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Helping Your Ex-Employer? 878

Posted by Cliff
from the make-sure-you-still-get-paid dept.
ali_bubba asks: "A funny thing happened to me today, I have beeb unemployed for over 5 months, and all of a sudden my ex-Boss calls me and demands (well, it sounded like a demand) that I help her out, because her entire corporate LAN was down. Naturally, she knows that I'm kind person, but boy what attitude, so I did help her save the day. She did not even bother calling me back to thank me, (like if you get slapped, turn the other cheek, as Jesus once said) Has anyone else had this happen to them before? What actions did you take?" While I can understand that some people in this situation may harbor some ill will if place in this situation, it may behoove you to see this as an opportunity, and at the very least, an opportunity to make a little money off of your old company. It doesn't pay to burn bridges, especially if they need something that you can provide. For those who have been in this situation, how did you handle it? For others, if you were offered work from your old job, would you do it, and under what conditions would your perform said work?
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Helping Your Ex-Employer?

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  • Did they pay you? (Score:4, Informative)

    by MyHair (589485) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:22PM (#4686468) Journal
    I hope you got paid. If it happens again, say you will surely help. Your price is $x per hour. Simple as that. It's business. Don't let them push you.

    They wouldn't provide you a company benefit you had for free now, believe me.
  • I would (Score:5, Informative)

    by einhverfr (238914) <chris.travers@gm ... om minus painter> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:22PM (#4686471) Homepage Journal
    Submit an invoice to her for the time necessary to do this (plus transportation, etc.) to her at my previous rate. This may seem harsh to some or weak-willed to others, but it sends a message that you value your time and expect to be compensated.
  • by helixblue (231601) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:26PM (#4686498) Homepage
    I woulda just billed em. The RAID crashed at the place I had been laid off from last, and the only admin just had a cyst removed from his shoulder so he couldn't type. In a panic, they gave me a call.

    I had already gotten a new job, but I was happy to work with em on an evening, for $70/hr :) Got everything back within 45 minutes, spent another half hour "stress testing" the RAID, and I was off.

    I mean, I would have at least charged them $10/hr. if I was you :)
  • Set Your Rate First (Score:5, Informative)

    by hyperizer (123449) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:36PM (#4686569)
    The perfect time to negotiate your hourly rate would have been while the "entire corporate LAN was down." But if you did end up doing the work pro bono, at least your old boss will know she can count on you in the future. Next time make sure to work out the terms ahead of time.

    If you end up doing a lot of consulting work, you're going to have to get a business license and (depending on the state) get a tax ID number. Here's a pretty basic article [alistapart.com] about setting up a consulting business (although it's aimed at Web developers).
  • Passwords....... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:37PM (#4686576)
    If whatever you helped with involved having passwords to sensitive information that you had access to while working there, you might want to "forget" those passwords.. They may be looking for someone to take a fall for a break in...

    I had one ex-employer, several months after I had quit, call me and ask for some passwords for their main development server... Mind you that half the office knew the passwords to the server, so its not like I was the only one.. There's no way I was going to say that I knew the passwords..
  • by Wavicle (181176) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:44PM (#4686615)
    Just make up an invoive for your labor, you can even charge an on-call fee. A court will back you up as well. Nobody can expect someone to work for free.

    No, the court won't back him up. It's the same thing as your friend next door asking if you could take a look at what is wrong with his Windows 95 box. You can't retroactively charge a fee if you didn't agree on one up front. Whether you want to call it work done for good will, pro bono, volunteer or on spec, you can't charge unless both parties understand before hand there will be a charge or both parties agree afterwards there should be a charge.

    Never work for a corporate entity free of consideration. If you're inexperienced, that consideration may just be "experience". If they laid you off, you may work on speculation that they will think of you first when they can start hiring again. But if you've been out of work for 5 months, I reccomend that consideration be cold hard cash.
  • Entitled to payment (Score:5, Informative)

    by vanguard (102038) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:46PM (#4686624)
    I remember a lesson from my business law course in college. The example they used was this.

