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Question for anyone that does IT/networking on the side....

By iago9999 ·
Hi everyone,

I have been asked by someone who I am acquainted with to network their small business. Although I don't have the particulars, it looks to be somewhat simple: client/server based with about 5 (or so) clients w/local authentication and the server will act as a file/print server.

I have always ran into a dilemma with doing this kind of thing. The networking itself is not the problem, but I never know exactly how much to charge for the labor. I want to be fair with the price; both to the customer as well as myself.

Has anybody else had this problem?
Does anybody have a formula/equation that they use to figure out how much to charge when doing side jobs?

Thank you all!

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Look at location and followup

by dragonsrightwing In reply to Question for anyone that ...

There is definitely a regional component, and the question of setting expectations for follow-up visits/support is a big thing.
Here in the Seattle area, I have seen anything from $60 - $120. I personally charge $60 - I am fairly new and do only onsite work, so I have no real overhead.
If your customer wants follow-up to be free, obviously you need to make some type of allowance for this - maybe a monthly maintenance charge? Just make sure that this question is completely clear ahead of time, not after the fact!

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Be very careful of the "other factors"

by npbwbass In reply to Question for anyone that ...

Oh God! I think we all could write a book on how to ?abcd? a network together.

All of these labor charges and plans are very good starting points. I don not have much to add there. I'll just add a human factor.

Do you want a support relationship with the client? Unless you make it very clear a hundred times over that your efforts are either a turn key operation, your done and walk away, or that you will continue to support after the fact, needs to be defined up front, on paper, or you will be in a living a nightmare. There is an old story about a guy working under a sword hanging by a thread but I won't go there now.

I am a hard case on this type of work. I charge $200 non refundable up front just to spend a few hours doing a site survey, drawing up the network plan, and doing a skill level interview with some of the users. This lets them know I am serious, and if they pay it lets me know they are.

I present the itemized bid, payment terms, implementation plan, labor, travel, training, hardware, and miscellaneous logistics costs and so on. I personally have had enough experience in this that I charge a flat project rate. I have done OK doing so. If your not sure your planning on how to do this a good hourly rate will work just fine but you will get the ?how long will it take? questions either way.

If it's a go from the client, a signed contract is in hand before work starts. The ?do me a favor buddy? thing is a thing of the past for me.

I highly recommend that type of work is not done as a favor unless you are ready to bet the farm that the person is completely trustworthy because you just may be doing that, betting the farm. Some folks forget the legal ramifications of doing work for any business, friend, foe, or indifferent. We can thank the law community and our society for that.

Again this is just my opinion and not the gospel. Any way you do it try to have fun. But, be very careful at the same time.

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Price and CYA...

by don In reply to Question for anyone that ...

I've read some good posting, but not all of them. When I started consulting, I based my rate on my old salary/hourly pay. I tripled it because I knew there would be many meeting, research, and other work that wasn't billable. This started me at $75/hr. I quickly found that the standard rate in the Chicago area was $110-$145/hr. I was way under priced, but built a nice little client base anyway. About a year later I raised my rates to $95/hr., and not one client seemed put off.

As for the CYA. You're best bet is to create a Network Installation Checklist. This will be the last page of your contract. DO NOT start any work without a contract. Very important. The checklist should have a summary of what was asked for from the client. (i.e. Server install, client connectivity, client internet access, printing successfully, anti-virus installation, etc.) Thiss will litteraly be ticked off as you SHOW your client that these items are complete. Demonstrate this to your client. Then, have them sign off it the checklist and the contract is complete. ANY WORK afterward is billable. Make sure to state that in your contract.

I found a great source of information in a book called: From serf to Surfer by Matthew Strebe -

Good luck and DON'T GIVE UP!!


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Scope out the Project First!

by Rhizoned In reply to Question for anyone that ...

Each project is unique and most be examined and understood
first. I would recommend doing a free consultation first.

Here is my approach:

1. Get a clear-idea of the overall objectives and any expected
2. Request that information related to the current state of the
infrastructure and anything not in #1. This is should be an
ongoing step.
2. Map out expected stages needed to meet objectives.
3. Map out expected deliverables and any communication
4. Attach time to accomplish each stage
5. Get Client Sign-off

6. Here is your negotiating stage:
Given the work now done you can say:
"This is what you agreed you need done, and as you can see
here this expected time needed".
Reference typical costs for work within each of the stages (LAN
Admin,Technical Trainer,Technical Writer) and the going rate for
the free-consultation supplied.

-Flat rates work well, it let's you build a little more in, but you
could lose money if you don't control time well.
-Flat hourly rate, in my opinion, can sometimes give sticker
shock on larger projects.
-Variable Hourly rate, this can really knock the socks off a client.
Look each piece of work and attach what you think that time is
worth. I always try to think what the client could have done by
themselves with basic knowledge and charge much less for that
If a stage is simply gathering & consolidating information,
charge less.
If your doing critical work, like installing and configuring a
server, charge more.

Just don't compare to much to "market-price", a lot of the time
dividing in 2 or even 3 can be much more fair....depending on
the client.

All-in-all if you scope out the project, you can really get a sense
of how much of your life and brain is needed. This makes it
much easier to determine how to price.
Educating the client makes the price easier to understand.

Hope this helps somehow.

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quote it , do it, write it up at full rates

by Wayne T In reply to Question for anyone that ...

Then just puts "mates' Discount" - -%60/whatever Others here will have pointed out the other potentials pifalls [beware Insurance etc..] - best of luck.

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by cforsell In reply to Question for anyone that ...

I have done jobs ranging from small office / home office to k-12 school. I use a simple method to price jobs. 3X my cost. I adjust a bit based on what I think customer can afford, but this method is usually less than my competitors, and still results in a good profit.

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No more peer to peer support for me thank you...

by jon In reply to Question for anyone that ...

I run into so many businesses that have "5 or so" computers, no server, a workstation with all of their files on it, one mapped drive, workstations with a specific user defined and no roaming profiles, no redirected folders, no authentication, no backup routines, no power backup, nothing nothing nothing...

Forget about what it's worth to you and think about the fact that it's just not worth it to the client to pay you hourly for band-aid fixes here and there.

Businesses need to be educated about what they need and then they either need to have someone hired to do the work, or have someone on retainer to support the network properly.

If there's no real server running Active Directory, I don't touch it. I propose to them a better solution and show them the long term return on investment to justify the initial expense.

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Monthly Support Fee with Per Call Rate

by adkinsr In reply to Question for anyone that ...

I found it best to define a monthly rate for a defined level of service ie: Backups, Antivirus managment and monitoring and gerneal monitoring of the network from offsite. Anything else that requires my time for an hourly rate of $50 for friends and $75 for other Businesses. This way they think before calling yet get the comfort of having a Professional Administrator monitoring and available for the down times.

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Check the area

by overwrked1 In reply to Question for anyone that ...

Call Geeks on Call or the Geek Squad and get their comparable rates then discount based on the rates for a similar job. I also check with other vendors in my area and set the rates within the margins, remember all the overhead you have when you're on your own...

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My rates

by name holdout In reply to Question for anyone that ...

When I was living in San Antonio Texas I was charging $30 per hour plus parts. No matter what was asked of me to do. I charged $20 per hour plus parts for senior citizens since they are on a fixed income. I did some bartering but not very much. When I moved to Chicago I now charge $50 and with the cost of gas I am planning on raising it to $65. This pricing scheme is easy and not at all confusing as I have seen at other companies.

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