Cheap IT Support Requests & The Value of Time

I value my time tremendously. I also accept the fact that you don’t give a rat’s ass about my time. To you every hour I spend not working on your issues is a gigantic waste of time, but to me, it is not. And this is about my time. You cannot get time back, once used it’s gone. You cannot sell memories to get time back. You can’t produce time. You can’t save time. You have what you have and you need to use it when you have it. What does this have to do with IT? The fact than when you’re in IT people almost expect to get advice and support at no cost or on the cheap. This behavior stems from the fact that for some reason they expect that when they buy a server and software all the rest is included for free. With a car they don’t have this mind set. They expect to pay for maintenance, insurance, road taxes and gas. Partially this is the industries fault since they market everything a great, easy, fast, and cheap. Partially it’s the buyers fault for believing commercials and sales men. So how do I deal with the ever returning attempts to get me to work for free and how do I make sure they stop asking. Very simply, I price myself out of “the market”.

One day I discovered this also works outside of IT. Everyone who knows me wouldn’t think of asking me to baby sit but once a female colleague did just that. I guess she was really desperate. Really very desperate I should add. I told her I was not interested. She insisted. I told her again that I was absolutely not interested. She decided to make a case that I should help her out. That’s asking for it. I told her it would be 150 €/hour. I got a speech that babysitting isn’t that hard and worth that much, that it’s unaffordable, that kids, a house mortgage, car payments and life are already expensive enough. All true but not my problem.  You see I do not want to baby sit and my time is very valuable to me. I asked her what day and time she needed a baby sitter, trying to get my point across. She said Saturday night. Oh, on a Saturday to Sunday night in a weekend, after office hours and no retainer for my services. That makes it 300 €/hour and for watching of the most precious and loved human being in your life that’s a bargain! Needless to say I was not hired and luckily never asked again. Mission accomplished.

Think about it, time is the most limited resource the human species has. As I said, you can’t get any more of it. Gone is gone. That makes it more precious to me than anything else.  That means I want to spend it as well as I can. So when it comes to work I try to do things I enjoy and that pay well enough so that I can have enough free time to do other things I also enjoy. This means that when I do work I will not do it at 1 € /hour. Why would I? Even if I can only work 40% of my time at 5 €/hour I’m still way ahead and have more time to myself. With some luck and effort the better paying work is also the type of work I like to do. Cool, two goals achieved in one go.

So why on earth would I baby sit or fix your IT mess (which I dislike) in my spare time (time which is extremely valuable to be)  for some pocket money given the fact that it’s not my job responsibility and I have no financial pressure to do so?  Now I don’t know a thing about babies but IT can get a lot more complicated and involved that the owner of the mess realizes. It takes a lot of time and it just isn’t worth it. So there is your answer. I don’t want to and that’s why I price it so highly. To make sure no one asks or agrees to it. With these of hand support requests, changes are you’re a small shop running a couple of servers & workstations that are mediocre at best. This is probably combined with some older, hopefully legal, operating systems and applications that might suck and have their own issues. The environment was probably not designed, is most likely mismanaged for whatever reason and most of the time you won’t like the recommendations (get Adobe Acrobat and Office of your server and stop surfing on it so you don’t get spyware on the box). You complain about how expensive the hardware is, that the software costs money, that the small business IT shop is expensive and can’t get it right like you want. Perhaps the reason is that they can’t do it for the price your willing to pay, you are asking for things that can’t be done or perhaps they are not very good at their business. Whatever the reason, somehow you think that I should fix all that for a token fee since you already paid all that money to hardware vendors, software vendors, your “IT Guys” and because it won’t take me very long since I good at what I do. Well, it doesn’t work that way. My rate is not determined by how easy it might be for me. It’s determined by my knowledge, expertise and quality of my work. I don’t do the easier work as that won’t get me as much money for the same amount of time and I get bored doing it.

Am I a money hungry capitalist pig? No. I will and do work for free for a good cause, a close friend or a sport club I sympathize with. It’s called voluntarism and you can beat that as a motivation. I will not spend my valuable spare time fixing a mess that I did not create for free or cheaply. Actually I rather have my time to myself even when the money is good. You see, you’re in that mess because you don’t know what you’re doing; you’ve had very bad counseling or services and perhaps want things you can’t afford or are willing to pay for. The effort and cost of fixing all this is probably going to make you shout at me in anger. The impact that will have on your business processes and culture is something you’ll find unacceptable. The cost and needs of a professional IT environment are beyond what you can grasp, are willing or capable to pay. So the best thing for you is use free, cloud based services and make due with what you have or can get from those services. You cannot expect people to feel obligated to fix your problems because you already spent so much money on it. My free time at night and weekends is for studying, reading, hobbies, and friends. Not for fixing other peoples problems. So if you need a good environment hire one or more good IT partners to take care of your infrastructure needs in a professional manner. That’s the only sustainable and workable way of doing it.

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