Cost of IT Work?
I recently did a lot of IT work for my dentist and I'm not sure how much I should ask from him. I essentially migrated his old system to a completely new one. The system uses some dentistry software (Dentrix) which I had to learn the inner workings of in order to migrate everything properly. There is not a lot of technical documentation on it, particularly some of the modules that he uses to scan in x-ray images, so that in itself required a great investment of time. I also set up his system to back up his data to the cloud daily (which it is doing now, hooray!) I jumped into this project immediately without negotiating for a few reasons. Neither he or I were even sure what he needed done (he's not computer saavy at all), but I could tell that from the beginning that he was on the verge of being completely screwed. He didn't have any backups of any data and it was all stored on two very neglected 7 year old hard drives. He's also somewhat of a family friend, and I know he's been going through some personal events that have him way stressed him out. I also know he hired a person from Dentrix to come out and do some IT work for him before, but that this dude pretty much took the money and left. So I wasn't just going to sit there while his system could go out at any moment.
Ultimately, I built him a server, three new workstations, migrated all of his shit to the new server from two other servers, updated an additional six workstations, and set up his daily backup system. Doing all of this required an investment of my time to learn how that worked, and to find out what he needed backed up. I spent about 60~70 hours working on all of it. However, if I would have known what I know now, I could have done it in 10. I was wondering what I should charge him for all of this? On one hand, he could have called Dentrix. They ask for $120/hour just to talk to them on the phone, I don't know how much sending out a technician would have cost him. I know I did a much better job at taking care of his needs than they ever would have. I think it would be absurd to charge $120/hour for 60-70 hours of work, but I do feel that I should be rewarded for the time I invested into figuring out how to safely migrate all of his old data (knowledge of 12 year old SQL database management systems and such.) What do you guys think is fair?
How did you manage to not agree to terms before doing the work? That's a big mistake as you are now at his mercy as to what he is willing to pay as you have no prior agreement. All I can say is legally I'm pretty sure you made a rather large mistake.
Eli Manning is my Lord and Savior
Yea i'm really confused as to how the cost of this was NEVER discussed, did you 2 not come to a preliminary agreement when you assumed it would be easy or ballpark how much per hour in random conversation at some point?
Also do you have any documentation to support the number of hours you were working on this like a timesheet or something of the sort incase this goes sour.
Neither he nor I knew what needed to be done before I started doing the work. I guess he's just that unaware of how his system works. I actually found 3 new version of the software he had paid x-thousands of dollars for but never got installed. If he actually bothered to read how it worked, he would have known that he essentially wasted his money on those newer versions (the updates are mostly minor UI changes, nothing major affects his practice.) I don't feel like I'm going to get screwed either way, I've just never been a freelance IT guy and I don't have a solid idea of what is reasonable to ask.
Id say something closer to 2k though if you had negotiated up front.
Are you licensed to do business? If so, I'd charge about $125-150 an hour. If you're not licensed and you're getting paid under the table, shoot for $60-70.
Just saw that you spent 60/70 hours on this. Yeah no I would not charge an hourly rate for this at that point. I'm sure a shit-ton of that time was waiting around for data to copy etcetera.
Since you didn't come to an agreement in the beginning, you need to have him make an offer and tell him if it's too low. He could offer you seven grand right off the bat. He could offer you $200. Just let him take the first step in negotiations.
It isn't, really. Whether there's an existing written agreement or not doesn't matter so long as the worker sends an invoice when it's all said and done. There are countless business transactions throughout the world that are started by word and ended with paper, and even then, when a client tries to avoid payment, the invoice is proof enough to get a court case started. Most of the time, that doesn't happen, the bills are settled, and the world turns on.
Originally Posted by Minions
If you want to be extra secure about it, you can send the invoice via multiple means: one via email, one via certified mail with return receipt, and with both labeled accordingly (e.g., beneath your signature, you could write "Sent via Email and USPS Certified Mail Return Receipt"). You can keep the receipt as proof of your having sent an invoice to your client. You don't expect to be ripped off, but this is simply the most verifiable means possible of your having invoiced them, if you want it.
