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IT contractor rates vs a chimney sweeper

I was reading another topic's post about contractor rates and had to comment on what somebody said.

> $120 and up is pretty standard minimum for just about anything
> The 2 guys who pump by septic tank out take 30 minutes and charge
> $150. The 2 guys who swept my chimney in 30 minutes charged $150.
> Remodelled the bathroom and kept track of hours. In the end it
> came to $100/hr per person on site. But then we hear that we
> need developers with specialized experience and years of
>university education and they'll be lucky to get $35/hr?
> I think not!

At first I read this and thought "preach on brother" but after thinking about this for a second, I'd like to point out this logic is flawed.  They may have performed the task in 30mins, but I'm sure there's an average of 15mins between jobs.  So you just paid $150 for 1hr of work.  Now add in the fact your own post says "the 2 guys" and now you've got these guy's down to $75/hr.  Now also add in they don't work a full 8hrs a day, they only get a few chimneys a day, so these guys ARE NOT banking $75 * 8hr = $600 per day aka per week.  Finally you have to factor in expenses: truck repair, gas, supplies, insurance.

In hindsight, I think $75hr for 1hr of man-hours for a job that you only need done every 5-10yrs isn't that bad.  And if you don't like it, go to Home Depot, buy a chimney brush /w some extension rods, it will probably set you back $40 or so.

It's not fair to compare their job to somebody who gets paid their hourly rate for a full 8hrs a day, 40hrs a week.
TravisO Send private email
Thursday, January 04, 2007
 
 
PS: I'm not implying that $35/hr is a fair rate for an IT contractor.  Obviously, like everything in life, "it depends".  If you live in the country where living expenses are dirt cheap, $35/hr is great.  If you live in NYC or Silicone Valley, you're dirt poor or have an insane commute.
TravisO Send private email
Thursday, January 04, 2007
 
 
Rates vary radically. In one day I was contacted by 2 companies both wanted me to move at my own expense.

1. Go to new york on salary at $80k an hour as a consultant
2. go to jacksonville on a corp to corp at $150/hour.

Same job requirements. Option 1 sounded like an h1b company desperate until more h1bs can come in the market. The very top of the email stated "WILL TRANSFER H1Bs". They also refused to do corp to corp. For those of you who don't know. If you go corp to corp all of your expenses for the trip to New York are tax deductible. On salary only the move is deductible.

A decent Oracle programmer can get $95k on salary in New York.

A few days alter I was contacted about a "senior" level position at $30/hour locally.

I was then contacted about one at $50/hour that two weeks later(when the contract company could not find someone) turned into $70/hour.

Rates can also vary radically for the exact same job depending on how much the contracted company wants for themselves. I have seen rates vary by as much as $23/hour for the exact same job.
Contractor
Thursday, January 04, 2007
 
 
There are lots of rates.

There are relatively high B2B and B2C rates for on-call, specific services that require capital investment of some kind: chimney sweeps, plumbers, electricians, lawyers, accountants, doctors, etc. Here you are talking anywhere from $75 to $300/hr. Mainly because someone who says he does X generally can't just waltz in and claim the work.

Then there are professional services delivered over a period of time where there is no certification, standards, or metrics that a customer can really understand. That's where freelance software development billed directly to a client fits in. This is also where management consulting fits it. The range of rates here is vast an depends on personalities, clients, nature of work, the consultant's past reputation, etc.

Lastly there are temp rates, where it is understood that the contractor or worker is only bringing himself to the table, where there is no assurance of delivery, where the client manages the work and the deliverables. That is contracting through an agency or broker, and that is the space where most contractors live. The rates here look like compensation for many industrial blue collar jobs. IE, $20-$50 an hour, centered around $30/hr.

The work performed here is generally low-value, in part because the client manages the work. So no matter what the level of the contractor's skills tend to be, the client can always dilute the contractor's effectiveness and make him waste time.
Bored Bystander Send private email
Thursday, January 04, 2007
 
 
"Rates vary radically. In one day I was contacted by 2 companies both wanted me to move at my own expense.

