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Taking on (paid) side work from end users...

By minnicles ·
I work on the support desk for a company with about 120 employees in the office.

I have been getting more and more requests from end users at my company for me to do paid work on their home PC's for them. I'd be very interested in hearing how others have handled these requests and how the work has turned out. For discussions sake, I'll leave out any questions about the corporate policy on "second jobs" as I don't care that much about that aspect of it.

I imagine this could be a sort of "slippery slope" and maybe leading to some awkward moments with things such as software licensing issues and such...i.e. ("Could you please install Windows XP on my home PC???...well do you own a license for that?)

Also how does anyone decide how much to charge for their services? By the hour? By Project?

Any info would be much appreciated.

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Side work

by Oz_Media In reply to Taking on (paid) side wor ...

I do a tonne of it! Whether computing, building, machining, auto repair etc. Side work makes the world go 'round. The greatest thing about side work I think is the ball is in your court.
I get free mochas every day from the local starbucks, I get free accommodation at several hotels, I get free copywriting and advertising, free studio and engineering time etc.

I also charge people for work based on who they are, how much money they have etc.

Overall it's freedom, it's YOUR business, it's tax free.

If you have a steady income, working side jobs lets you gain credibility outside your workplace, earn favours or money (I love the barter system, who needs money when you don't have to pay for things?). As for how much to charge, whatever makes you feel good. I set up a home network for a lady that runs a video company, I did it as a favour because she has keen kids that use the Internet to learn and do homework not just games and chat. She has in turn given me many hours of preproduction work and some finish engineering, all over a good bottle of wine and a nice dinner before a cozy night in. You just never know where you'll end up and what you'll be doing.

As for the licencing issues, I've got an old Win98Se copy that must have been installed a thousand times, I got it from someone else myself. I manage a few corporate networks, when it comes to their software, licences are a MUST. I will not jeopardize a company's business by installing no licenced products. For the end user at home, here's my Win98 disk. Here's how to get some more free stuff, here's what you COULD do if you can't afford to buy Dreamweaver for your kids school project.

It's just humans dealing with humans, not corporations dealing with lawyers.

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Blatantly Illegal

by Dugald In reply to Side work

Tax Free?!? Sorry bub, I think the IRS would disagree with you. Same thing with the licenses. What you're doing is operating "under the radar" and if that works for you, it's your funeral.

Installing unlicensed copies of software and failing to report cash or "barter" payments as income are illegal, and could land you in jail.

I know a lot of people operate with the feeling that "if it doesn't hurt anyone other than big companines and/or the government, it's not really a crime." But I'd recommend anyone who is considering providing home or small business tech support think seriously about whether they're prepared to face the possibility of legal action in return for whatever perks they're getting.

In the end, it's an ethics question. Do you want to be above-board, or operate on the sly? It will either cost you in additional taxes, or it could cost you a lot more. Whatever your decision, be prepared to live with the consequences.

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Yes Mom

by Oz_Media In reply to Blatantly Illegal

But can ou have Dad bring some supper to my room?

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This all depends on the company that you work for

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Taking on (paid) side wor ...

But as a general rule I'd say do it unless there are some strict rules in place preventing this for happening by the company.

About the Licence problem Microsoft which I presume you are thinking of is very soon if not already reintroducing their use it at work and you can use it at home deal again so very soon if it isn't currently in place it will be quite legal to install a companies software on a home computer {well Microsoft at least} but htis depends on the agreement that the company has with MS but from your description it should have the necessary agreements in place as it saves them money in training personal in the use of their software {something that the Bosses like as it saves them money and leaves staff at work instead of away at training conferences.}

The proposed new thing from Microsoft is if a company has 10 licenced copieds of a program they can install it on 10 "Home Computers" {chech this out before you start doing anything but if it isn't already in place it very soon will be.} This way you can legally install company software on "Home Computers" without breaking the Law {note this only qapplies to Software and not OS's but this may change as well depending on what is involved.}

Otherwise unless you are directly conected with Microsoft in some way you have't made any legal agreements with them so you can do as you like provided that you aren't producing copies of MS product and selling it but if you are just asked to install from an original disk then who are you to question who owns the Original CD? If it is one of the new MS Software Packages it is then the persons who requested the item installed to get the "Activation Key" from Microsoft or only use it for a 30 day period which may be all that they require anyway.

No to what th charge well that's a more tricky question than it at first appears as some jobs may take several hours and obviously you aren't in a position to charge $160.00 per hour and if a job takes several days to finish when you're off work then naturally you would not consider handing out a bill of several thousand dollars for this job.

With the big ones I tend to work on a Fixed Price which costs me money but at least I get the job and you never know what referels you will get from a happy customer as word of mouth is still the best form of advertising that there is.

With the smaller jobs I just quote a price subject to whatever like traveling expences and the like and then work from that point onwards but you have to in the first place point out that you are only offering a guessatmination on costs as quite often what appear to be the simple jobs turn out to be the big ones and what you thing as nasty, hard and long jobs can be done in a few minutes. The trick is always to remain felexable and never appear to overcharge for your work. I can remember a job that I did years ago I spent 3 hours traveling to the house and as I was given the wrong address this didn't help and when I eventually got there I spent 5 minutes Fixing the problem and then asked for the call out fee which upset the owner as she thought that I had ripped her off as I was there les than 10 minutes but she didn't know about the 3 hours that I spent getting there or wasn't concerned about that as she only saw what she wanted to and that we me there for a very short time and asking for a large fee. With jobs like this it is best to waste some time there and appear to do things as this will keep the customer happy if you spend 30 minutes or longer they will not complain about the price but if you only spend a couple of minutes there thay will wonder what they have paid you for and more importantly did you do the job right!

