Qs to freelance technical consultants

Discussion in 'Community' started by iShater, Jul 1, 2005.

  1. iShater macrumors 604


    Aug 13, 2002
    Hi folks,

    I got an opportunity to help a small business setup their office network and their systems.

    It will involve setting up Windows systems, router, and possibly more. (I was gonna try to get them to go Mac :D )

    I have never done this before (for money, for a small business), so I was wondering if anybody else has, and if so, what general advice they had.

    In addition I am looking for info/advice about:
    - Tax implications.
    - Business expenses.
    - Contracts.
    - Pay rate.

  2. CanadaRAM macrumors G5


    Oct 11, 2004
    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    I don't know about tax implications in your state. What money you make will be declarable as personal self employed income. Usually you are able to deduct from that expenses that you incurred to make that income. Keep all receipts - parking, gas, tools, parts and supplies. As a contractor you may be required to carry your own workers compensation coverage, third party liability and /or professional liability insurance (depending on your local regulations). A business policy that covers IT errors and omissions here runs about $3,000 per year. Factor this into your pricing if you are requried to carry it. You may also have to register with your city with a business license. You probably don't have to register to collect and remit sales tax unless you are over a certain size in terms of annual billings. Consult an accounting professional.

    Assuming you are not going to be an employee, you need a contract that spells out exactly what your responsibilities are, and how you are being paid. There is a world of difference between "I will set up your server for $500" and "I will set up your server for $40 per hour"

    If you quote a fixed price, it makes you liable for finishing the job, no matter how long it takes and how many foul-ups (both yours and those outside your control) happen.

    (True story - client wanted us to quote a fixed price on installing a server and 4 workstations that they were buying used and "already configured and ready to go". We refused, and went hourly. Good thing. The "pre configured" systems arrived massively screwed up and it would have been cheaper for them to have set them up from scratch. From incompatible software all the way down to a cable on the tape backup that was installed upside down. We would have been working for $5 an hour if we had accepted the flat rate price)

    You need to specify the deliverables, in detail and in writing. If you don't, you are in danger of the "job that never ends" as you become responsible for every real and imagined problem, feature upgrade, bug, software incompatibility etc. The customer won't listen to any excuses like: "it's not my fault the hard drive failed and you don't have a backup because you didn't install a tape backup system" -- they will try to make you wear it.

    You need to specify what your expected response time is, for scheduled and emergency service, and how much you get paid if they call you away from Christmas dinner to solve their server problem (yes it has happened to me). If they want the ability to call you outside business hours, or to drop everything and be there within 4 hours, then they should be paying a non-refundable monthly retainer. They don't get your personal phone # / cell phone # without that. It is a good idea to get them to establishg a budget for a regular (weekly/monthly) service call so that you can check that the virus/spyware definitions are up to date, that the backups have been made, that the system has not been altered.

    You need to document for them their system, and everything you have set up on it, including passwords, accounts, serial numbers, IP addresses, patches installed, everything. Figure on 20% extra hours for documentation. There should be a logbook onsite that diarizes EVERYTHING that is done to the system and alll crashes or problems. There should also be a written policy of who can do what to the system, and what things are not allowed. That way, if a trojan horse or P2P or new software mysteriously appears on the system, you have backup documentation to direct the responsibility to the appropriate place.

    Put in writing all of the things you recommend that they do (example: purchase antivirus software for all machines, put a battery backup power supply on the server and router, surge suppressors on the workstations, install a tape backup with automated nightly/weekly backups, purchase extended on-site warranties & or spares for critical hardware) and outline the risks of them not implementing your recommendation.

    It's all about responsibility and risk, if you are expected to assume all of the risk, they would be expected to pay much, much more. If they are assuming the risk and just hiring you by the hour for your technician work, then they will pay a reasonably low hourly rate.

    We charge CAN$95 and hour for Windows server and network maintenance. Cisco router experts get much more.
  3. yellow Moderator emeritus


    Oct 21, 2003
    Portland, OR
    Thanks CanadaRAM for the insightful post.

    With Apple's recent BOOM in sales, I have finally decided that I should stop giving it away for free and start making a little money on the side by doing some local Mac support.

    Your post is definite food for thought. Thanks again.

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