I want to setup a Consulting contract to implement IT solutions for an SMB

Hello all, I am taking on a few IT consulting jobs on the side to make some extra income. I have a fairly experienced background in IT administration but have never ventured on my own before so i am not sure how to charge for solutions and services? For example, some of the solutions include free/open software. What is the best/fairest way to bill a client for services performed when it comes to IT solutions?

Client profile;
On average, the clients have 10-25 workstations, 1-4 servers, router and switch(es), etc.
Each workstation is fairly standard preloaded with WinXP, Office suite, and network drives and connects to the file server to use some in-house applications.

Client needs;
Backup solutions (backup exec, ntbackup, etc.), Protection solutions (antivirus, anti-malware, etc.), Workgroup/Domain/Network Drive setup or management.

XAnalyzerAsked:
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JohnConnect With a Mentor Business Consultant (Owner)Commented:
I suppose there will be as many ways as answers.

I do this for a living and have done for about 8 years. I work by the hour and bill by the hour, not on a fixed contract. This is fair for both parties.

I order stuff for clients, but they pay for it. This eliminate resale issues and work. My work comes from any setup.

One generally accepted measure is that 100 workstations needs one support person (more or less), so a client with 20 - 25 workstations plus a server is about a day a week of consulting work.

If this is a side job, do not underestimate what several 25 workstation clients will take. If you can work at all as a competent business person and technical professional, you should have no difficulty finding work.

... Thinkpads_User
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Lee W, MVPConnect With a Mentor Technology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Depends with how you want to operate your business.  At the base - do you want to be a "Break/Fix" business, only repairing systems when failures occur and setting up new systems as needed or do you want to setup a service level agreement and offer managed services where you charge a fixed price per month per system/device (an MSP model).

If you want the break/fix route, you should check out my article on the subject - bottom line, how much you should charge depends on how much you need to spend and make at the end of the day and where you live will play into that.

My article:
http://www.experts-exchange.com/A_1905.html
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
@XAnalyzer - my comments were aimed at providing strategic, install, software maintenance, server maintenance and other type services. I do not do break/fix - I leave that for larger vendors. ... Thinkpads_User
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notacomputergeekConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Use a managed services agreement - x number of hrs per week. Since it sounds like you already have a full time job, you probably don't have the luxury of performing break/fix work anyway where you would need to be "on call". The hrs per week need to be a MINIMUM of 20% x # computers. e.g 10 computers would be 2 hrs/week. Since it is scheduled, you can bill at regular intevals, so it's easier for the client to budget. Some weeks you may be ahead on your hrs and some weeks you may be behind, but over the long-term it should even out.

Be aware however that the nature of this business will have emergencies and you're current employer may need to know why you're leaving in the middle of the day. You will also have occasional phone calls and e-mails while working for your employer, so be ready on how you will handle these.
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
Thank you and good luck going forward. Do not overload yourself with work until you are near ready to do this full time (if you so wish). ... Thinkpads_User
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