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Re: General business questions

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Kathleen A. O'Brien wrote:
> I would like to get feedback on some or all of the following issues:
> The Problem:  I am a civil/structural engineer and the sole proprietor of a
> home-based business. I showed a tiny profit last year (yea!), am getting
> steady work and know my limits. One of my limits is that I have no clue how
> to run a business.
> So:  What do other people (sole proprietors in particular but I would like
> to hear from others, too) do about the following issues:
> What to charge for time picking up blueprints, photos, going to Kinko's
> etc?. if I had an assistant, I might be able to charge for their time, but
> I can't bill my standard rate for errand running. What about time traveling
> to and from a jobsite?
It depends on your billing rate to the client.  If it is high enough,
then these
hours should be part of your overhead. Or you can charge as a certain
fixed cost
item, say $30 for delivery etc.

> How to charge for getting on the Net for information/advice about a
> particular problem for a particular job? How do other people bill that
> time? Do they bill that time at all?

Part of your hourly billing, but not include time spent on Clinton

> Could someone tell me a range of hourly rates for a home-based sole
> proprieter who mostly does residences? Is it fair to charge more for
> commercial work? What about clients who are EXTREMELY (i.e           6
> months) slow to pay but give you lots of work? Should you charge them more?
I think the market rate is $75 to $120 for small firm.
For slow paying client, ask for down payment before proceeding work. If
charge them more, they are going to be slower to pay you.
For residential job, it is usually lump-sum contract based on square
footage and complexity of the work.

> What about a cap/not to exceed figure? I don't usually eat time on the
> simple jobs any more, but the complex (i.e. fun) ones I REALLY do.
> Is there a rule of thumb for how much time to charge when the technical
> aspects of the project are brand new and you are learning as you do it
> (because the deadline is tight and there is no time to do it any other
> way)? When I'm learning something new I will not usually charge more than
> half the time to the job, sometimes, less (depending).
Learning on the job is part of the fun but you should not charge your 
client for that.

> How do you know when it's time to hire someone? And how do you know whether
> that Someone should be an errand runner or a Jr. Engineer? Is there some
> benchmark? How do you know when you need a Partner? How do you pick a
> Partner?
I don't know about you. But when my wife tell me I will get a divorce if
don't come home for dinner, I know it is time to hire somebody.
If I can't get any more work by myself, I know it is time to get a

> I have been developing good habits; ie. run all errands at one time, don't
> go answer the home phone during business hours, etc., but I still feel
> overwhelmed and inefficient.
it is better than not having work to do.  Keep going.

> Any advice will be very appreciated!
> Kate O'Brien, P.E.
> Simi Valley, CA