As for how you should format your invoice, just Google for generic invoice templates, and replace the info with your own. For IT work, I personally suggest itemizing it. For example:
** Office Network Refurbishing
* 5 Hours: Researching and Ordering Components
* 5 Hours: Researching and Ordering Software
* 10 Hours: Building and Testing Desktop Computers
And so on, so forth. You want to itemize so the client understands why they are paying what they're paying, and so you have something to argue with in case they try to deny that you did the work you're charging for. If you want to be extra thorough, you can include an extra document—such as a letter—which details each item by elaborating on what work you conducted. Just sending them a bill that says "I did shit, give me $1,000" would be hilarious, but stupid.
Additionally, write a disclosure at the bottom of your bill stating that you are not providing any warranty on the computers themselves, and that the customer may want to enlist the manufacturers of their components if they require replacements. You aren't certified nor do you have any capital, so you want something in writing about this. You should do this gently and professionally, and can add that you would be willing to conduct additional work at a different hourly rate in the future. You can even say that this was your "introductory rate," if you want, so long as you didn't already tell the doctor "I've never done this before," which would tell them that they should never expect to pay you much.
As for what you should charge, we covered in the other thread that you aren't certified and can't back anything up if shit breaks. (Hopefully, part of what you paid for included fresh OSes for all of the machines. If not, you fucked up.) You also didn't provide an estimate beforehand. This is okay. Nonetheless, you shouldn't undersell yourself. This a dentist, and they're used to paying a lot of money.
I recommend invoicing at a rate of $15 per hour at the very least, if not $20 an hour. However, you don't have to break it down in the invoice this way. If you want to, you can use it to figure out an average that looks more like the "industry norm." Here's how:
While technicians do in fact get around $50-$100 an hour (if not more), they are already certified and usually do not include the cost of research, ordering parts, etc., in their total tally. What they actually charge their hourly rate for is consulting, labor, and so on. You did more work than that, but it may not look right to the dentist if you charge that way.
Instead, let's say you're going for $15 an hour. You said that you worked for seventy hours, and that times fifteen gives you 1,050. You built and configured workstations and a network, and that was your actual labor. How long did it take you, twenty hours? Divide 1,050 by 20, and you have $52.50 an hour. In your invoice, break that up appropriately (e.g., "10 hours configuring the network at $52.50 an hour," "10 hours configuring the workstations at $52.50 an hour"), and you are done. Don't forget to itemize everything else you did, too.
Alternatively, don't figure out an average and just list yourself at $15 an hour. If you do any work for them in the future, though, this may fuck you over, as you will be eternally stuck at that rate. You can also sound like a businessman in the future if you, say, do three hours of work and say "well, it wasn't that bad of a problem and I should have seen it originally, so I'm only going to charge you for one hour of labor"—which would get you $52.50 instead of $45.
Congratulations, you now know how to conduct business as an independent.
P.S.: In case this wasn't clear (as I didn't specify it), if you paid for all the software and components yourself, you need to invoice for that too. Don't expect to eat that cost. Your hourly fees are separate of your part reimbursement charges.
I've spoken to my dentist a little bit about it but not extensively because I've been so busy. He wants to put me on his payroll and pay me that way. I set his system up such that it backs itself up autonomously every day. I'm not certified, but I know his data is safe and completely recoverable in case something happens. If that ever does happen, I think he would want to call me in to fix it, which I'm ok with doing. What you suggested about itemizing everything, coming up with a sum I think is fair to ask of him, and then dividing the actual hours of labor worked excluding research to determine an hourly wage that is close to what I've been thinking of doing, I'll probably go with that. I'm thinking around $1500 total is a fair price to ask for considering how technical what I actually did was, how important it is to his practice (he was a sitting duck before this,) and how much money I saved him. From what I heard, the last guy he hired to do this wanted to charge $2000 in hardware for a single server (obviously he's rounding up quite a ways here.) I got him three workstations and a new server for $1153.67. Also, $20/hour for 75 hours of work that used my skillset quite well comes out to $1500, so I think it's fair in that regard as well.
just wondering, what did you end up going with hardware-wise for the server?
