I disagree with the above statement in some scenarios. I have worked with customers who knew what they were buying would not meet their full requirement. For instance, buying a SIEM and expecting it to detect ALL server vulerabilities. The fault, in my opinion, lies in sales staff not being conversant with matching the equipment's capabilities to the customer's requirement. In this case, if I were the Sales person providing the solution and quote, I would have simply advised them that nothing in the world exists to meet that requirement, especially with the budget they had in mind.

johnson90512
johnson90512

Great blog! Just curious, but what would you suggest I set an hourly rate, I don't have an official business, but I do go out and make repairs to people that need it. Any and all advertising is done by word of mouth

gechurch
gechurch

I can't say I see this as much of a risk. You bring in someone else for specialist jobs that are outside of your base of knowledge. It's not very likely that the person who has specialised in the skill you need will also be a generalist that can do all of the things you can do. If they are, it either means they are brilliant (and brilliant people are unlikely to need to steal clients) or it means the skills you have are easily attainable, in which case you aren't offering much to the client, so they are likely to look elsewhere. The other aspect of this is the consultant-client relationship. If the client was willing to go with the new guy over you then the relationship can't have been a strong one. If that's the case, blaming the 'other guy' is just an excuse. I have actually found bringing in other companies to be a great way to get new clients. We have picked up new, long-term clients from a printer/stationary supplier, a local IT shop, our accountant, network cablers, a phone provider and a video conferencing company. All of those are complementary fields, so there is little chance of losing a client. It's mutually beneficial, and it benefits the client too because they are getting the best service for all their needs.

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

Are you running a charity? $35/hr says to me that you're "Joe Jeans and Laptop" just making some extra money on the side. This discussion is about serious FULL-TIME IT consulting.

gechurch
gechurch

I'm not sure that I agree. Anyone who is very good at what they are doing will be able to charge good rates and remain busy. There are plenty of businesses that understand you get what you pay for and are happy to put their money where their mouth is. The problem of course is that if you are just starting out, no-one will know how brilliant you are. If you are in that position, generally you have to start by competing on price, then build up once you have established yourself. I think that's obvious; if any new guy read this article and thought they could start a new business and charge inflated prices before being established, well they can't be too savvy and is therefore doomed to disaster anyway. I am amazed to see you cite the $35 price for labour. I am lucky to live somewhere virtually unaffected by the GFC, so I don't grasp the scope of what is going on in America. I just don't see how that can be viable though. $35 barely covers costs. I guess that's good enough for some businesses at the moment; just keep afloat until the storm passes. Still, a consulting company with decent staff should be able to pull in far more than this though. Many businesses are relying on consultants more because they have sacked their permanent staff. Surely there's good money to be made by good people??

johnmalaney
johnmalaney

I have found that a key to avoiding scope creep is to document the out of scope areas as well as in scope. Clarifying scope and adjusting it before the project starts is far simpler than 60% of the way through, Plus if scope genuinly needs to increase the client is more likely to accept a price adjustment up-front.

e_caroline
e_caroline

When people offer you that kind of excuse for "getting someone else"... it is often the polite social white lie. What it can mean is "We don't know what we are doing and some rank almost-an-amateur with a line of hooey came along and offered to do it cheaper. This often means their kid is home from college and thinks he (and it usually some guy rather than a woman who will do this)is an IT wizard because he managed to download tunes onto his iPod without crashing it... and has been walked through an OS upgrade by tech support.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

I would guess that translation projects are a bit easier to estimate than software development. Human languages change only so quickly.

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

This reminds me of a guy I work with who gets like a squirrel on crack when things go wrong. He doesn't mind staying until midnight pulling out his hair and pulling cables and yelling at me on the phone to come and help him. I'm the type that likes to analyze the problem in a calm, relaxing environment and attack it early the next morning. In my career it has never served me well to stay late and lose sleep when I can just go to sleep and just come in a couple hours early and knock the problem the hell out.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Yes, I agree. The "fresh perspective", however obtained, is often the key piece of the puzzle.

Lockhunt
Lockhunt

I've been pleased with AT&T's network coverage and support services. I haven't heard anything good about Verizon's support services. ............................................ www.debtmanagementplan.co.uk

reisen55
reisen55

Travel costs is something to consider, and one way around it is to try to cluster accounts within a given area. I have three clients in the same single medical building in Orange County NY so visiting 3 for the price of 1 trip is a huge economy. They, in effect, pay for each other. And whenever possible REMOTE into your servers and stations to save travel time. Hardware should never be lower-cost purchase. I never like to purchase hardware FOR my clients but prefer to have my clients give me funds in advance and then I purchase. Secondly, some consultants like to add-on to a purchase, i.e. a 1 terabyte Hard Drive for $100 when it costs $50. That may make money but at a dangerous, very dangerous, cost IF the client should ever discover the real cost and that is pretty damn easy to do. Takes one phone call or a net search. Why run the risk? I assume hardware to = a project to do and THAT is where I make my money and it is far easier to bill profit into TIME rather than straight cost. So it takes an hour longer. Looks clean and honest. Agree on Saturdays BUT weekend time is often the BEST time for on-site work IF you have key and codes to your client's offices. It is quiet and peaceful. Take THAT as a blessing too. You can also down servers without causing meltdowns.

biancaluna
biancaluna

I have seen these mistakes within IT outsourcers as well. Isn't it interesting how the same pitfalls apply - estimating, scope, documentation, terminology, billing are similar whether it is a one person consultancy, a small company or a large company.

