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#372120 - 05/07/2019 16:50 Pricing myself
Dignan
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/03/2000
Posts: 12157
Loc: Sterling, VA
I'm starting to get into a new area of work, running cable for homes and office spaces (mostly ethernet).

Up to now (in computer support work), I've been pricing my services on an hourly basis and judging my pricing by what some of my competitors charge and what my market is able to pay. But this kind of work doesn't really fit that model. Most companies charge by the drop, depending on what wiring is being pulled. I'm not too worried about the value of my time at the moment, as I'm in the early stages and I'll figure out for myself how to become more efficient and what I'll need to charge for additional employees. But I'm not sure how to best price myself so that I'm both competitive but also getting the most I can. I recently got a proposal accepted (yay!) but the client hinted that they went with me because I was drastically less expensive (um...yay?).

What would you folks do? Or what have you done in the past? I'm tempted to call up a random company in a similar market on the other side of the country and asking for tips. But that seems weird...
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Matt

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#372121 - 05/07/2019 17:07 Re: Pricing myself [Re: Dignan]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31307
Loc: Seattle, WA
Interesting question. At my old company, we used to have a guy for that, who was a freelancer like yourself. He used to work for the phone company and then branched out into that. I don't know how he determined his rate. I'm assuming that you've already tried doing some market research to find out about others in your area? Are you having problems locating other businesses who do that?

One idea: Once you've established a rapport with the client who said you were "cheaper", you could ask them who their other alternatives were, then research those folks. Perhaps ask them how they located those other businesses. Another crazy idea: Once you know who the other businesses are, maybe establish a friendship with them. Services like that who are in competition, aren't always adversarial. For example, referring clients to each other when over-scheduled.

Some google searches turn up pages like this... This page assumes that you your goal is to set your rate based on your own personal needs rather than based on the external market: https://www.creativelive.com/blog/how-to-calculate-freelance-hourly-rate-infographic/

In any case, I'll bet that your rate will be something that you change over time, as you discover more about your market, and more about your financial needs.

Good luck!
_________________________
Tony Fabris

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#372122 - 05/07/2019 20:23 Re: Pricing myself [Re: Dignan]
mlord
carpal tunnel

Registered: 29/08/2000
Posts: 14119
Loc: Canada
My experience, in a quite different field of endeavour, is that one must be careful to set the rate high enough at the outset. Long term customers don't like rate increases, but oddly seem fine with what I think of as "higher" rates from the outset.

As a specialized expert on the Linux kernel, I generally charge my best guess at 2X-3X the hourly rate of a customer's best full-time employees.

Cheers.

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#372123 - 05/07/2019 21:58 Re: Pricing myself [Re: mlord]
K447
old hand

Registered: 29/05/2002
Posts: 709
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Originally Posted By: mlord
... set the rate high enough at the outset. ...
Or maybe higher.

cool

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#372124 - 06/07/2019 00:32 Re: Pricing myself [Re: Dignan]
K447
old hand

Registered: 29/05/2002
Posts: 709
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Originally Posted By: Dignan
I'm starting to get into a new area of work, running cable for homes and office spaces (mostly ethernet).

...
Have you done much cabling work?

Experienced installers (well, the good ones) have a range of tricks and methods they use to speed up the process and limit their exposure to risk.

Risks might include ...
damaging existing equipment, structure, wiring, whatever.
Damaging furniture (moving it, working over it)
Drop ceiling hazards (old Flourescent lamps falling out, panels falling down because you looked at them sideways)

Cable failures; installed cables may not meet certification specs, unexpected lost packets, slow speeds, intermittent issues.

Basically, your ‘costs’ include a lot more than the cost of the cable and cable terminations.

I can post later about cabling tricks of the trade

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#372125 - 08/07/2019 13:44 Re: Pricing myself [Re: K447]
Dignan
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/03/2000
Posts: 12157
Loc: Sterling, VA
I'd definitely like to hear some tricks! I'm not too worried about the installation hazards as it's a new space and I'm not maneuvering around much other than half-open walls and steel beams.

I've done a minor amount of cabling as it hasn't been the focus of my business but here and there when a client has asked whether I could do it I say yes and then figure it out. I've been running cables in new homes lately and that's much more difficult, IMO.

Thanks for the thoughts, folks. I thought I was setting my price high on this one but it sounds like I had more ceiling than I thought!