I'm rather wondering the same thing. The server I purchased for my company is a Core i7 era Xeon with 16GB ram and six 320GB 15k SAS drives in RAID 5. That box was $5k and except maybe for hard drive space, I'd consider it the bare minimum to buy these days, especially if you ever intend to virtualize.
Those are neither workstations nor a server. Those are just desktop computers that aren't meant for business use. I hope you're not just using a consumer grade raid 5 and telling him everything is going to be secure.
You're splitting hairs over utilization versus hardware. Who cares. You could use server hardware as a desktop PC if you wanted to. Also, if you cared to read, his data is uploaded to a HIPAA compliant data center every day. Also, for some reason, Dentrix advised against RAID set ups (not sure why.)
Do you have any IT certifications?
This is correct, and I don't disagree—for the most part. However...
Originally Posted by Mojo
These are two tremendous problems.
Originally Posted by Mojo
For starters, you said that their data is "uploaded." If this is the only backup system they have, this is very dangerous. For many reasons, data backup uploads may be delayed, incomplete, etc., which is why they are not nearly as useful as local redundancy options. It doesn't matter how good the data center is if the data doesn't get there often enough, or never gets there at all. In short: if this is the only form of backup they have, you need to fix that ASAP.
Personally, I would recommend tape backup, if not a redundant server with RAID.
As for that second problem, you stated that Dentrix does not recommend RAIDs, and this sounded bizarre to me. I did some research myself, and discovered that your statement is incorrect. If you have told your client this, you have made a mistake. There is no reason to not have RAID. At the very least, the aforementioned redundant RAID server will be good.
Furthermore, how often is their data accessed? You only put SSDs in their server. Fast as SSDs may be for local performance (e.g., in a desktop computer), throughput and other concerns may negatively affect their value in a doctor's office environment. Additionally, they are not meant for heavy, constant use. It seems that you were concerned with speed rather than longevity, and this is bad.
It may be too late, but I would consider fixing these problems your biggest priority.
And for your own good, stop putting two spaces after your end punctuation.
My high school word processing classes in the 90s taught me otherwise. I know it's changed now, but it's a hard habit to break.
Originally Posted by Kohan
Your teacher in HS was wrong then, too, and was likely teaching their students a habit they picked up during typewriter use. No one would have told them that it was grammatically correct to do so, unless they were born in the 1800s—and back then, it was only grammatically permissible.
If you do have that habit, it is indeed an important one to overcome.
Huh, i didn't even know that was something people did.
No disaster recovery solution is complete without all of the following:
1) Server(s) with RAID 1, 5, or any flavor that includes redundancy
2) Tape backup or some form of backup that can be carried off-site (cloud is ok I guess, but I trust tape/cartridge more)
3) Images of your domain controllers' boot partitions if your environment is Windows
4) Tried and tested restorations
Also, no critical application should run on a server without hardware RAID. I agree with the earlier comment about SSD concerns (speed vs durability, durability should win). Lastly, consider that your dentist is probably prone to running his computer hardware as long as it keeps running ... in 3-5 years (the typical lifespan of an enterprise-level hard drive), would you be willing to guarantee him that his application server is still reliable?
Don't skimp on servers, pleeeeease.
*edit* Two other things....
If the dentist's environment is indeed Windows, domain controllers should exist in pairs so the whole domain is not lost in instances of data loss/hardware failure. I admit I didn't take the time to check if the application is Windows-based though.
Lastly, I know it goes against the hardware enthusiast in you but it's better to just go with an OEM when supplying a company with workstations and servers, for the simple reason that the entire system(s) will be covered under warranty. If you start seeing hardware failures on these machines, you're going to be on the hook to fix them, so I hope you've kept all the warranty information for the individual parts. For folks like your dentist who are not computer-savvy, having a single 800 number they can call to get it fixed is somewhat huge.
I promise I'm not trying to pile on ... just trying to offer up some of the things I've learned in my career, as insights.
As a software developer, fixed-width fonts are superior, therefore your argument is invalid regarding spaces. I couldn't give a shit about how many spaces people use, though.