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How TO Charge As A Consultant 'SysAdmin'


I recently decided make a conscious effort to market myself as a consultant sysadmin who does random stuff like installing and configuring server software, remote system administration / server monitoring, etc.

Well, I do not know how to charge;  I am not familiar with the concept of 'hourly rate' ("so, if, due to incompetence, I am slow to finish the project do I earn _more_?"). 

And If I decide to offer a different price for each project, I am bothered that. the time spent researching the project in itself might be too significant to be ignored.

Joel, what are my options?  How can I charge?


Seun Osewa
Saturday, March 13, 2004

An hourly rate is the only way to go, although you may want to develop a price list for common tasks where you know in advance how long they will take.

If, due to incompetence, it takes you longer to finish something, you WILL earn more in the hourly rate but you'll lose customers, so it all works out in the end.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Monday, March 15, 2004

  You can always offer a discount, if you think it took longer to finish the job because of your "incompetence".   

Ricardo Antunes da Costa
Monday, March 15, 2004

Maybe Joel meant the clients incompetence, not the consultants.

I've often been "called in to look at something" where an initial attempt by a well meaning amateur has made a relatively simple problem much worse.

Robert Moir
Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Interesting; I too thought he meant consultant incompetence, not client incompetence.  The interesting thing is that what he said more or less makes sense either way you take it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Quite, if its your incompetence you can and should lose for charging hourly to fix your own mistakes.

If its their incompetence, you'll probably also end up losing because they won't admit its their fault, probably because they won't realise.

Either way you lose, i guess.

Robert Moir
Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Charge per hours. No other way. If you're incompetent, you won't get repeat business. I've found that it doesn't matter, if the client likes you and there problem gets resolved, you could be an ham-fisted dolt and still get repeat business.

You also want to make a distinction between normal and special "events".

I.e.: When you get called in for an emergency and they want you Right Now.

I tend to charge a minimum number of hours for unscheduled things (3 usually) no matter how long it actually takes (so a 5 minutes fix would be 3 full hours and a 5 hours fix would be 5 hours.)

I also charge double rate for evening or week-end work, the "3 hours for unscheduled" rule still applying. If it can't wait for monday morning, it's worth paying extra for.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

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