What I Do
What’s my job?
If you’re a sole trader or small business, I’m your IT systems administrator, manager and helpdesk support technician. But it might help to think of me as an IT version of a virtual assistant. When you don’t want to hire a full member of staff, however small you are, you can hire me instead, for as many hours a month as you need – or for a particular project. I look after all the same things as you’d expect your IT guy to do, but from a distance.
Types of work
I have a standard rate for ‘ad hoc’ work, where you don’t have a support agreement with me but you just want some one-off work done. This kind of work also has a minimum 1 hour charge, and as I have regular paying clients who have paid for a certain level of service, I will fit you in when I can.
For better rates and a quicker response, I have a couple of support agreements – basically a monthly contract and a pay as you go option where you by blocks of hours. At this point I’d consider myself to be your (very small) IT department and you can use the time you buy for anything you like.
For some kinds of work, it’s way better to make it into a stand-alone project, because you get a fixed quote for a fixed set of work and there’s no surprises, such as it costing more than expected. Here’s how they all work.
AD HOC WORK
For anyone without an active support agreement, I charge my normal ad hoc rate with a minimum of one hour. I’ll try to give you a decent estimate of how long I expect your job to take but as you know, computers are temperamental little things and unexpected circumstances can crop up. If I run into anything that’s going to take the job substantially over the rough estimate I’ve given you, I’ll let you know and we can decide what to do. As I said, I charge a minimum of one hour and in half-hour chunks after that.
I offer substantial discounts on my ad hoc rates to my regular support customers, because it gives me less admin work to do, I am more familiar with your systems, and it’s guaranteed income. You’ll benefit from no minimum charge, a lower fee per hour, and I aggregate work into 15-minute chunks (if you call me up for 2 six-minute jobs in a month, I’ll round that to 15 minutes off your available time, whereas ad hoc you’d be charged for 2 hours. Really short jobs like this are quite rare, but this is an illustration of how it works.)
I’ll also be better placed to help advise and manage your IT. As a regular support customer, you also get priority treatment over ad hoc requests, and I’ll provide a breakdown of how I use the time you’ve paid for. Pricing per hour varies between the 2 options but each has its benefits.
Regular support works well if your IT needs are varied, and you need me on the end of a helpdesk to answer or fix things, or putting hours in towards some development goal that’s harder to define as a self-contained project.
Monthly or pay as you go, you can use these hours for anything you like, whether that’s user support or helping you plan how to use a new cloud service, helping you answer fiddly technical questions or giving advice, or helping your staff understand the tools they have in front of them with some basic training. Just like a real IT department, I’ll also start keeping an eye out and looking proactively for ways I think you could improve your business using tools you already have, and you can decide if you want to pursue them.
When you know you need regular support, a monthly contract means that you know you have IT support whenever you need it. Hours carry over (not indefinitely) so if you don’t use everything in a month, that’s not the end of the world. This option is good when you are looking for the equivalent of a very part-time member of staff.
Time Blocks – Pay As You Go
If you want to have support on hand but you don’t know that you’re going to need a couple of hours a month, you can buy a time block. Bigger blocks are cheaper, but they’re also non-refundable, so I’d suggest getting a small one first and seeing how quickly you get through it. A benefit to doing it this way is that you can buy a block (a minimum of 4 hours) and keep it in your pocket for up to a year, knowing you have IT support there when you need it but not having to buy 24 hours (2-hour minimum contract x 12 months) of work for the benefit.
Like mobile contracts, the monthly works out slightly less if you know you’ll use it, but pay as you go works well if you tend to go for long periods without needing anything. It’s up to you.
When you want something new set up, I’ll put together a proposal and quote with a fixed fee for the whole job. I don’t quote this kind of work as a number of hours with an hourly rate because I don’t want you to have any surprises and I don’t want the budget to creep up. It also doesn’t make sense for me to be paid more if I work slower or have to fix my own mistakes, so I always include unlimited support for a month after the project for any fixes or parts that don’t work as we discussed. If someone didn’t quite make it work in the first place, why should you have to pay them to fix their own mistakes? With a fixed fee you always know you’re getting what you asked for, fully working, and how much you’re paying for it.
It should be a rare occasion that any unforeseen charges need to be added. Usually this would only happen if the scope of the project changed, say if you asked me to set up some additional features for you that we hadn’t originally discussed, and I’d make sure you knew before you agree that these hours would be charged on top of the original quote.
Examples of project WOrk
- Office 365/Email migration – This is the most common fixed-fee project I’ve done. I’ve moved a few smaller businesses who were having trouble with their basic email accounts over to Office 365, not only sorting out their current issues but giving them a lot more possibilities to develop their business processes using Office 365’s various other features.
- Multifactor Authentication – if you’re already in Office 365 I can help you get your whole staff switched over to multifactor authentication. It’s really the minimum security standard that you should be working from, and while it usually goes smoothly, there are some snags that I can help work out.
- Other Office 365 feature setup – Once you’ve moved to 365 – or maybe you’ve set this up yourself – you’ll want to set up file sharing, Teams collaboration, or some of the other new features. I’ve done stuff like this as standalone projects, where you pick what you want set up and I get it going for you.
- Google Apps (now G Suite) – I’ve done the same migration and setup work using Google’s G Suite of business systems – setting up email, file sharing, and other collaboration so your business can work well across the board.
- Basic email forwarders – A very quick and cheap mini-project, I can quite easily get you a more professional-looking email address to put on your publicity by forwarding something like firstname.lastname@example.org to your personal address. Your business cards don’t have to have email@example.com on them any more!
- Almost anything else – If you had an IT department, what would you ask them to do for you? What is the one IT thing right now that’s slowing your business down? Why not ask me whether anything can be done about it? Maybe fixing it will save you time and make that money back over time. I’m very happy to give you some initial advice for no charge, so you can work on it yourself or maybe ask me to quote for doing the work for you.
Unless you’re living nearby – that is, near where the Charente, Vienne and Deux-Sevres départements meet – all my work for you will be done remotely. This obviously means that there are a few things I can’t do, and you’d still need a local hardware person to help fix a broken computer or external hard drive. You’d be surprised how much can be done remotely though, especially as more of your work starts to involve cloud services, which is my forte.