    If you come home and find that somebody mowed your lawn, you do not own them money because you have no relationship.

    If you're at a strip club and you say "no thank you" to a lap dance but she performs anyway, you don't owe a thing because even though they performed a service for which you would normally expect payment, you expressly said you don't want a business relationship.

    If you see a kid mowing your lawn and you wave to him (or otherwise prove you know he was doing it), you owe him money. By acknowledging that he was performing a service for which you would normally pay you agree to a business relationship.

    If you send a reasonable invoice, you can expect to be paid.

    Vanguard

  • by Spacelord (27899) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:46PM (#4686630)
    >I don't bill for anything under 30 min

    You have it reversed ... you should always bill *at least* 30 min, no matter how small the question. Else you could end up being bothered every 5 minutes with small questions because you're not charging for it anyway.
  • Saying no (Score:3, Informative)

    by Max Coffee (559629) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:46PM (#4686632)
    My inference is that you did not request payment in advance, and you felt (and feel) taken advantage of. Everyone's advice re: specifying fees and/or telling her to F.O.A.D. are accurate, but you probably already knew that. My guess is you're just not comfortable with saying no. I've had this problem before, and I have some books to suggest (pick your own store, I'm not getting paid for this!)
    • Unlimited Power by Anthony Robbins. My personal favorite.
    • Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury. The classic negotiation book.
    • Start With No by Jim Camp. I haven't read this one, actually, but it sounds very on-topic.
    Good luck. Find your strength.
  • by emptybody (12341) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:49PM (#4686653) Homepage Journal
    I left a job of three years on good terms. The admin they hired to replace me was fired, but they did not follow proper procedures. He came in that weekend and trashed the systems. I was called to see if I could bail them out. I did but at my standard consulting rate. I made money on the side and they got back to work quickly. Everyone was happy.

    If you are not on the books there could be legal issues if you make things worse, get hurt, etc.

    Be sure that you are on the books as an employee/contractor/etc. whenever you do work for a proir company. This is for your protection as well as that of the employer.
  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:51PM (#4686659)
    When you work for any employer, you should present yourself to your employer as a professional. In return your should expect treatment as a professional. If you don't get it, you should decline to continue your relationship with your employer.

    If a former employer called me for help I would eveluate the request using the criterea:

    1. Would helping my former employer violate any agreements I have signed with my current employer?

    2. Did the former employer live up to their obligations to me as an employee, and treat me as a professional?

    3. Did my employment contract with my former employer include any provision that I provide such services?

    If 1&2 or 3 are satisfied I would fax the person a standard consulting contract with my hourly rates. On receipt of a signed contract I would then perform the requested services.

    If not, I would decline.

  • Certainly! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Frightened_Turtle (592418) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:54PM (#4686673)
    Yes, I'd help out my old company. But it would be at one hell of a premium price! Basically, you can charge about $125 per hour as a consultant and still have that considered a reasonable rate.

    But if they were going to cop an attitude with me, my minimum would be the equivalent of 2 months of my salary at the time I left the company. Half (non-refundable) to be paid up front, the other half to be paid when I've completed the job they brought me on to cover.

    In ANY situation, make sure you get a P.O. from them before you show up to do the work!!! It should state what the work is that they expected you to accomplish. If they start asking you to do other things while you are there, tell them to fill out new P.O.'s for those tasks separately, and determine an hourly rate to be charged for every hour spent on those separate tasks. Those separate tasks should be started when you are done with the work paid for by the first P.O.

    Be professional! Do the best work you can. Remember, at this point you are an independent contractor. Your work should stand as a testament of what you are capable of as a professional.

    Last, when you're done, make sure you give a clear list of what you diagnosed and what you did to fix things. Make sure that the person who authorized the work signs off on it. Don't forget to make a copy! (using their copier, naturally!)

  • by Caradoc (15903) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:54PM (#4686674) Homepage
    You don't bill for anything under 30 minutes?