I have a sliding scale for any work that ranges from free to a reasonable figure for my area and this is different in different areas so you will have to work that one out for your seld but a word of warning here the most complaints that I recieve are from the FREE ones so I now always attempt to charge them something even if it is a token amount and they don't pay because then they can't complain.

This is somethng that you will have to work out for yourself as obviously a single mother with 5 kids doesn't have as much money to spare as the married couple that are high up in their companies without any children. Basicly you do what every other company does charge what the customer can bear and no more as you will only make yourself unlikely to get work and worse still get the reputation of being too expensive.

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Are You Prepared for Success?

by Dugald In reply to Taking on (paid) side wor ...

Nothing wrong with providing some tech support to your users, as long as you decide where your ethical line is and stick to it.

My advice is this: KEEP IT SEPERATE. Do not use your company's software. Do not use your company's tools, which includes their bandwidth. Do not work on these PCs on the company's time. You are destined for trouble if you blur the line.

Insist that your clients provide their own software. If they hand you a disc, you don't have to ask whether or not they own the license. If they ask you for software, offer to buy it for them and charge them for it. Some license agreements allow companies to install a copy of the software on home PCs for each license they have at work (with the assumption that the user is only using one or the other at any given moment, so they're essentially using just one license). If your company has software in this category, great. But if you "share" the company's software without such a license, you could face action from the software company AND your company, which could consider it grounds for termination.

Sure sure, it's only a problem if you get caught. But think about this: you're demonstrating to the people you work with that you don't have personal integrity. Is that the way you want "the buzz" around the office to depict you?

If you charge for your services, the IRS considers it taxable income. Up to you to report it or not, but I think you can guess my advice.

If you're looking for advice on how MUCH to charge, I think it depends on what services you're providing. I would call around to home computer support services in the area and get quotes, then base my fees accordingly. The last time I did this kind of work I charged $25/hour, no travel charge. But I was young, and a steal at that rate.

Most important point I can make: be prepared for success! I once started providing tech support for the employees of my company and soon got so overwhelmed with "off the clock" work that I was having trouble keeping up. You have a captive audience, and word-of-mouth spreads quickly. If you're ready for the success, go for it.

Lastly, be clear what sort of support is included with your work. Users will start calling you at all hours, every time they get a virus alert in their inbox.

Just make sure whatever you charge balances the inconvenience to you, or you'll quickly come to resent the extra burden.

Best of luck to you!

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Something else...

by kiddanger In reply to Taking on (paid) side wor ...

I'm surprised nobody touched on this although some gave you excellent advice, excluding the illegal posts. (O:=

Helping users at home can get you fired, even if they is not a policy against it. How? If something goes wrong, the user can cause a problem at work or even claim the company is responsible. If anything is true, you can sue anybody for anything.

As suggested, use ONLY their legal software. Ignorance is no excuse especially when you have to click I AGREE to the license agreement during installation. YOU installed it. YOU can be held liable. How long do you think it will take before the user rats you out? Time doesn't travel that fast. If they like your work they can also cause you grief by telling others what you did. "HEY JOE INSTALLED XP PRO ON MY PC FOR FREE!!" What is the best form of advertisement? Yes, word of mouth.

Do it on your time. Never answer personal issues at work. Never let them bring their PC to you at work unless you collect it in the parking lot.

Write up a document, that an attorney should review, may cost you $150, stating your agreement with your customers. Make sure it states your current employer is not associated and they will file no judgments against them. Your attorney will have better language.

Unless you're an LLC or corporation, your personal assets are vulnerable should someone not be happy and decide to file on you. If you offer a warranty for your work, if you don't, if you offer protection in case of hardware failures, etc., state so in your agreement. Get a signed agreement before you touch any equipment. It's not personal, it's business. You're charging for your services. That classifies you as a professional. A written agreement is much easier to prove than an oral one.

And a final suggestion, discuss it with your employer. If you signed an agreement regarding not working outside work or with employees outside work, then you're in violation if you do. In Texas, where I live, it's illegal for them to restrict what I can do outside work. Texas is a right to work state. However, if I sign an agreement, then they can terminate me but the law will never let them write their own law so they could never do anything to me legally.

If you do not have an agreement you signed at work then discussing it with them shows respect. Also, letting them know you have an agreement which is required before any work is done to protect them will put them at ease. The only concern is that they may wonder if it will hinder your work for them. While they could not force you to quit doing it, they could terminate you for inadequate work. They don't need to specify why your work was inadequate.

All that said, I have been consulting outside work since 1987. All of my employers know that I do it and only one tried to strong arm me claiming I was competing with them. They were a VAR. I claimed I do not perform the any similar activities to any of their customers. I do not work on their time. I always ask new customers if they're currently doing business with you. We discussed it for several hours and I walked out with a raise to try to deter my extra curricular activities but I continued. I was only programming at the time and this company didn't offer programming services except for Revelation Rev. G (database development) and only in the Accounting arena. I did not develop in Revelation nor did I consult any accounting services. Nothing more was said.

It is not necessary to inform your current employer but since you're working for their employees, I suggest doing so. It's a lot better than them getting a surprise when someone comes to work and starts talking, good or bad. Reassuring someone you're not using their resources goes a long way.

Good luck!

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