Markets will vary and figuring what to charge will depend on where you plan to start your business. A large city with a large metropolitan area will support higher rates. Smaller cities might not. The first place to check is your competition – either by checking their websites or giving them a call. This will give you a good starting point.
Charging by the Hour
I’ve found that charging around $100 per hour is a good place to be. Right now, I’m at $110 for the first hour (1 hour minimum) plus a trip charge. That trip charge $20. So the first hour is $130. Depending on the client and the length of time it takes to get to their office, I may bump it up to 1.5 hours minimum which includes the trip charge. This helps a lot with gas and the time it takes to get there.
If it takes me a half-hour to drive to a client, then a half hour to fix their problem, that’s an hour fee – $130. I hardly ever charge only a half hour for an on-site service call. Each time you go on a call, it takes your time, expertise, gas, car maintenance, etc. to be able to go on that call.
Another service I charge for is picking up hardware. If the client needs a router ASAP to get their business back online, and they call me wanting a fix right away, they won’t have time to wait for an online order to arrive. Once again, it takes gas, time and the knowledge to be able to get a router that will get the business up and running. This fee can vary, but typically it’s an hour service fee (15-20 minute drive to the store, buying the hardware, 15-20 minute drive back, depending on how close a store is.) Of course, if I happen to be at the store already, I won’t charge a fee.
For the most part, I don’t purchase hardware for clients. The reason is because there have been numerous occasions where I was never reimbursed for the purchase. This is especially bad when you are first starting out on your own. Money is tight enough already and you don’t need to be financing somebody else’s business! I like to find the hardware they want online, send them the link, and let them buy it themselves. This also relieves you from the burden of having to warranty or guaranty the hardware – which can turn into a money pit in no time! As always, there can be exceptions. I have long-time clients that I know are not going to stiff me for the cost of a new PC and so I have no problem extending them credit. Also, if you have a sales tax license, you can mark-up hardware and add another revenue stream.
My rates go up depending on the type of job. More complicated work demands a higher rate. One example of this is working on an Exchange (email) server. Not every computer tech knows how to work on Exchange – it’s more specialized. Also, at times, I’ve had to hire contractors to handle more complicated situations. Charging more ensures that you get paid and your contractor (more on contractors later) gets paid too. Rates for more complicated work come in at about $150 – $200 per hour. Instead of a 1 hour minimum, it bumps up to a two-hour minimum for on-site service. Clients with more complicated networks will typically be larger and won’t have a problem paying this rate.