    That seems... odd. When I was working independently doing contracting, it was a two-hour minimum, and most of my business came from four or five customers who repeatedly called back for more.
  • by flosofl (626809) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:54PM (#4686675) Homepage
    I was laid off about 7 mos ago. Since that time I have made more money as a consultant than I did in the last year. I kinda needed that push to go it on my own. I have been called in many, many times to deal with problems beyond the skills of my lesser-priced replacement. I have more than gladly helped them. For $130/hr billed in 1/2 hour increments. One note: get a contract signed BEFORE you do anything!
  • Business is Business (Score:2, Informative)

    by Tseran (625777) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:01PM (#4686718) Journal
    As some of the other posters have said, treat it like business. You have a service that they require. Simple supply and demand. If you happen to know the going rate for the service, tell them that is your charge, and make them sign an estimate sheet so that later on if they decide they don't want to pay, you can use that in small claims court. On the esitmate sheet have a disclaimer stating that the signer agrees to pay for the services estimated, even if there are discrepancies in the time estimated, and also agrees to pay all associated costs in said work, including transportation and parts. Cover all your bases before walking in the door. If they say they can get someone else for cheaper, remind them that you are familiar with the system and that kind of familiarity will save you time over someone else, so while their rate may be cheaper, they will end up spending more time and costing more money just getting familiar with the system.
  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:11PM (#4686779) Homepage
    You send them a bill. Find an invoice template for your word processor and fill it in. Charge a rate comparable to what commercial services would charge to bail somebody out of a mess. [geeksquad.com]

    If they don't pay, you print "Past Due" on the bill next month, and send it again. Add 1.5% per month as a past due fee.

    If they still don't pay after 90 days, you file a claim in small claims court. Very seldom do things reach that point. If you go to court, and you did the work, you'll get a judgement in your favor. Then either they pay, or you find out where their bank account is and get an order attaching it.

    I have to tell this to some of my artists friends now and then. They're always doing little jobs for small businesses and not getting paid. All have been paid by the second invoice.

    The one time I went back and did a job for a previous employer, I charged them about a thousand dollars for a weekend. And that was in the 1970s.

    Surprisingly, you won't be hated for this. You'll b e respected.

  • by Latent IT (121513) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:19PM (#4686824)
    "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5:38:45 RSV)

    From the Sermon on the Mount. Okay, smart guy?
  • by mindstrm (20013) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:50PM (#4686980)
    The thing is.. you were very clearly in the right. You could have countersued.

    If they didn't pay you for the work, you don't owe them the finished product. You don't even need a lawyer to explain that to a judge.
  • by buswolley (591500) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:57PM (#4687015) Journal
    Thank you for pointing that out. The world needs more p[eople like you. It isn't all about money. While he was unemployed for five months, that does not mean he is hurting for money. Besides, doing good for someone, with no expectations in return, can be very enlightening for both parties.
  • Rule of thumb... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @05:08PM (#4687075) Journal
    A rule of thumb for short-term consulting:

    If X is the annual salary of someone who would be a full-time hire for the position, 1% of that per 8-hour day for consulting on a week-to-week basis, with an expected project length of about 6 months. That may sound high at first. But remember that the premium is paying:
    - The employer half of social security
    - other benefits (medical, dental, unemployment insurance, ...)
    - The administrative/paperwork time (either paying other people's salary and benefits or your downtime doing your own paperwork, which ISN'T billable hours once you've gotten beyond filling out a time sheet)
    - Dead time between contracts.
    - Time spent hunting for a new contract. (More dead time or a salesman's time).
    - The consulting firm's profit (or your own increased dead-time when going it alone).
    - A premium to the worker for the increased employment volatility.

    For shorter term you charge higher, of course. You have to cover fixed costs from whatever you're paid.

    Emergency service was going for $300/hour, four hours minimum, in the 1970s. Adjust that for inflation since then for an approximation of current rates. But this is a market issue so it's really "all the traffic will bear".