1. Go to new york on salary at $80k an hour as a consultant
2. go to jacksonville on a corp to corp at $150/hour."

Contractor, why the heck did you pass up $80k an hour!  At 2000 hrs/year that works out to an annual salary of $160,000,000!  That's hedge fund money! Even in NYC that goes pretty far, I hear.
ATL/COM Dude
Thursday, January 04, 2007
 
 
Market prices are based on supply and demand.

Lots of people want cushy IT jobs. As colleges at home & abroad churn out technically-savvy users, rates drop. As companies like Microsoft dumb down the skills needed to develop software, you can get by with cheaper, marginally trained people.

Not too many people want to climb into a septic tank to pump partially decomposed poop. Since septic tanks service usually isn't something that people plan for, the few people who have the willingness to do the work and the equipment charge a premium.

This trend will continue -- schools focus on training kids to go to college, which is leading to shortages in all sorts of trades. If you need a really good master carpenter, forget about it -- he's busy.
Duff Send private email
Thursday, January 04, 2007
 
 
I guess one of the fundamental problems with dev work is that there is rarely an immediate benefit/profit or even worse, the work goes unseen from all but a small niche.

What I mean is, if somebody hires you to say add a web interface to the company's supply mainframe so customers can directly order online, it will increase their profits, but the effects can't be easily measured beforehand and they don't see the profits until further down the road.  So spending $120k+ on a contractor to build this system can seem painful because there is no positive revenue coming in from his work yet, especially if it takes a team of these people and 2 years to build.

Or if the project is some internal company thing, let's say to connect two data systems for report generation, well the only people who benefit are the people who view the reports, which is more often the secretary of some manager more so than the manager itself (well I guess that  depends on how screwed up the company is).
TravisO Send private email
Thursday, January 04, 2007
 
 
>> I guess one of the fundamental problems with dev work is that there is rarely an immediate benefit/profit or even worse, the work goes unseen from all but a small niche.

That's a really good point.

In general, consultants who want to make a lot of money need to find needs that:

- Are urgent (the time window to implement is short) - it's an emergency

- Have the full support of signing managers or executives (IE- the ones who will authorize payment believe that the problem needs solved)

- Are generally fast-turnaround in nature, so that the client will believe that they will see a fast and directly associated benefit. Most smaller companies don't want to spend anything unless they see an improvement to their bottom line in 90 days or less.
Bored Bystander Send private email
Thursday, January 04, 2007
 
 
it should be obvious that its $80k a year on salary and that was a typo.
Contractor
Thursday, January 04, 2007
 
 
Chimney sweeps do a short job and are then gone. You don't hire them for the long term. If you did, their rates would be much lower. Few companies hire a brand new contractor to do a 30 minute job. If they did they'd have to pay $500. They hire contractors for blocks of time and thus the rate is lower. I've met plenty of contractors who would lower their rate if the amount of work is large and agreed to up front.

But this is just a common fallacy amoung hourly workers. They'll tell you how much they make per hour but not how many hours the typically average per year. So you end up with contractors claiming that they make $200/hr but they don't tell you that they only bill 10 hours a year.
I'll be the pest
Thursday, January 04, 2007
 
 
I know a guy who is dirt-poor and lives in the crappy part of town but tunes pianos for $100/hr. Much higher rate than mine but perhaps he works 20 or 40 hours a year at this...?
Bored Bystander Send private email
Thursday, January 04, 2007
 
 
> Contractor, why the heck did you pass up $80k an hour!  At 2000 hrs/year that works out to an annual salary of $160,000,000!

Thanks for ruining my day.  You just showed me that there are multiple CEOs making more in a couple of hours than I do in a year.  Thanks.  [weep]
Drew K
Thursday, January 04, 2007
 
 
==>Chimney sweeps do a short job and are then gone.

Who hires chimney sweeps! I used to (we have a combination coal/wood burning stove as our primary heat source).

Usually hit for around $180 bucks a pop, twice a year. I went down to the local Home Depot, bought the brushes and poles -- total of 70 bucks. Costs me nothing but 25 minutes of my time now.

See ... that's the thing that gets me. I ... an untrained chimney-sweep virgin ... can buy the tools and google for a couple of hours and have enough knowledge to DIY. Ditto for the guy that does drywall. I don't pay him anymore. Nor the guy that does the tile/stone work. Nor the guy that does the framing, and the electric guy, and the plumber. I don't pay any of these guys anymore. The only one I still *do* pay is the HVAC guy -- our backup heat is supplied by a 500 gallon propane tank in the back yard and I don't want any gas leaking in the house.

