This is not necessarily a server-related question, but more of a system admin question that I think would related to many on SF.

I'm doing Sysadmin/IT consulting for a small company. I only work about 3 days a week for them on average.

If a server goes down or something like that during off hours (nights, weekends, 3am, etc) and they need it fixed during those time periods, should I be charging overtime for that? Or would I not be justified in charging overtime until I've logged 40 hours for the week?

Perhaps calling it overtime isn't the best name. I guess maybe its better to call it an off-peak hourly rate. Anyways I just was curious what other consultants did in these circumstances.

closed as off-topic by HopelessN00b Jan 22 '15 at 6:14

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  • This question is off-topic under current topicality rules. – HopelessN00b Jan 22 '15 at 6:14

Well you would have had put it in your contract first. I would also say it depends on how expensive to you are to start with. If you pricey, you should probably not charge any more. If you are a pretty good bargain, might be fair to ask for more if after hours work.

Take into account how often this happens. If they are going down all the time because the developers release into production without testing etc than you probably are justified charging more. If this only happens once and a rare while, the extra relatively few dollars you get is probably not worth aggravating them or fighting over.

So if you are more expensive, but when stuff goes down you are there to fix it when they need it the most and don't give them nonsense over pocket change billing, you will probably get a better reputation and make more money in the long run.

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    +1 - Consider the effect on the relationship. My contracts state that I, at my sole option, I may choose to bill labor at a lower-than-required rate for off-hours, emergency, etc, labor. If the situation dictates billing the higher rate, I will. If it feels like the longer-term relationship would benefit from foregoing a short-term gain then I'll bill the lower rate. The Customer's expectation is always set at the higher rate, such that I can pleasantly surprise them with a lower-than-expected bill if the situation dictates. – Evan Anderson Mar 22 '10 at 20:18

Pay scale (including off-hours rate) is definitely something you need to consider when writing your contract. I can't tell you what to do in any particular situation, but here's generally what I've done in the past:

As a salaried employee I negotiate my salary to cover a reasonable amount of on-call/off-hours time (monthly/quarterly patching, etc.), and when I've been told my salary is "too high" I've politely explained why & that I come at a lower rate if I am guaranteed no off-hours calls.
If the workload becomes unreasonable or we can't agree on a fair salary then it's time to part ways.

As a consultant I always have a separate off-ours rate for 7pm-6am, weekends and holidays in order to discourage clients treating me as a "Just call him!" guy. Depending on the client this has been anywhere from 1.1 to 2 times my base rate, and always with a 1 or 2 hour minimum charge attached for waking me up.

In both cases I make it clear to my employer exactly what constitutes an incident worth calling me for during off hours: Something better be down, and it better be impacting the business (e.g. if something went down but its redundancy partner is up and working it can probably wait).


You should communicate your preferences to your customer using the price. If you don't like to do off-peak work, charge extra. Then the customer will evaluate if getting it fixed ASAP is important for them or not.

Remember to make the pricing clear so that the customer also understands what he's buying and how much it costs. It's good for all parties to have clarity in these matters, the customer knows how much it costs if the server goes down on a weekend, and you get some extra cash for doing things you'd prefer doing in another timeslot.

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    It's amazing how many emergency problems become less important when the client has to pay extra for them! – Chris W Mar 16 '10 at 15:17

If you're a contractor it is your job to change as much as you can. In fact it is the role of any businessman to charge whatever you can get away with. Market forces will dictate what that is.

Let's face it, you let your bank force you to spend hours several times a year interpreting and agreeing (with implicit consent) changes to your terms and conditions. Why? Because they can. Because you can't do anything about it if you want a banking service. It's not fair, it's not just, but it happens.

So you should treat your customers. Do whatever you can get away with. Of course, often you can't get away with much at all.

  • -1 - I'd love to be able to meet your Customers. I suspect they'd become my Customers in fairly short order. You've obviously never heard of a mutually beneficial relationship. – Evan Anderson Mar 22 '10 at 20:15
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    Feel free to study economics any time you have a spare moment. You might even have access to a local library, or something modern called "Wikipedia". You might read about someone called "Smith" - he's not an agent, Mr Anderson, never fear.. – PP. Mar 23 '10 at 10:00
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    I'd rather have a moderately profitable 10 year relationship with a Customer who gives me good references and word-of-mouth advertising than a short term, highly profitable relationship where the Customer leaves feeling like I took advantage of them and never says a good word about me again. I'll be ruthless in trading securities, but not in personal dealings, because I think there's more money to be made with goodwill than with ruthlessness in a personal, high-touch relationship. – Evan Anderson Mar 23 '10 at 14:37

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