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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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  • by Splork (13498) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:22PM (#4686464) Homepage
    ask for consulting fees.
    • by Wavicle (181176) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:36PM (#4686566)
      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?

      Everyone, your employer is not your neurotic pot buddy from college who calls you out of the blue every now and then for help. They are a legal entity that exchanges labor for cash. If your former employer needs help with something, you have the responsibility for asking what kind of consideration they are going to give you for your labor... and get it in writing up front.

      No wonder people are getting laid off! Employers are learning they'll work for free "just to be kind".
      • 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

    • by aagha (130742) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:40PM (#4686600) Homepage
      Always remember: It's not personal, it's business.

      Your ex-boss was doing business to make sure that her ass didn't get toasted; it would have been nice to call back and say thanks, but it was business, not personal.

      Send a bill. Minimum of eight hours of work. Bill fairly! Take the "going hourly rate" for the work you did, plus ad a small markup for doing it on such short notice.

      It's not personal, it's business. 'Nuff said.
      • by Lewis Mettler, Esq. (553022) <lmettler_personal @ l a m l a w.com> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:59PM (#4687025) Homepage
        Send a bill.

        If the bill is reasonable, the gal you bailed out will see that it gets paid.
        • by unixbob (523657) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @07:11PM (#4687640)
          And make sure you send it to the accounting department, and not to your ex - boss. That way she can't hide the fact that the team she runs was unable to fix a business critical problem.

          Send the bill to her and you are likely to see nothing. Send the bill to accounts and you may still see nothing but at least she will get an ass kicking.
          • by Lewis Mettler, Esq. (553022) <lmettler_personal @ l a m l a w.com> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @08:26PM (#4687920) Homepage
            Well. That is sort of the problem.

            If you send it directly to "accounting", your ex-boss may not like being culled out by your effort. Hey. He or she would deserve it. But still.

            A better idea would be to send it first to the x-boss along with a question of whether or not a copy should not also be sent to accounting. That way the x is in a bind. But, self made. It could be approved and paid without embarrassing the boss or if rejected the crap will be sure to fly. Bills sent "out of the blue" to accounting can cause some departments real trouble. Or at least individuals get into that trouble by running the store in such a fashion. And, if they have more acceptable procedures in place a manager can "earn" a dressing down.

            Either way, the bill should go out. I can not imagine the x-boss claiming that the emergency service should have been gratis. And, I can hardly imagine the boss not putting some grease on the payment if their ass remains covered.
    • Better yet (Score:5, Funny)

      by cscx (541332) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:57PM (#4686693) Homepage
      Burn down the building. Just look at Milton.
    • by SexyKellyOsbourne (606860) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:07PM (#4686759) Journal
      Seriously, just refuse the idiot if they refuse to pay you. Since they're EX-employers, you're free to tell them what you think of them, though it helps if you've got a job first.

      I worked at a grocery store as a teenager, and a few years later went back -- when the asshole manager who chewed me out every day for insignificant things said "Hi," I responded with a middle finger and a "Fuck you."

      It felt, at that moment, with his mouth gaping open and his eyes wide open, as if I had finally put much of my angst behind me and let loose.
      • Respectfully, what you did was a very bad idea. You have no way of knowing whether you'll encounter him later in life. If you do encounter him, and he's in a position where you need something from him, expect him to return the favor. In the real world as well as the tech world, every action produces a consequence. Your rude gesture could cost you later in life. Now, perhaps you'll never work in the grocery sector again- although with the greater integration of technology into everyday life, you never know. Perhaps nothing will come of this... but the general perversity of the universe would suggest that you'll end up paying for it.
    • by frovingslosh (582462) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:27PM (#4686866)
      ask for consulting fees

      Heck with that, Invoice for consulting fees and emergency Lan repair. The amount of the invoice should come to about 5 months of your old salary.

      If you want to ask for something, contact your old boss's boss and ask for you old boss's job. She's pretty much made your case for you.

    • by Black Copter Control (464012) <samuel-localNO@SPAMbcgreen.com> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @05:47PM (#4687251) Homepage Journal
      I would agree. Send an invoice. Charge at consulting rates (I was told that the 'standard rate' for consulting fees are 3 times what you'd normaly expect to get in a non-consulting situation -- to cover the time and money that you spend looking for work, etc.).

      They may balk at the number (any good businessman would, on general principle), but you need to start somewhere. Remember, as well, that this is probably cheap for what you saved them. One place I worked had a productivity analyst going through the company when we had a major failure. My boss mentioned to me that he estimated that the outage was costing us something like $25/minute to have the system down. When faced with those sorts of costs, $90/hour isn't a big deal.

      Given that they're a company and they came to you and asked you to do the work, they have a legal responsibility to pay you. The only question is how much. Given that they were so desparate that they didn't ask you how much, a consulting rate is pretty reasonable. You could even add an emergency response fee.

