Millions of people need your help and are willing to pay you to help them learn how to use their computers. To get on the in-home computer training gravy train, the first thing you have to do is come up with a fair price for your time.

How much for your time and trouble?
Countless people have purchased home computers without a clue how to use them and neither the time nor the budget to attend formal classes in a training center somewhere. They prevail on computer-literate friends and the neighbor kids, but that kind of “help” doesn’t translate into computer skills.

“If I could just get someone to come out and show me a few things, I’d be all right,” they think. All you have to do is find those people, and you can make some easy money.

But how much easy money? Recently, I saw an ad in a local weekly tabloid that caught my eye. “COMPUTER TUTOR NEEDED. Tutor needed to instruct me on my PC. Windows 95 & AOL.”

So I called, figuring I’d at least get an article out of the experience. The ad was placed by a retired gentleman who wanted to use QuickBooks and some of the other applications on his machine, but he just couldn’t get up to speed.

I was shocked to hear that the ad had been running for three weeks and I was the first person to call! We talked for a few minutes, established a pretty good rapport, and then came the big question. “So, Mr. Davis, how much do you charge?” Without hesitation, I said, “Thirty-five dollars per hour with a two-hour minimum.” We scheduled the first lesson for the following Saturday, 11:30 A.M. to 1:30 P.M.
I told my new customer that he had one assignment: Write down a list of questions and things he wants to know how to do BEFORE our first meeting. That list becomes the to-do list for the training session.
Where did I get the $35 figure?
I charge two sets of prices for my “consulting” work. I charge $75 per hour and up for database programming, selecting and installing systems, and on-site training and maintenance. That price seems to be pretty competitive—if on the low end of the scale—here in the midwestern United States. If you’re in one of the “big” cities on either coast, you’re probably expected to charge more.

I settled on the $35 figure for in-home computer training for several reasons. First, that figure is a little less than half my “programmer’s rate.” I always tell my clients, “I charge this much for programming and installing systems, but I charge less just to come in and do basic computer skills training.” I also take these things into consideration:

  • Transportation costs. As soon as I get in the car and go anywhere, I’m using gas (and the price of fuel is going through the roof at this writing). Plus I’m putting wear and tear on my car. I’m paying a few bucks a day for insurance. So I’ve spent at least $5 just to travel 20 or 30 miles to get to the client’s house.
  • Taxes. Although you can get credit for your transportation, advertising, and other direct costs related to your in-home consulting business when you file a Schedule C, the government still wants its share of your extra income. So figure you’ll pay another $5 to $10 per hour in taxes while you’re on the clock. Factor that cost into the fee you charge.
  • Full-time pay salary. If you have a full-time job, you should never charge less for consulting work than what you earn on that job. So take your hourly wage and add at least 20 percent when calculating your consulting rate.
  • Your time and expertise. You have something your clients want—knowledge. Don’t be shy about charging a fair wage for the privilege of sharing your knowledge. And don’t be afraid to say “no thanks.” Like my buddy Bruce Maples says, “No work is better than bad work.”

Will train for food!
The art of bartering is not dead. I am not making this part up—while I was writing this article, a colleague knocked on my door with a training job offer. “I have a friend who’s a caterer,” she said, “and he needs help learning how to use his computer. Would you be willing to give him some lessons in exchange for food? You know, a smoked ham or turkey?”

You can bet I’ll take that offer. First, it never hurts to score a few brownie points with your co-workers by helping out their friends. Second, I LOVE barbeque! On first contact, I’ll tell this caterer to make a list of the top five or ten things he wants to be able to do with his computer. I’ll tell him my hourly rate, and I’ll trust him to make it worth my while in terms of how much food I get in exchange for my services.
If you’d like to share your opinion on the in-home training market, please post a comment below or send me a note .