The point is, I can learn most of what I'd be paying them to do in a matter of days or hours.

What happens if, say, you ask the chimney sweep to go out and write a query optimizer, or a compiler, or even a simple CRUD web page? It just won't happen.
Sgt.Sausage
Thursday, January 04, 2007
 
 
My tax accountant says he's lucky if he can bill out 1,000 hours a year. And he has to pay rent and salary for an assistant.

So it's not all gravy for high priced hourly people either.
dot for this one
Thursday, January 04, 2007
 
 
"The point is, I can learn most of what I'd be paying them to do in a matter of days or hours. "

So... I personally don't want to do the work any more. I can change my own oil, fix my brakes, drywall my house, and a host of other menial labor jobs. But who wants to do them when you can just throw $100 at the problem and get it done? My time and my life are too valuable to be climbing up on my roof to clean out my chimney. So you saved $100... it only takes one mistep to cost you a fortune.
dood mcdoogle
Thursday, January 04, 2007
 
 
But the biggest difference between the chimney sweeper and the IT contractor is that the chimney sweeper does tasks that other people DON'T WANT to do. The IT contractor does tasks that other people CAN'T do. The hourly wages are based on entirely different principles.
dood mcdoogle
Thursday, January 04, 2007
 
 
dood, I think you missed the point that Sausage is trying to make, which I think is a good one.

He's saying that despite all the arguments that they are paid fairly and IT people are overpaid, these guys are doing work that anyone could learn to do with a professional level of quality and speed without even any training, just teach yourself, it a couple hours. Sometimes you need a few tools that might cost under $100. On the other hand, development work is not something that people can learn to do professionally in a couple hours. Therefore, maybe possible d'ya think the development guys are worth paying something given that it's so hard there is a huge shortage of competent developers?
Meghraj Reddy
Friday, January 05, 2007
 
 
On the other hand I just remembered that there was a guy on this board who was a chimney sweep who wrote some specialized chimney sweep software which he makes a good supplemental income selling. So maybe he has the best of both worlds.
Meghraj Reddy
Friday, January 05, 2007
 
 
That's me who sells the Chimney Sweep software.

"Who hires chimney sweeps! I used to (we have a combination coal/wood burning stove as our primary heat source). "

Sgt Sausage, you are probably alright with a wood burning stove, but I really wouldn't recommend others here sweep their own chimneys.  A large amount of chimney sweeps are ex-firemen.  Do a search for "Chimney fires" and you'll see what a chimney sweep can prevent.  Besides just cleaning the soot out of your chimney, they will check for cracks and problems with your flue, cap, etc...  When your dealing with fire and carbon monoxide, it's worth shelling out a couple of hundred dollars once every few years.  Certified sweeps take more hours of training then most of us do.
Phil Send private email
Friday, January 05, 2007
 
 
I can do my own tilework, too.  I had to replace the shower door a while ago, and had to mount the new frame on the tiled walls.  I only cracked two of the tiles a little bit, because I was unfamiliar with the mounting hardware.  And the caulk and grout I used to patch the cracks looks mostly okay ... for now ... while it's still white.  And I only put the tile adhesive on a *little* too thick, so one of the tiles fell off the next day when I started mounting the frame, and I had to remove everything and start over.  Then I waited for three days to make sure it dried all the way, because I wasn't completely sure I did it right this time.  And there was only one tile that fell off because I had gone *too* thin with the adhesive this time.  But after waiting a day for the grout on the rest to dry, I was able to scrape that space out and get the last tile up and grout it.

All in all, it only took me a week and a half to hang that door.  And the cracked and patched tiles will *probably* still look good when I go to sell the house.  (At least I hope they will; the style and color was discontinued years ago, so I'd have to re-tile the whole damn bathroom otherwise.)  I'm so glad I didn't pay a hundred bucks to some barely-trained monkey to do it for me.
Drew K
Friday, January 05, 2007
 
 
"All in all, it only took me a week and a half to hang that door.  And the cracked and patched tiles will *probably* still look good when I go to sell the house.  (At least I hope they will; the style and color was discontinued years ago, so I'd have to re-tile the whole damn bathroom otherwise.)  I'm so glad I didn't pay a hundred bucks to some barely-trained monkey to do it for me."

