What to charge for computer work - opinions needed

So I find myself in the same predicament as some others on the dope. I am being asked to do some computer repair work and have been asked to charge the person for my time.

Here is the back story.

The CIO of our company brought me his laptop because the screen needed to be replaced. I worked on it yesterday but now he has a personal laptop which needs the display repalced also. He has asked if I will work on it and charge him for the time and he will pay me. He has the parts, so it is just a matter of swapping them out, which should not be too bad.

I have worked on a couple of PCs before for friends of mine or friends of my wife and I have done some basic website building. So far I have not charged anything so I don’t know what is a reasonable rate. What makes it more complicated is that this is my bosses boss so I don’t want to it to seem like I am over-charging.

What sounds like an appropriate hourly rate for PC repair? Also, would you include research time (like time spent finding and downloading the teardown specs for said machine)?

Charge him whatever you make per hour at work. That’s liable to be the only number he will feel is “realistic.”

I asked my wife and she thinks $30 an hour is reasonable and that I should charge for time spent doing research.

Any more opinions from dopers who have been in similar situations.

Don’t charge any less than the minimum you are willing to accept to do the same work for years. Because, once you have done the job at a cut-rate price, you are going to be stuck at that rate for quite some time. I charge $50 an hour for that work, and am underpriced for my skill level.

I dunno, $40 an hour or so? You’re not a licensed professional (I think), and even though it’s not required to be one to do the work, it helps.

If he asks you to do more work at that price and you don’t want to, just tell him you’re busier than usual lately and you’d want more to do the work.

My “friend rate” is $40 first hour, $25 2nd and later hours, min. 2 hours. (This is not my real job, I just don’t want to leave them stranded and I don’t want to get taken advantage of.)

For a small business, I might double it.

For consulting for a company large enough for a CIO, you might be surprised how much I can get (per day).

Note that asking for an hourly rate greater than your real job pay is quite reasonable. There’s more overhead and extras on your shoulders.

Make sure you tell him that if the computer breaks your not responsible for costs of replacement. You don’t want to be in the position of the repair failed or broke it further and it costs you money. Repairing work equipment on the work payroll is different from this.

I’d do it for free.
You are only talking about an hour or two, so the money isn’t that significant.
Why wouldn’t you want to do a favour for your boss’s boss?

Well, unless your bosses boss pays you for work you’ve not done on occasion, why not charge them for something that is likely to cost money if done elsewhere?

For the same reason you wouldn’t charge a friend. Just as a favour, because it’s a nice thing to do. It never hurts to have the boss’s boss like you. Some may consider it ass-kissing, but we all draw the line somewhere and I’d consider such a trivial job to fall into the ‘favour for a friend’ category.

Yes, but he doesn’t want to get stuck doing favors forever. This is not fun, it’s work, and the boss’s boss is not a friend, he’s a colleague. Also, he is expected to charge for the work, and if the work is good he may be asked to do more. The “favor,” IMO, is that he’s willing to devote his free time to this in the first place when he could be spending time with his family or sitting in the park or watching a movie. He should charge a reasonable rate or refuse all together.

This isn’t forever. It’s one favour. It’s his personal laptop, not a business one. It’s highly unlikely it will turn into a forever thing. If you asked a mechanic friend to have a quick look at your car would he say no because he doesn’t want to fix your car for free forever? Sensible people know where the limits are. You avoid doing favours forever by not doing favours forever. Not by refusing the first one.

Yeah, you wouldn’t want him to think of you as anything more than that, would you?

It’s a good thing if the CIO of the company you work for likes you. If you don’t care about that and would rather have a few bucks in your pocket, then by all means charge him.

My husband does a lot of computer work for friends, and his reply is “you can’t afford me” --with a wink, but it’s true. He gets cookies or gift certificates for dinners, etc.