    But this a former employer, and their mission-critical system is down. BIG difference. Company's in a bind, so the traffic will bear a lot. And it's a one-shot deal. So a big question is, what was the situation when you left.

    1) You were a consultant hired to set up the system and go away.

    It's warranty work. Same rate as before even for short-term. If it's only a couple hours or the crash was the fault of something you screwed up you might do it gratis.

    2) you had been hired as an employee mainly to set up the system, with the expectation that you would be laid off when done.

    Same as 1)

    3) You left for a better offer they didn't match: Charge your new rate, or a short-term consulting rate based on it, if your current employment doesn't prohibit outside work. (If it does you should have asked, when signing, for a rider allowing such short-term moonlighting to cover trouble at the previous employer on a non-interference, non-compete basis.)

    4) You parted on reasonably good terms because the previous company was in bad financial straits and couldn't afford you any more, though they really wanted to keep you.

    More complicated. Do you still like the people? Are you still unemployed? Did they give you a good severance package? Do you expect them to try to rehire you if buisiness improves? Then fix it for them. If it's five-minutes of advice over the phone, maybe just do it gratis. But if you have to go over there, or login remotely, you GET PAID FOR YOUR TIME and you HAVE A WIRTTEN AGREEMENT before you start:
    A) Charge a consulting rate based on your old salary, or
    B) They can rehire you now - preferably for a minimum of another two weeks "in lieu of (another) notice" - and to be around to fix the fix.
    C) If they're really hard up for cash they might swap you a laptop or something. (Note: You'll have to pay taxes on its market value.)

    There are three important issues here:

    i. You need a paper trail that you had permission to operate - that you were acting for them. Otherwise your ass is in a sling if they don't like your work, or something else goes wrong after they're gone, or if they're sued over something their system does and you're named in the suit.

    ii. "A workman is worthy of his hire." You are a PROFESSIONAL. You trade your work for MONEY (or something else of value). This is true even if you and your boss are best buddies outside work.

    They paid you while you were there. Then they decided they could do without you and let you go. Now they discover they were wrong - THEY, not YOU, must pay for the mistake. It is unfair to you and to all other professionals competing with you in the same market, for their bad decision to SAVE them money, COST you money, and COST the person they would have to hire to cover for you the opportunity.

    III. There are LAWS about this: You did work for an employer. They must pay at least the minimum wage. You both must declare that you worked. If you're getting unemployment you lose it for that week. You're subject to significant criminal penalties if you lie about it. (And your permission paper, above, created a paper trail.)

    4) They laid you off, terminated, or fired you under less than ideal conditions.

    F**k 'em. One of two options here:

    A) Let 'em stew in their own juice. They deserve it. And if you TRY to help 'em you can expect to be exploited repeatedly (while they laugh behind your back) and/or to be blamed for all screwups in the future - maybe in court, maybe on the grapevine, maybe when a prospective employer checks your references. (Just think: If you get work you won't be available to fix their problems, right?)

    B) Find the highest amount a consulting firm would charge for emergency service to fix such a disaster for somebody they DON'T have a maintainence contract with. (Say it's $1,250/hour minimum four hours?) Now add a premium - because you're already an expert on their system and won't have to spend a half-day (or whatever) figuring it out. Then GET IT IN WRITING before you touch a thing. Include your time talking to them about getting it in writing and waiting for it to be keyed and printed up. Tell them up front that you WILL charge them for that time, so they should stop arguing and get the document ready.

    Regardless of the situation, as a former employee you need the paper before you touch the system. (See 1. above.) Once the former boss finds out that the paper is needed (and what your terms are) you may find that the emergency isn't all that big after all. B-)
  • by TekPolitik (147802) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @05:19PM (#4687125) Journal
    Close to all the replies so far have been this, I agree... but one has to wonder... Why on earth did he agree to do this at all without an agreement up front for payment?