Too Old For IT
Too Old For IT

I used to work for a consultancy where every person who called was a customer no matter what. After numerous misunderstandings and mistakes (mostly because the boss and most of the customers felt the need to hover and rush), and some project management experience, I like to think I've grown and improved my bids. I like to use real project management software to gather information and prepare bids. My bids also include an upcharge at full rate for administration of change orders. You mean that changing the project to take away updating software will have an additional cost? Yes I do. For the change. This also prevents adding in things that were merely assumed (printers, updated software, additional software) from bogging you down. I charge extra for having a shadow, reporting to finance, answering non-technical questions and so forth. If you want to hover around within earshot and gripe about how long it takes and how much it costs, fine. The rate is $1,500 an hour, minimum 1 hour, and is in addition to the time I spend actually doing my job. Right there on the bid. Same if you want to start each conversation with "I always have trouble with computer guys". I am not your bartender, shrink, auditor, wingman or business networking buddy. I'm here to fix your IT problem, and I hope you will call me back BEFORE your nephew Ted gets his hands on it next time.

bazza20
bazza20

I'm in Australia so maybe charges are different. I charge $120 per hour for business customers. This is at the low end of the professional scale, although I know of younger consultants who charge as little as $45 per hour. I'll sometimes bill for less hours than I actually work if I consider I should have been able to finish a job more quickly. I make sure the invoice shows the total hours as well as the reduced billed hours. For home users I maintain the nominal billing rate but try to add extra value by installing updates and cleaning up a system without additional charge. I don't do any advertising and get enough new customers from word-of-mouth to keep me working at the level I want.

Realvdude
Realvdude

The other posts show where and who your market is influences what you can/should charge. My consulting has always been side work, for everyone to from family to acquaintances; so my rate is from zero to twice my fulltime job rate. Most the time I charge between $25 and $50/hr. If you intend to consult on a more public basis, make sure you are charging market rates. This will help any rework or under esitimate jobs you may end up absorbing the time on.

cpr
cpr

Find out what your competition is charging for their services. I often provide a discount (30 - 50 percent) for new clients or services that I am not familiar with. In this manner, I am not under-cutting myself or a client (it's amazing how business relationships are inter-twinded).

mudgie
mudgie

I start at $125 per hour with a trip charge based on google map distance (four tiered rates). I'm in the Chicago area, you may need to settle for less if you're in a less intense environment. Here's a thought - aim high and be willing to bend a little. It's hard to raise rates down the road, though you could spell it out at the outset, i.e. "This contract labor rate is valid until 12/31/2010". If you settle for $100/hour, you already have a day on the calendar when it'll increase to $125.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

... was never. I started at $40 in 1991, and that was even too low then.

biancaluna
biancaluna

You have no idea how recognisable this is, I had to laugh and then remembered some realy painful lessons. I find it somewhat comforting these are global experiences, thanks for sharing.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

True... on the other hand, I can't know how tricky the terminology is going to be before I've prepped the text. And I guess IT-consultants aren't in as fast-paced a bidding mill as translators. It's annoying.

biancaluna
biancaluna

Ah great point, and that is a mistake I have seen in consultants - the absence of change control. Even for small clients and small consultancy companies, you need to apply some form of change control and document what you are doing. Weekends are often the change windows, so sometimes you need to work on the weekends. Worked for a while in deploying practice management systems, things can go horribly wrong if you think you can just walk in on the weekend and pull out the cables. From a purchasing perspective, when I was doing small stuff, I would apply a procurement fee, and agree that in the contract. A set fee. The real cost on the internet may not be your price to purchase anyway, so you need to be clear what margin or fees you will be applying if you purchase hardware on behalf of the client. Yep they can get a 1tb drive at Tandy for 50 bucks, but would you run a dental practice of 30 users on that, I don't think so. That brings me to another mistake - maintenance and support. Relying on warranty for a 24/7 environment, I have seen a peer of mine be bitten very badly with that practice.

dennis
dennis

I've never had a problem with charging more than retail for parts: I've never done it. Instead, I find ways to scratch out a profit by taking advantage of sale prices an rebates. Most often, as an example, I charge 49.99 for a hard drive based on the cost of abtaining it with shipping from Newegg, but I buy it at my local CompUSA for $34.99 plus tax. Needless to say, their is rarely very much profit. Occasionally I build custom computers and servers and add a fee cover my time for configuration, assembly, OS installation, updates, other software, burn-in and testing. On-site setup and other sofware is extra. I bill this in advance of buying the parts, with the condition that prices and availablity are comparable by the time their check clears.