Tony, that infographic is really good and I agree that it jives with my own experience with the work I've done so far. I would point out to the person who made it that their calculations assume that all of those billable hours will actually be filled which is far from the truth. The other challenge about this particular area is that I'm honestly not sure how long this is going to take me. It could be a week but it could be two weeks. I'm not sure. Naturally, that's where more experience will help me figure out how to bill, especially as I hire others to help me out (it's about 3 times as easy to run a line with two people).
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Matt

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#372126 - 08/07/2019 13:52 Re: Pricing myself [Re: K447]
Dignan
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/03/2000
Posts: 12157
Loc: Sterling, VA
Originally Posted By: K447
Cable failures; installed cables may not meet certification specs, unexpected lost packets, slow speeds, intermittent issues.

I wish I had a cable certification tool. Those things are so pricey. I have a couple cable testers but those of course won't guarantee anything and aren't good for much more than checking for proper wiring order.
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Matt

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#372129 - 08/07/2019 14:13 Re: Pricing myself [Re: Dignan]
Dignan
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/03/2000
Posts: 12157
Loc: Sterling, VA
I do have a couple tools for testing.

For way too long I used one of these cheap pieces of crap. There's dozens of versions of it sold in every computer store and they're the biggest pieces of junk I've used in my work. They fail all the time, usually by starting to fail on one pin reading, making you redo your terminations a couple times before you realize it's the tool and not your work. I went through about 5 of them before I wised up and finally spent some money.

So now my main workhorse is this guy. Certainly not the gold standard, but it's been solid for me and make life so much easier as a one-man shop. I love being able to plug in 8 probes and ID/test them all in one fell swoop instead of walking back and forth to each jack. It makes cleaning up a network closet so much easier. And I've used the coax testing end for home users too. I love this one.

But I needed something more. Something with a little more power and capabilities but without breaking the bank (basically something under $1-3K, preferably under $500). I took a chance on this one. So far...the jury is still out. I like it, and there's some neat stuff it can do like show DHCP leasing, detect POE, and it can actually do link speed testing. The main reason I wanted something like this though was for distance to fault readings. I get that this is tricky but so far I haven't had great results. It had to be calibrated because the out of the box readings were so completely off. So I made a cable of the exact length they recommended and did the calibration, then I made a second cable and snipped a couple of the strands to test it, and it was about five feet off, which can make a big difference when stuff is going behind drywall. It's tough because it depends so much on the type of cable and even which pair is the issue. I also haven't used any other tools that can do this so I don't know if this one is better or worse at it.

Anyway, that's pretty much my toolkit for testing, other than your basic Fluke toner kit which I probably use more than anything.

***edit***
Also, I ordered that last one from some UK-based startup. I have no idea of their credentials. I think the device is pretty much a Raspberry Pi in a slick aluminum case, so it just barely has a better feel to it than a hobby kit.

***edit2***
The Pockethernet can at least do cable qualification and verification, but not certification.


Edited by Dignan (08/07/2019 14:18)
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Matt

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#372134 - 08/07/2019 17:12 Re: Pricing myself [Re: Dignan]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31307
Loc: Seattle, WA
Originally Posted By: Dignan
I took a chance on this one.


Let us know how that does in the long term. I'm interested.

I love how certain tools are switching from "dedicated tool with its own control panel" to "tiny interface box plus a phone/tablet app". This makes sense for so many things. In addition to the cable analyzer you linked, I've also seen:

- Oscilloscopes
- OBD2 analyzers
- Audio/Video mixers

Anyone else have any other examples? Or perhaps know of something which could fall into that class but no one's made the smartphone version yet?
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Tony Fabris

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#372135 - 08/07/2019 17:20 Re: Pricing myself [Re: Dignan]
tahir
pooh-bah

Registered: 27/02/2004
Posts: 1765
Loc: London
Definitely price high now, always better than having to try and up rates later.

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#372137 - 08/07/2019 18:01 Re: Pricing myself [Re: tfabris]
Roger
carpal tunnel

Registered: 18/01/2000
Posts: 5620
Loc: London, UK
Originally Posted By: tfabris
Anyone else have any other examples?


I've got a USB borescope that -- theoretically -- works with USB OTG.
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-- roger

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#372140 - 08/07/2019 20:39 Re: Pricing myself [Re: Dignan]
mlord
carpal tunnel

Registered: 29/08/2000
Posts: 14119
Loc: Canada
Another one: thermal imaging camera. I have one here, somewhere.. but the darned thing is so tiny I've lost it in my office..

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#372141 - 08/07/2019 21:19 Re: Pricing myself [Re: mlord]
Dignan
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/03/2000
Posts: 12157
Loc: Sterling, VA
Originally Posted By: mlord
Another one: thermal imaging camera. I have one here, somewhere.. but the darned thing is so tiny I've lost it in my office..

