Good rate for computer repair/servicing?

OK, so while I’m attending grad school this fall, I’m going to need a part-time job for things like rent and food. I figure something like delivering pizzas or whatnot will work fine, but I figure why not see if I can get a few extra bucks by offering out my services as a home computer repair tech. Although I haven’t passed any official certification tests or anything, I feel confident that I can fix the vast majority of problems encountered by the home user (seeing as 90% of those are virus/spyware related nowadays.) Aside from networking (which most home users don’t do,) I am very competent at jsut about everything computers, software and hardware. Only a few times have I had a problem with my or another person’s computer that I needed outside help for (and for my problems, they almost always turned out to be hardware related, which with a regular home user, would probably happen less as they usually have pre-built systems with integrated this and that instead of a mish mash of parts in a ohme-built system.)

So, what should my rates be? I’m thinking they should be less than someone who would do it for a living, for reasons mentioned, but I don’t want it to be a waste of my time if it’s too cheap (ie, less than I would make if I just worked at an actual job for the amount of itme I spend.) OTOH, if you think that I should jsut abandon this silly idea altogether and leave it to the true professionals, by all means let me know.

My low level rate is $40 for the first hour, $25 for each additional hour. Taking care of prof. people and people I know. Higher for real offices. Very much higher for Official Work.

Some notes:

  1. If you don’t know about network troubleshooting, stay out of the business. Networking is what it’s all about today.

  2. You have to be insanely careful about a lot of things. Your post contains a lot of typos. Is this reflective of your general habits?

I’ve seen some odd things happen on NEW computers that were directly related to hardware issues. I’ve also seen techs format and reinstall windows because of issues caused by a dead cpu fan or power supply fan.

I would advise NOT getting into system repairs until you know hardware, software and networking – or be able to say no (or stop working on jobs) if they are over your head.

For my friends and family I charge beer and pizza. For those I don’t know I generally follow the $40/hr, minimum of one hour, and 20/hr there after. I also cut it off at $100…I’ll keep working, but they won’t pay anymore. I also charge for any parts I have to use. I travel with a small tackle box of a spare PSU, assortment of fans, cables, screws, few software tools, screwdrivers, flashlight, a few back panel covers, and canned compressed air. It’s also useful if you can travel with a laptop and have internet access to lookup issues on Technet, or other appropriate resource. You may also need to download some drivers.

I also would second the statements about knowing more about hardware and networking. I worked at Gateway for over two years and still occasionally get stumped and have to work for many hours (4-5) to completely troubleshoot a system.

Ok, as I thought, the concensus is ‘don’t bother.’ I’m not suprised, really. Though I do know some things about networking and even more about hardware (my OP made it seem like I was clueless in both areas, far from it,) I will admit it’s really not where a professional tech would be at.

Thanks for the replies (and now I’m off to find some other way to make extra money…anyone need their lawn mowed?)

Yes. Unfortunately, I am pretty far from your location of Nowhere :frowning:

Not a problem at all. I did a quick google map check, and you’re a mere 566 miles from me. At the current rate of $0.375 per mile, that’s only $212.25 each way. Add in the actual cost of mowing the lawn (a flat fee of $50) as well as supplies (gas, blade sharpening compound, grass ruler, rake wax) it will only cost you just a hair over $500. Plus I will require no less than two lemonades, a turkey sandwich, and a local beer.

I was born in Cleveland. I’m pretty sure you’re dead center in Nowhere.

As for the OP, I’ve noticed that more of the places out here are dumping the hourly fee in favor of “menu” items:

$80 - Home network installation
$50 - Virus/Spyware eradication (+$100 if system-reinstall is needed)
$40 - Install hard drive or memory

That sort of thing. It has the advantage that you can only list those items which you feel comfortable doing. Make sure you specify that parts are extra, or else have a list of “supported components” that they have to buy before calling you for (for example) a network installation.

I also agree with ftg that networking will be almost as big as virus/spyware stuff: pretty much everyone has multiple computers these days, and wants them all to share the internet.

Luckily, setting up a home network is pretty easy, even in the face of multiple operating system. Learn how to do it “right” (i.e. not using Windows Internet Sharing) to make your life happier if they have a mixed system.

Heh, that’s what I’m currently doing on my home network . The router is at the main computer in the den, the wireless signal gets picked up by my laptop, it then shres the connection with my desktop. I’m too cheap to bother to buy a wireless card for my desktop (though I suspect I’ll have to do that when I move into my new place in August.)

Is there a better way for me to do it? Some third party software that manages the connections and signals better? (I notice a lot of dropouts with the current system on the desktop that last for a second or two only.)

Here’s another vote to avoid it if you can. Things can be going great for a while then BAM…you get an evil machine bent on breaking you. You change out someones video card, they get a totally unrelated error two weeks later and they blame the problem on you. Next thing you know you’re out there fixing a new problem for free.

Connect everything to the router, not to each other. You’ve apparently got an ethernet cable between the two computers, just move the end of it so that it’s connected to the router (most wireless routers have several ethernet ports, too). Turn off Microsoft Internet Sharing – that’s the router’s job. Among other benefits:

  • Networking people won’t laugh at you behind your back.
  • The Internet stays on when the “sharing” computer is turned off.
  • You have fewer “hops”, and fewer things to configure when you need to open a firewall port or somesuch.

I’d also suggest static IP’s behind the router if you don’t mind the effort to set 'em up. Makes routing incoming ports easier, as well as file sharing and the like, if every computer has a “known” address.

I can’t. The router is in the den, my dekstop is not.

Before I went to grad school, I had a few jobs as a tech, and still hold a few certifications. Generally, my rates were comparable with those mentioned above, with the caveat that my rates did not plateau at some cut-off mark. If it takes 8 hours to clean out a home-office machine that has more malware than user-installed software, and if it requires delicate pruning in using Safe Mode, HijackThis, Sysinternals tools, or more esoteric methods…then that’s how long it takes.

I would make the offer to just blast the whole machine and reinstall clean, but if they insisted on retaining everything, I’d give them a tentative time-estimate and get to work. An electrician or a plumber wouldn’t cap their wages like that, and neither would I. If I didn’t manage to clean everything out to the agreed upon specifications, I would take a pay cut, of course.