    If somebody asks for your services in a context in which it would be normal to expect payment, and you provide those services, they must pay you whether they promised to do so or not. The amount they must pay you may be smaller than what you could have gotten with a contract - but they must pay "a reasonable sum" given the type of service performed, and in a case like this one, "a reasonable sum" might be calculated by reference to contracting rates for the same service.

    In legal terminology, this payment is called a "quantum meruit"

    IANALY,TINLA

  • Re:I've had worse (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2002 @05:34PM (#4687184)
    Hahaha, what a dumbass. If you didn't actually take down the webserver, then there is no EVIDENCE. If there is no EVIDENCE then what do you care what some prick tells the FBI?

    I had a client do that to me once, they called the cops and reported that I hacked their network after they stiffed me and didn't pay their bill (I did not hack their network).

    I just showed the cops that I work on computers all day, every day, and if someone doesn't pay me, I don't bother to hack their boxes. The bottom line is that it's not worth my time. I do this for money, and if one client doesn't pay, I've got other clients waiting. I'm not going to waste hours hacking somebody's network when I could be getting paid to work on someone else's.

    Of course, I was also able to show them the email where that same client had told me that they thought that their previous consultant had hacked their network, as well as my reply where I showed them that they were wrong, and in fact the problem that they thought was caused by "hacking" was actually caused the stupidity of one of their employees. And naturally, it was no surprise when the cops told me that the problem they were reporting that I caused, was pretty much identical to the problem they reported to me that the previous consultant had supposedly caused.

    I have a strict policy, if I'm not getting paid, I don't touch their computers. The cops asked me if I *had* ever hacked anything, and I told them, "sure, but I sure as hell wouldn't do it without getting paid". They asked me what I had hacked. I showed them invoices for security audits that I had done for clients.

    They dropped it.

    This client actually called me a few months later wanting more work done. I told them that I would be willing to work for them again, but they would first have to pay the outstanding invoice, plus the 1.5%/month interest on the outstanding invoice. They said that was fine so I told them to send me a check, and when it had cleared I would make an appointment to come by their office to discuss their current needs.

    After the check cleared I went to their office and let them tell me what they wanted. Then I told them what I wanted. I explained that due to the previous problems, I would only work on a retainer basis, where they had to pay in advance $2500 and I would work until that was used up, and then would stop working until they made another retainer payment.

    They said that was fine, but they kept playing a game where they said the check was in the mail, and they needed me right now today, it was an emergency. I told them the check hadn't arrived (it hadn't) and until the retainer was paid, I was unwilling to begin work. I offered several times to come to their office to get the retainer check, but there was always an excuse of some sort, usually that the guy who signed the checks was out of town or something.

    Ultimately, they never did pay the retainer, and I never did more work for them, but I did end up getting that last invoice paid.

    I don't hold a grudge, business is business and many many businesses either pay every invoice late (which is why you charge interest on overdue invoices) or they don't pay at all, or more commonly, they pay everything late, and they never pay the last invoice after they decide they don't need you anymore. Late invoices don't bother me much, because it's a common thing, and let's so companies try to maximize cashflow by collecting as soon as they can, and paying as late as they can.

    Ultimately, almost all of them will call for something, and I usually get paid...eventually.
  • What did you do? (Score:5, Informative)

    by bluGill (862) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @05:52PM (#4687272)

    I think the key is What did you do for them? answer simple "Do you remember how this worked?" type questions, or did you diagnose and fix the problem for them.

    It is fair to call up with simple questions that are just a matter either "No, I don't recall that", or "It worked like this...". They must be simple questions where you do not have to think. (If you are doing noting else at the time you might hold the line while their experts think out the problem, but don't think for them).

    If they want you to think out the problem, you need to charge for services. Be reasonable, but remember you know the system so you are better than the average expert off the street!