Lol, seconded laugh


Edited by Dignan (08/07/2019 21:19)
_________________________
Matt

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#372142 - 08/07/2019 23:06 Re: Pricing myself [Re: Dignan]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31307
Loc: Seattle, WA
Originally Posted By: mlord
I have one here, somewhere.. but the darned thing is so tiny I've lost it in my office..


_________________________
Tony Fabris

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#372143 - 09/07/2019 03:20 Re: Pricing myself [Re: tfabris]
K447
old hand

Registered: 29/05/2002
Posts: 709
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Originally Posted By: tfabris
...

- Oscilloscopes
- OBD2 analyzers
..
Is there a decent scope now that uses iPad or iPhone for the interface?

Last time I looked the best I could find was still pretty limited.

Any recommendations for an ODB2 device? I probably should get something better.

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#372146 - 09/07/2019 11:11 Re: Pricing myself [Re: Dignan]
mlord
carpal tunnel

Registered: 29/08/2000
Posts: 14119
Loc: Canada
For ODB2, I simply got a bluetooth adapter which plugs onto the ODB2 connector in the vehicle. My smartphone then pairs with that, and I run Torque Lite to see all kinds of neat stuff.

The one I got was a generic $20 thingie off eBay years ago, but pretty much any/all of them will work --> they're just serial-to-bluetooth adapters really. Apparently "elm 327" is what is inside the one I have.

Eg. https://www.amazon.ca/KITBEST-Scanner-Bluetooth-Diagnostic-Adapter/dp/B01BY2CK32/

EDIT: Oh, that's for Android. Dunno about for iStuff.

Here's the iOS version from the same brand, using WiFi instead of Bluetooth:
https://www.amazon.ca/Diagnostic-Professional-Supports-Compatible-Vehicles/dp/B01BY2CLMC/ (also works with Android).


Edited by mlord (09/07/2019 11:24)

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#372147 - 09/07/2019 14:42 Re: Pricing myself [Re: mlord]
K447
old hand

Registered: 29/05/2002
Posts: 709
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Originally Posted By: mlord
...

Here's the iOS version from the same brand, using WiFi instead of Bluetooth:
https://www.amazon.ca/Diagnostic-Professional-Supports-Compatible-Vehicles/dp/B01BY2CLMC/ (also works with Android).
Amazon reviewer says “Does not support ELM327 V2.0”

What is that about?

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#372148 - 09/07/2019 15:00 Re: Pricing myself [Re: K447]
mlord
carpal tunnel

Registered: 29/08/2000
Posts: 14119
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: K447
Amazon reviewer says “Does not support ELM327 V2.0”

What is that about?


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ELM327#Pirate_clones

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#372149 - 09/07/2019 23:05 Re: Pricing myself [Re: mlord]
K447
old hand

Registered: 29/05/2002
Posts: 709
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Originally Posted By: mlord
Originally Posted By: K447
Amazon reviewer says “Does not support ELM327 V2.0”

What is that about?


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ELM327#Pirate_clones
Quote:
Released software versions for the ELM327 are 1.0, 1.3a, 1.4b, 2.1 and 2.2 only


So the linked hardware device does not support V 2.0 which is not even a genuine software version from ELM. wink

Is the linked device a 1.0 clone (with what ever lying version number) or a genuine ELM327 product?

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#372150 - 10/07/2019 01:50 Re: Pricing myself [Re: Dignan]
mlord
carpal tunnel

Registered: 29/08/2000
Posts: 14119
Loc: Canada
It's probably a clone of an earlier version, just like nearly every other one out there. And probably not a real issue, but that's for the buyer to decide. smile

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#372151 - 10/07/2019 11:55 Re: Pricing myself [Re: mlord]
K447
old hand

Registered: 29/05/2002
Posts: 709
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Originally Posted By: mlord
It's probably a clone of an earlier version, just like nearly every other one out there. And probably not a real issue, but that's for the buyer to decide. smile
I don’t want to prolong this thread hijack, but I don’t know enough about OBD2 to know how to select a device.

Is there a WiFi OBD2 module that uses the genuine ELM chip inside?

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#372152 - 10/07/2019 18:20 Re: Pricing myself [Re: K447]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31307
Loc: Seattle, WA
Originally Posted By: K447
Is there a WiFi OBD2 module that uses the genuine ELM chip inside?


I don't know how one would be able to tell without cracking the thing open. I guess some of the Amazon reviews might say (as you already discovered), but how to be sure? I don't know.

There was a similar thing with USB-to-serial adapters a few years ago, where there was a common FTDI-brand chip that had a lot of knockoffs. FTDI quietly changed its Windows driver to detect a knockoff if one was plugged in, and twiddle its PID. https://www.sparkfun.com/news/1629 - Fun times.
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Tony Fabris

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