There is the satisfaction of doing something oneself, but:

No, you were the barely-trained monkey, if you had any training.  If not, you were even less.

Think about that the next time you encounter a program homebrewed by amateur programmers.

Sincerely,

Gene Wirchenko
Gene Wirchenko Send private email
Friday, January 05, 2007
 
 
Just checking, Gene, you got the sarcasm, right?

Point is, there's training and there's experience.  Sure, maybe the *training* to hang a shower door and do some tilework would only take a couple of hours.  But the *experience* to know how much adhesive is too much, to know all the different kinds of hardware, to know the difference between "seat firmly" and "force it until it breaks" ... that's what I'd rather pay for.
Drew K
Friday, January 05, 2007
 
 
Concerning rates:

...And when you neglect your chimney due to doing it yourself for years, you may even have to have your chimney rebuilt by a specialist mason.

A friend paid $4000 back in the 90s to have their brick chimney rebuilt. It was the only place in a 50 mil radius that would come out and do the work for him.

It all SOUNDS blue collar and like "stupid work" that you could do yourself, but it's quite expensive if you don't follow up on every little detail.
Bored Bystander Send private email
Friday, January 05, 2007
 
 
You guys are making some very good points, but we should also note that most trade professionals do work along the line of the 2 hr do it yourself version. It's hard to find a competant person.

We've had our chimney swept and the guy certainly did not check grout or get up on the roof or anything, he just brought in this big suction tube thing that he crammed up the chimney, and then was out 10 minutes later with no comment except to get the check and leave a receipt.

Likewise, mechanics and shower doors, yes a skilled and experienced guy who takes pride in his work will completely outclass your amateur job, BUT you can't find that sort of guy in most areas, so in that case doing it yourself might be the only way to get it done not completely half-assed.
Meghraj Reddy
Friday, January 05, 2007
 
 
Meghraj, I go with the "how bad could I make it" test.  Plumbing I can screw up *bad*.  Hanging a new ceiling fan (with a circuit breaker on the line) is pretty low risk.  Furnace or chimney?  Bad.

The shower door, I *thought* would be a 1-hour job, max.  (With an overnight break in the middle for adhesive to dry.)  I didn't even consider the possibility that removing the old doorframe would pull a dozen tiles off with it.  Anyone who'd done it once would probably know that.

I guess that's the other test.  Is this something that will probably only ever happen once in my life?  If buying the tool is going to cost as much as hiring someone, I'll hire someone.
Drew K
Friday, January 05, 2007
 
 
I don't disagree with you. As long as you knew someone who could do it right, or you knew how to find them within a reasonable time period, that would be a great choice.

All I'm saying is that if you didn't know how to find someone, you could likely end up with a job worse than you did yourself, plus you'd have had to have paid for it through the nose.

I used to have a fairly rare foreign car and couldn't find anyone who wouldn't screw it up when they worked on it. I really liked the car otherwise, so I took vocational classes at night in how to work on those cars, and even got certified at the end of the class. This was on top of working as a developer during the day.

I much rather would have paid a mechanic to work on it, even if he wanted $250/hr would have been fine. But that wasn't available in the market I lived in then.
Meghraj Reddy
Friday, January 05, 2007
 
 
"You guys are making some very good points, but we should also note that most trade professionals do work along the line of the 2 hr do it yourself version. It's hard to find a competant person."

And the answer is: personal references. I got the tip on the guy who makes good kitchen furniture from the referee of my master's thesis.
Roman Werpachowski Send private email
Saturday, January 06, 2007
 
 
There are a certain amount of jobs that can be DIY'd with a certain amount of training (though more than a couple of hours).

Painting and hanging wallpaper are a couple of them.

Tiling and stonework are certainly not. Nor is plastering.

The main point of course is that the person who empties the sceptic tank, or sweeps the chimmney is probably putting in two hours travelling to you for one hour on the job.
Stephen Jones Send private email
Monday, January 08, 2007
 
 

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