    P.S. If you are asked simple questions DO NOT think for them. I have been gotten in trouble because of this. In that case I went to my mentor with a simple question that was in his area of expertise, and he took the problem from me, and then complained to the boss that I left all the work for him. (I was asked to leave over that issue, so of course I'm ticked)

  • by warp1 (231206) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @06:35PM (#4687503) Homepage

    However you might start here:

    U.C.C. - ARTICLE 1- GENERAL PROVISIONS ..PART 2 1-203. Obligation of good faith. [cornell.edu]

    http://members.cox.net/jwblack/rights

  • by NMerriam (15122) <NMerriam@artboy.org> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @06:42PM (#4687530) Homepage
    I guess I am nicer than most of the posters here. Almost every employer I have left has called me once or twice after I left for some information (generally information I left documented, but not always) or minor help. If I can help them out over the phone and walk them through something in less than an hour, I am going to help them out no charge.

    i suspect most of us have done the same thing -- no matter the circumstances of your leaving, there is almost always some bit of information they call you for 3 months later. If it's just a call on the phone, i think it's only common decency (and being nice to your job references) to get them what they need.

    It sounds like this is a very different case, though -- it isn't that they lost the password or forgot where he keeps the printer supplies -- the LAN crashed and they needed a technician to fix it. While his previous knowledge was no doubt helpful, it was not something only he could accomplish due to privleged information -- they could have called any technician and solved the problem. especially if it requires showing up in person, I don't think i would get involved in that without some sort of payment...
  • Re:How much? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2002 @07:02PM (#4687605)
    This is definitely an amusing story.

    However, MIT notwithstanding, I don't think it's true. The reason is is because I work there, right now, and I have never heard that story. There are a ton of institutional stories of varying levels of plausibility (including one about how back in the bad old days there was an employee whose job it was to "get things done" for the researchers, no questions asked, and another about autocannon rounds perforating a farmer's field during the development of the Vulcan) but I have never heard that one attribted to Steinmetz.

    I have heard it -- but I usually hear it as something like "chalk mark - $1; knowing where to put it - $24,999". Isn't it even a Unix fortune?

    I also don't think Steinmetz was ever a consultant, though I could be wrong on that. He was one of the chief GE researchers, who was more or less responsible for the creation of GE Research [ge.com]. I believe that the "canon" is that Edison courted him extensively and brought him on board to run the research group, or something to that effect.

    Anyhoo, I think it was a good citation and an amusing story. I also don't mean to be a fact-nazi, but I don't think it's 100% true. :)
  • by stephanruby (542433) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @07:14PM (#4687649)
    Eventually, after spending half my birthday on the phone, I knew what I had to do. Like I said, the original amount just wasn't enough to call a lawyer about, and I decided this wasn't either.

    If you feel you're being bullied -- your fax, your email, and your caller id are your friends. Lie if you have to, but never stay on the phone with a bully, do everything in writing. Written correspondence gives you a paper trail and it keeps you emotionally protected.

    In your case, this lawyer would have sent you a letter stating that he was going to sue (and take everything you own). As a reply, you would have sent him back a registered letter, stating that his client still owed you X amount of dollars plus some reasonable late charges, and you would be happy to send him the code as soon as you got paid. At this point, the lawyer couldn't have done much. If he wrote back to you with some unreasonable demands, he would risk looking like a fool in front of the judge and even worst, he could even risk losing his license for breaking his professional code of conduct.

    As to the original post, I have a similar advice. If you're not a good negotiator, cut the phone conversation short and fax (email is obviously not going to work if their network is down) a simple invoice for your work. It doesn't need to be elaborate, just something like "My services, to repair the LAN, are going to cost $1000 per day (minimum charge: one day). Will this work for you? " Date it and sign it and then wait for a response (and don't be bummed out if they refuse your offer, that's life).

  • by Col. Panic (90528) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @07:57PM (#4687817) Homepage Journal
    I own an On Site Computer/Network Tech Support business that caters to Businesses, and I charge $60 an hour, and that's actually on the low end of the standard.

    So do I and yes, $60/hr is on the low end. I charge $75/hr and that is lower than my competition. CompUSA charges $79/hr and another company in my town charges $85/hr for PC work and $105/hr for LAN, whereas I charge a flat rate.

