General discussion


So what do you charge?

By betty ·
Okay guys .. I work with two other guys. We have a difference of opinion on what's billable and what's a 'fair' rate.

I do DBA work on ERP systems and charge 2 different rates (onsite or off). I start billing when I walk out the door or sit down to do the work and stop billing when I leave the customer's location or finish up my documentation. I am of the opinion that if the customer had not called, I could be spending time for me but because they did, I am spending time for them - and should be compensated for it.

The other guys do server maintenance, networking, and hardware/software support. They, too, charge a different rate dependent on location. They don't bill for travel time and they don't bill for what they call 'wait' time.

I have had customers complain about our rates for the hardware/software etc. stuff - that our rates are too high. On the other side of the coin, I have rarely had a complaint on the DBA stuff.

Granted, this is two different classes of customer .. corporate vs SMB ..

I'd like to gain a little perspective here ... what is a fair rate for what kind of work and when does billable time start? Do you charge for your time or by the job?

How do you determine what it's going to be? If two guys are working on the job do you charge man hours or clock hours?

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Man hours versus clock hours

by Tig2 In reply to So what do you charge?

If I send one man to the site and it takes him 10 hours to do the job, I bill clock hours on his behalf. If I send two men to the site, I bill man hours. Here's why.

Both men expect to be paid for their hours. Both men SHOULD be paid for their hours.

Why did I send two men to the same location to do the same job? Could be a time restriction imposed by the client. It could also be that the work required two different skill sets- a hardware specialist and a network specialist, for instance.

That changes if I send the second man to learn from the first man and for no other reason. He may help out with the task at hand, may even do parts of it. But his purpose for being there is not driven by the customer.

What you're seeing is the disconnect in how people view different kinds of IT expertise.

A field engineer may be writing router tables on the fly (not fun) but is perceived to bring less to the table than a DBA. Because the perception of expertise is different, the perception of reasonable pay is different.

I wish I had a penny for all the times I was called out to fix something and was told by the client that "I'd have done it myself, but I don't have the time". Really? You would have known how to reconfigure your server? I KNOW how it got messed up to begin with! You decided to "fix" something!

A DBA is viewed differently. There is a greater degree of recognition that you have a skill set that the general public does not have.

Most of us at one time or another has fixed a small household appliance or addressed a minor plumbing problem without calling in the experts. Because the computer is so ubiquitous, people are inclined to think that they can fix that too.

I don't care if your hardware/network guys didn't charge a dime- your clients would still complain. That isn't the tech's fault. It is the client's myopia.

Edit- missed a few letters.

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It's all about perception

by betty In reply to Man hours versus clock ho ...

Yes; sometimes no matter what you do - customers will complain. Maybe I need a better class of customer.

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Don't know about that

by Tig2 In reply to It's all about perception

I think that the thing to keep in mind is that people tend to think of themselves as either completely non-technical or experts who could do our jobs just as easily. The completely non-technical types just want to get back to work. The "experts" will never believe that they couldn't have solved the problem.

I recall seeing a rates sign at a mechanic's garage that said:
$30/hr if you watch
$40/hr if you help.

If I'm re-writing your router table, I don't want to explain what I'm doing to you line by line. I don't want to have a discussion with you about hexidecimal conversion. I don't want to discuss Cisco's standing on Wall Street. I want to write the table. I will accomplish that task faster without someone standing over my shoulder.

As a DBA, you get much less of that. You are doing "magic" and no one wants to disturb you at your spell casting.

My partner is an Application Architect. Recently, he had some down time so was asked to take ownership of a spreadsheet that should have been a database from the beginning. He organized the data to the extent that Excel would allow and was able to produce reports from it. From that moment on, no one would open it. If they needed anything or had changes, he got them. He was doing "magic" because an unusable data store had become usable.

A better class of customer won't change how people perceive the different but necessary jobs in IT.

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That was my husband!

by betty In reply to Don't know about that

My husband owned an auto repair place for about 28 years. He had a sign in his shop like that .. he also had no issues pushing the car outside (as is) if the customer became a pita.

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Your husband

by Tig2 In reply to That was my husband!

Is a very smart man!

Although I have been sorely tempted more than once, I have only walked off a job one time.

Fairly simple fix, should have taken 15 or 20 minutes if I had been allowed to work. Instead the customer- a slow pay if you know what I mean- literally stood behind me yakking about the system, all his woes, how nothing worked, you name it. I couldn't concentrate at all. I finally asked him to give me some breathing space- he had his hand on my shoulder rather forcefully. His response was to grab a handful of my hair and lift me out of the chair. Then the screaming started. At that point in time I became unwilling to fix his server. I literally ran to my car.

I never regretted walking away from that particular customer.

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by maecuff In reply to Your husband

And you didn't press charges?? That's assault. This is just another example of why I can't stand most people..

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I didn't

by Tig2 In reply to Tig

I just made very certain that he would be SOL if he tried to get another tech in there.

At the time, all I really wanted to do was get the h*ll out. Once I was out, I wanted to get away. Once I was away, I wanted to be certain that no one else go there. So I called everyone in my contact sheets.

Got a call from him about 3 months later. Unfortunately, he had been having difficulty finding a tech. Equally unfortunate, I was booked.

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Did you ever regret not charging him with assault?

by JamesRL In reply to Your husband

Of course perhaps my perspective is different, but I wouldn't take that from anyone.

I had one internal manager abuse me verbally because I had wiped a hard disk full of information he needed. One of his staff had left for another internal position and had taken what she had needed. She had told me it was fine to pick up the computer and wipe it for the next user. It happened at month end and the manager needed some data on that PC for a report.

My boss called in my director who had us all on a conference call. She explained to this gentleman in no uncertain terms that no matter what the circumstance this was not acceptable professional behaviour and that any repeats would result in her escalating to HR.

He was quiet as a mouse from that point on.

No one should get away with hair pulling. I would have called **1 from the parking lot and charged him with assault.


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Before the cell phone

by Tig2 In reply to Did you ever regret not c ...

At that time, I didn't have a cell or might have done something different. I got back to the office and spoke with my manager. While he would have backed any decision I made, I guess that I didn't think that the situation was worth calling the police over. I had gotten out of it and didn't have marks on me so I thought of it as a "he said, she said" situation. If he didn't admit it, I would have had a tough time proving it.

But calling all my contacts? That meant that they were calling all theirs. That was a sizable number of people who suddenly became unavailable to meet this guy's needs. and the people who could really do anything for him had to know Unix to cope with the environment to begin with so his options were limited from the beginning.

Today, I don't know how I would handle the same situation. I think that the immediacy of being able to make a call from the parking lot would change my thinking.

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If I was the customer,

by CharlieSpencer In reply to So what do you charge?

I understand travel takes time you could be doing something else and putting wear and tear on your vehicle, but you're not accomplishing anything for me while you're in the car. Why should I get the bill if you get stuck in traffic? If you worked for me full time I certainly wouldn't be paying you for travel time.

I'd try to negotiate a lower rate for your time and either pay you mileage or tell you to take the federal mileage deduction. To minimize my charges for your travel time, I'd have you on site as rarely as possible, as long as possible; don't expect to be on site less than a full day, or to show up a for two or three half days in one week.

I notice you edited your initial post and removed your actual rates. No problem, I can understand that. However, I recall the difference between your onsite and offsite rate as almost enough for me as a customer to consider sticking you in a hotel. If I could cut two hours off your total daily travel time, it might cost me less to board you.

Just one non-contractor, non-contractee's opinion.

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