      If they gave you a really nice golden handshake when they let you go, you might want to be nice to them in return, but there is absolutely no reason why you should accept less than what they were paying you when you were there full time.
      _____

      If you've never heard it before, there's the story of the company who called in a specialist to fix their equipment one say. The consultant comes in... looks at the equipment for half an hour and pounds a little brass tack into a hole, hands them a bill for $500 and starts packing to leave.

      The CTO freaks when he sees the bill. "$500 for one brass tack? Why in the world should I pay you $500 for pounding in a brass tack??!".

      "You're right," says the specialist. He takes the bill back and modifies it. When he hands it back to the CTO, it reads as follows:

      Hammering in brass tack: ...... $10.00
      Knowing where to hammer it in: $490.00
      . . . . . . . . Total: $500.00
      ____

      Remember: this is a company you're dealing with, not your best friend. They run off of money -- more specifically their balance sheet. They let you go because they figured it was cheaper to work without you. They called you back because they found out that they couldn't function without you. If you make sure that it remains cheap to treat you that way, It looks like they will probably continue to do so. (YMMV)

      There are two likely reasons why they haven't bothered to talk to you.
      1: they don't give a shit about you and/or don't really understand the value that you provid(ed) to the company and
      2: they don't want to know what you're going to charge them for this emergency surgery.
      It may be a combination of the two.
      I have no idea about the conditions under which you left the company.

  • 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.
    • by JordanH (75307) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:33PM (#4686552) Homepage Journal
      Absolutely. Don't take demands from EX-employers.

      Think about it for a minute. If you don't insist on this, you are doing a disservice to yourself and anybody else in the job market.

      You shouldn't give in to their ability to exploit PAST power relationships because you are a "nice guy".

      She didn't say "Thank You" because she's going to make darn sure this never happens again. You can bet they are going to cover themselves now and she won't be calling you back. You were used and you should learn from this.

    • Re:Did they pay you? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by occamboy (583175)
      Even if they say they'll pay, they may not. I got stiffed for $750 from my ex-employer that needed me to do some intellectual property work. I had a PO for it and everything, but they just refused to pay, saying that I should have done it for free. (At the time, they still had $millions of venture capital in the bank -- they are just stupid and evil).

      In the end, it actually sucked worse for them -- they sent stuff to me which, since I was no longer under nondisclosure, seems to constitute public disclosure and significantly cut down their patent filing rights. Also, they tried to get various other ex-employees to do stuff later on, and they refused, since they knew that they would not be paid. And, finally, it's nice to know that they won't bother me again.

      • by hitchhikerjim (152744) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:16PM (#4686807)
        Even if they just "say" they're going to pay you, that's an oral contract. That's enforceable, and the courts *will* back you up on that (although you might have to find a way to prove they said it -- like testamony from someone else). An oral contract is a contract just like any other. 'course you've got to decide whether or not an oral contract is enough -- you're the one who's worked for them before, so you should know how reliable they are.

        That said -- don't ever go into doing a gig for any old employer without telling them up front what you will charge for it. If they've leaned on you to pick up the slack for years while you were their employee, they're used to doing that -- and it needs to be made clear up front that that's not the situation any more. If you don't do that, you have very little recourse when they decide not to pay you.

        I quit a job I was at for six years. The other employees out of habit called or emailed once in a while when they couldn't figure out something. In general, to be friendly (because they were all people I liked) I'd answer if the answer was going to take me a couple of minutes or less, but once they asked me to *do* something or once the answer was going to take more than a couple of minutes I told them my consultants fee, and that for that gig I'd have to charge them. It drew a clear line, but also left relations open with no bad feelings.

        When you get hard feelings it's usually because expectations were wrong... setting expectations up-front is a very important thing. It helps keep the balance between not burning bridges, and not being taken advantage of.

        jim
    • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:54PM (#4686672) Homepage Journal
      Yep. Suppose you called up an ex-employer and said, "I know I don't work for you any more, but I could really use some money right now, so do you think you could send me a paycheck like you used to do when I was working for you?" The answer would either be "HAHAHA -- No" or "Sure, you come back and work for us, and we'll pay you." The same thing applies here. If you haven't done so already, send them a bill, requiring that they pay you at least 1.5 times your hourly rate when you were a regular employee (which is very generous for consulting work; rule of thumb is that independent consultants get 2x the hourly rate of a regular employee doing the same work.)
    • To find your rate... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ClarkEvans (102211) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:59PM (#4686709) Homepage
      Take your old annual salary, say 40K and double it, so $80 per hour. This in-effect is 4x your hourly rate as an employee, but needed to take into account vacation, continuing education, slack (non-productive) time, health-care, employer matching, lack of unemployment, etc. This becomes your hourly rate for medium sized contracts (2 week - 3 months span).

      For longer contracts (3+ months) you could reduce the rate by as much as half in exchange for a cancellation severance of a week or two. The cancelation severance is there since you're turning down potentially higher-paying short-term work... and if they cancel on you after you've turned down another deal, you are the loser. If they say it's long term, the cancelation fee is just your insurance that they arn't playing games to get a lower rate.