    It makes perfect sense to bill them, and it also says, "Next time you call, there will be another bill."

    I would also include a cover letter detailing the job that was done and making any formal recommendations about the state of their equipment (upgrades that would benefit them, outdated equipment that should be replaced, etc.). I normally use the cover letter for "warm fuzzies" but it is the perfect way to formalize a business relationship and declare that this is a for-pay service.

    Maybe include "Thanks for your business" on the bottom of the invoice :)
  • by TheScream (147369) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @10:08PM (#4688346) Homepage
    I worked for 14 months for a friend of the family. They guy's business wasn't going so well so he had to lay me off. (I looked at the books, they were really against the wall) I was upset at this, especially concidering I was getting married less than 2 months later, so I had more right than most people to be highly critical of him in the future.

    Having said that, I still call him a friend and he does have a lot of contacts in the industry that will help me in the future. So I do a bit of help here and there, including emergencies when the server goes down or he needs some DNS records changed etc.

    In my previous 5 jobs, I have maintained a good friendship with my ex-employer and benefited from it.

    The point I am trying to make is that the only thing that will benefit if you refuse your ex-employer is your ego and that is only in the short term. Being nice to your ex-employer can result in better references (ie: when you are looking for work) and perhaps even recommendations to industry friends. Think long term and get the most out of the situation.
  • Be Careful (Score:3, Informative)

    by pseudobadguy (583556) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @10:21PM (#4688377)
    I left a job I loved a couple years ago. Great job, poorly managed organization. I could see the iceberg... The technical folks all understood, but the management team thought I was a traitor for leaving the Titanic. After the technical folks repeated requests, I helped them out with a systems issue. One of the peons noticed my login and alerted the management. They accused me of attempting to hack their systems, and called in their ultra tight-a** IT Security guy. 18 months and $7,000 in lawyer fees later, they finally droppped it. Now, I get written authorization, at least an email, before I log in to anyone's system.
  • by andy@petdance.com (114827) <andy@petdance.com> on Sunday November 17, 2002 @12:00AM (#4688732) Homepage
    There's only one response necessary, assuming that you don't want a per-hour contract job: "I'm sorry, I can't." That's all you owe her. Just because someone tries to pressure you to do something doesn't mean you're obligated.

    If you feel like you have to give everyone what they ask for (and if so, you're hardly alone), work on a simple, polite, unwavering response. Try "I'm sorry, I can't."

    You'll often get people who try to argue it. Do not fall into their trap. It's the slippery slope to doing something you don't want to do.

    "I'm sorry, I can't."
    "Why not?" -or-
    "But we're in trouble" -or-
    "Can you just come in for an hour?"

    If you say anything other than "I'm sorry, I can't", repeatedly and firmly, you're going down the slippery slope to doing something you don't want. Your ex-boss clearly has the balls to ask you for pro bono work, so she also probably will try to wear you down by arguing.

    "But we're in trouble."
    "I'm sorry, I can't."
    "You were the one who set up the server!"
    "I'm sorry, I can't."
    "We have the report due tomorrow!"
    "I'm sorry, I can't. I really have to go now. Good-bye. [click]"

    Of course, feel free to hang up even earlier. Don't be rude, but don't allow the rudeness of others to trample on you.

  • Re:The old joke (Score:2, Informative)

    by redbeard_ak (542964) <redbeard@r i s eup.net> on Sunday November 17, 2002 @05:32PM (#4692410) Homepage
    Yes, you can force them to pay you. In Texas, I helped out wage laborers that were screwed out of pay by contractors. There were hoops to jump through, but eventually the state could order bank accounts closed until the bill was paid. I'm sure different states have similiar offices. At the least if they refuse the bill you could file the claim in court.

    Don't let the bastards walk over you. They have the cash, but as this incident clearly identifies, they need us to make more cash.

    Know your rights, or you will have no rights.
    www.washtech.org

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