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Re: General business questions

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This didn't go through earlier so I'm trying again
> 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?
> __________________________________________________
> I do not charge time for running errands IE picking up photos, but I do
> bill for time to and from the jobsite plus an additional mileage fee
> ($0.30/mile)  We do charge clients for photos taken on the job.  By
> considering film developing battery etc costs I not charge $0.75 per
> photo.  I always make double prints so I can keep a copy in my file
> while submitting a copy with my report.
> ________________________________________________
> > 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?
> ___________________________________________________
> I wouldn't bill for general information but If there is a specific issue
> which needs to be researched I would tell the client up front before
> beginning and explain to them the need and let them know that they will
> be charged an hourly rate for this time.
> ___________________________________________________
> > 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?
> _____________________________________________________
> Hourly rates in Washington probably vary from those in California.
> Experience and liscensing also should be factored in when setting your
> hourly rate.  Don't under sell yourself.  Most people will pay a little
> more knowing they will get a solution that works.  Plus you need to
> cover your expenses "overhead ie:  internet time, computer hardware &
> software, etc we can't afford to be to far behind the technology.  In
> our Engineering Services agreement we have a clause stating that if the
> bill is not payed we will charge 1-1/2% finance charge per month.  Some
> of my clients I require a down payment up front and the remainder at the
> completion on the project.  I do not vary my hourly rate between
> residences and commercial.
> ____________________________________________________
> > 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.
> _________________________________________________________
> I usually don't provide a not to exceed figure.  I either give a
> estimate which may be low or high or a give a fixed rate.  With the
> fixed rate I try to set it above what I will actually spend, but
> sometimes I have to eat it.  Most of the time I work on an hourly rate.
> ____________________________________________________
> > 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).
> ____________________________________________________
> Care should be applied to providing services on something brand new.  Do
> you have another professional engineer which you could have review your
> plans and calculations in this situation.  Washington State Law states
> we can practice in the area of our expertise.  If you are a sole
> proprieter this should be considered prior to taking a job which you do
> not have previous experience.  On the other hand we are all expected to
> keep learning and keep up with technology.  If you are just trying a new
> proceedure you can check it with a method you feel comfortable with.
> Even if you lose money on a job learning a skill you will use in several
> other jobs it may be money well spent to have someone else review your
> work.
> _________________________________________________
> > 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?
> ________________________________________________________
> Check with your local laws on home based business concerning who you can
> hire in your home.  If you hire a Jr. engineer realize that training
> will be involved?  Figure that it will take a couple of years befor they
> totally pay for themselves.  Maybe if you are overwelmed with errands
> and other paperwork you could hire someone for a couple hours per week
> to run errands.  I would anticipate before you hire someone you need to
> be able to cover their expenses by the revenue you currently bring in.
> Also realize that a single person office is hit much harder during the
> times of slow construction.
> _________________________________________________________
> > 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.
> >
> > Any advice will be very appreciated!
> >
> > Kate O'Brien, P.E.
> > Simi Valley, CA
> >
> _________________________________________________
> If you would like to discuss this more please email me at
> andeng(--nospam--at)
> Jill T. Shuttleworth, P.E., S.E.