reisen55
reisen55

A prime example. Just look at the mess that project is.

kulyk
kulyk

"I hope you will call me back BEFORE your nephew Ted gets his hands on it next time." - that's hilarious, but one should also be thankful for the "Teds" of the world, as they help create billable hours. Fixing mistakes usually takes more time than doing it right the first time. I've been using the pure hourly billable system with 'estimates' for work, since I almost always get asked to do more work. I have also found it cuts down on clients asking me to wait for them since the clock is always ticking $$ and if they want me to wait "while I send a few more emails" or "print one more document," I'm getting paid. It's always easier to discount the bill with a "one time courtesy discount" than reduce one's rate.

bcjmk
bcjmk

We are overlooking the 2 or 3 earliest items: how do you know what the customer wants so you can build and cost your project accurately? One method I've used is the "test case", i.e. Mr. Customer, once I'm done, what do you expect to do and how will you know it works the way you want it to? I've used this discussion to extract and capture those requirements, and then write it into the contract acceptance criteria. If it's really broad, then I'll break it into separate "a la carte" items and let the customer prioritize by their willingness to pay. In the original example, standing up the server is one item, adding the printers, file shares and such is another, updating anti-virus and patches is a 3rd. This opens the door to success. I don't feel like I've underestimated the job, the customer feels like I really know what they need, the business gets a fair deal. And if I have to give anything away, I've got a good handle at the time and cost of the goodwill. Just my $.02

johnson90512
johnson90512

Wow. That is a decent amount. It is by no means my full time job, so I have been charging 25/hr with a 50 dollar minimum. Normally it is just for individual people though.

JamesRL
JamesRL

I charged $75 an hour in the late 80s and averaged 25-30 billable hours. I did settle for $40 an hour in 2003 when my unemployment benefits were coming close to running out. That was for business analysis for a major bank, and I thought it would be good for my resume if nothing else.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

For home users who paid $3.50 for their Computer and can not see any value in paying real money to get a professional to do things but not for Business users even the smallest single user place will not think that they have a good deal if that is what you are charging them. I can just remember the last time a Home User insisted that they have their Dead HDD recovered because it had photos of the Grand Kids on it and they didn't backup anything. After all the new HDD only cost $80.00 so just how much would it cost to recover the Data on the old one? I think that they thought about $25.00 I've never seen anyone look so sick when I told them that the Place that i go to charges $900.00 for the quote that gets taken off the price of the recovery once you give them the Go Ahead. They looked pale and then said something about not being worth the cost of the Quote as the drive was only $80.00. That person looked positively Sick when I told him that the last one like this that I had recovered was 56K. :^0 Col

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

If I had to invent the term, I'd go for "Alimentation" as it's a potential translation for both "feed" and "supply", and it's a noun derived from a verb. I have no idea whether that's what the french actually use for that, though. Edit: I did a quick googling, and the term seems to be "flux RSS", an RSS flow. Which is why I don't translate from French... :p

reisen55
reisen55

Just study that grand master of the French language, Inspector (Chief) Jacques Clouseau.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Been used in all sorts of mechanical and technical jargon for... I don't know how long. Fuel feed lines, f.ex. I think there's something called signal feed too... likely the direct forebear of RSS feeds and the like. "In the cloud" would be more of a problem, especially to finnish. "Pilvess;auml&" - which glots cloud.in and is used for "in (the) cloud" - has the fixed meaning "being stoned" or "smashed" or "high" or "hopped up" or any of those. Actually, my biggest problems arise from what I said just now about the various jargons using the same words. It's difficult to know exactly which jargon is used, as they're all mistakenly called "english". And the parallel terms do not always have the same translation equivalents... it can be messy. Luckily I'm quick at "cutting through the waffling", or I'd never get anything done ;)

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Ah, yes -- I guess it would present a dilemma when a new term has been invented in only one language. Do you translate it using a similar metaphor, or just transliterate? I assume you take it case by case. For instance, when "feed" became a technical term for an RSS or ATOM publishing mechanism, how do you translate that into French?

santeewelding
santeewelding

"Oh, my goodness; you say what is down?" That is almost as good as: "You say, this is the last known specimen on the face of the earth? Oh, my. Thank you for sharing." So-called "metrics" go out the window. And, do it with a straight and somber face, if you have learned enough to do so.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

When I have to travel I charge Travel Time and I start at $160.00 Per Hour. That alone encourages the clients that need me or my staff on Site at a remote site to fly us there in their aircraft or at least the ones that they have Leased to them. Try getting somewhere by commercial Airlines can consume days of a week at some places and lots of driving which leaves you exhausted and needing a couple of days to recover when you eventually get there. Domestic Work is a totally different ball game though as I have yet to run across any Domestic user who is willing to pay 56K to have a dead drive recovered and they seem to think that why should they pay to recover data off a working HDD that to them is Important when they can buy a new HDD for a few $. Some of my clients are losing over 1 Million per minute of Down Time so they think differently to the person who just wants their computer working. ;) Col

Editor's Picks