Anyway, I disagree that this should be done as a favor. If it’s your boss’ boss, you want to be professional and charge a realistic price. Otherwise he won’t value what you’re doing. So, whatever it would cost–$40/hour? more? --that’s what you should charge. He’s not a friend, and I really think if this is done as a favor it will only hurt you. You need respect, not a new buddy.

Charge whatever an independent contractor performing desktop support work would make in your area. Some ballpark figures might be:

-1.5x a desktop technician’s hourly salary at your company (if you happen to work IT support for your company)
-Whatever the local barely qualiified rent-a-tech service in your area might charge minus a couple of bucks an hour (Best Buy Geek Squad, etc…)
-$40 / hour is a reasonable amount, assuming you live in a reasonably large city (with an appropriately above-average cost of living)

You shouldn’t bill for research time directly. You should roll that into your hourly rate and bill a slightly higher hourly rate if necessary. It’s a hard sell to bill for research time because it’s not visible; it’s much easier to bill a rate when someone is seeing you actually work on an issue. Bear in mind you aren’t just charging for you work; you’re also charging for any minor follow up questions about your work/machine tweaks he may have (which you probably won’t bill for as long as they’re small issues that don’t require a lot of time).

We charge $65 onsite $45 shop and we are probably the cheapest legit shop in town.

As for the rate, I think $50 an hour, but you could go as low as $35 if you are in part of the country with a lower cost of living. What ever the hourly charge, it should be real money to them and not a pittance.

Do explain that you bill by the hour or half hour (your pick, I would go with hour increments myself) with a minimum of a one hour charge. You do charge for research that you need to do in order to solve their specific problem, but that may well be part of that minimum of one hour for easy issues.

This is the reason that you must charge: There will be at least one penny pinching executive that on hearing of free tech support will want you to do all of their family’s tech support (including cousins) for free. They may even send you hoplessly outdated and broken equipment and claim you broke it and should replace it. I am not kidding. Any charge at all will discourage that.

In my experience, one favor is rarely one favor. It’s a slippery slope. I charge everyone but close family, because of this. YMMV.

As to the op, I’m a tech by trade, and the company I work for charges $125/hr for my work (min. 1/2 hour). I do “side work” for $75 for pc work for my professional customers (for work at their home, not office) and anywhere from $25 to $75 for friends/family. However, I (as are most of the people I deal with) am also very open to barter.

One more thing if I may, my “side” clients–and I don’t have many–are for the most part very well to do, and most usually think I’m not charging enough and throw in a tip for “coming all this way”.

Good luck.

The CIO has sourced the parts he needs. Maybe he got someone to get them for him to save on repair bill.

Now he’s asked you to fix it, because he’s not comfortable doing this himself, or would just prefer to pay someone to do it.

Charge him for research for the disassembley guide, definately. It’s different for almost every laptop.

I got out of computer repair, did a degree and got into coding coz there’s more money in it. But one thing I can assure you of, is that this guy will chase you for everything if you’re too cheap. Balance that statement with the average price to replace the laptop. if it’s a piece of junk, tell him so and tell him its uneconomical to repair it.

If that’s not the case, hit him with a bill that’ll make him think twice before dropping the damn laptop again! Or coming to you to help him install his broadband connection into his son’s room!


From the 80s to the 90s I typically got all my computers from a local shop, they custom built them to my specifications. I was essentially paying them to put the computer together, and paying them because they offered a three-year warranty for parts and labor.

For most of that time they billed me at a $75/hour rate for PC-building. PC-repair on a PC that wasn’t under their warranty was $90/hour. The last PC I had them build for me they had increased their rate to $90/hour for PC-building as well.

All told I’ve never regretted giving them my business, I was getting a top of the line PC made with my own custom-selected components (most of which were top of the line.) It was a much better value than you could get out of Gateway or Compaq or other such companies at the time.

Only reason I decided to start building my PCs myself is that I moved and have never found a local shop that I really like here.

I’d think charging in that ballpark wouldn’t be totally unreasonable. Though admittedly you don’t have as many costs to cover as a fully-operating business.