      If they want short-term "one-off" work, you may want to charge more depending if you think you can get it. Further, if they want you to be "on-call", you want to charge a retainer in addition; this is pre-paid hours that they may not use (for instance, 10h/month). If they don't want to pay the retainer, then you should say something like: "Yes, I can help you, but my next available slot is XXX afternoon (3 days from now)." Slack time costs money... when you are an employee don't let your previous employer think that they can just pay for the hours that you are working for them. Real employees spend time doing lots of stuff which isn't directly work... and time is money.

      One last thing to consider is ownership. You may want to dramatically reduce the rate if the work is open source, something you are interested in and you keep the copyright for further private exploation. Often times this is in their favor... you could build in a "free upgrade" for one year if you continue to work on it. Make it clear that ownership of the code itself is worth something. If you keep ownership, you may just want to charge your annual salary as a hourly rate (thus 2x your rate as an employee).

      Hope this helps. I'm curious if others think that this is a resonable item.
    • 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-)
  • I would (Score:5, Informative)

    by einhverfr (238914) <chris...travers@@@gmail...com> 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 ACNeal (595975) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:35PM (#4686561)
      This is like the old joke about the doctor and lawyer playing golf. Another golfer runs up and asks the doctor some medical question. The doctor gives some advice and the man runs off. The doctor asks the lawyer if he ever has similar problems. The lawyer responds, "Not so much anymore. I used to have people asking for free legal advice all the time, then I started sending them bills. They don't ask me for advice so much anymore." The doctor responded that he'd have to start doing that also. A week later the doctor got a bill in the mail from the lawyer for services rendered.

      You might not expect (i.e. probably can't force them) to get paid, but it does send the message that you are willing to help in the future, but you aren't going to do for free anymore.
    • 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 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 emag (4640) <slashdot@NospAm.gurski.org> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:23PM (#4686474) Homepage
    "$200 an hour, minimum 8 hours"
    • by axxackall (579006) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:27PM (#4686507) Homepage Journal
      If you had a problem to find a job all that time - take a payment for all 5 months you've been laid off. At least begin your negotiation from that point.
      • by emag (4640) <slashdot@NospAm.gurski.org> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:25PM (#4686855) Homepage
        I actually have a friend who was a contract employee, doing all sorts of security infrastructure for some a company working for some rather large clients. He's not really bothered finding a new job in several months, but recently got a call early one morning from his old boss, who was frantic because everything was down. Unfortunately, he lowballed himself, but got a couple days of work out of the call to fix what the folks left behind had royally screwed up.

        I think he was most pleased with not realizing that, while on a conference call with the people who broke everything, the clients AND a lot of upper management were listening in, and based on what he'd said (ripping these guys a couple new assholes), the buffoons ended up being fired for a) making unannounced upgrades to a production system, b) completely failing to read release notes in the service packs they'd installed which detailed that *exactly* what happened would happen if they were installed on the version of software running.

        The "$200 an hour, minimum 8 hours" was the result of several of us doing a post-mortem on the lowballing. In truth, due to the situation, he could have likely commanded at least twice that (which illustrates just how critical these systems were to the people with Big Bucks).
  • Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Banjonardo (98327) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:23PM (#4686475) Homepage
    Why did you do it, if it sounded like a demand?

  • Did she pay you? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by essell (446524) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:24PM (#4686482)
    You only mentioned that she did not call to thank you.. Did she at least pay you for your time?
  • 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 :)
  • Be Polite (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BurritoWarrior (90481) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:26PM (#4686499)
    A polite, "I'm sorry, but my current schedule precludes me from being able to help" works for me.

    Of course, if you want/need the work, then just go do it at whatever rate you think is fair. Just bite your lip and don't comment one way or the other, it only leads to problems.
  • by coene (554338) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:26PM (#4686500)
    Make sure you get paid! Is she your close friend? If so, you could be nice. If not, bill them! I would suggest billing for the time you spent there to fix this incident as well, it will send a clear signal. IT support is NOT free.
    • i wanted to moderate this one up, however I feel I need to comment on it.
      You see I'm am on the opposite end of this situation.
      We recently layed off quite a number of our staff lately and I am left with one other employee in my department.
      Before the others left, as they were filling me in on where they left off
      I had asked if I could contact them via email to ask questions. Everyone of them said yes, and I wouldn't have been angry if they said no either.
      I will note that I have asked questions from email or AIM and gotten answers and nobody was angry about it either.
  • by Sc00ter (99550) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:27PM (#4686503) Homepage
    Thank you for calling on the services of ACME Consuling.. Here is my bill for 3hrs (min.) of work at $150/hr.. Please pay the total amount of $450 by the end of the month or there will be an added interest charge of 15% per week after that.
  • by Arctic Fox (105204) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:27PM (#4686506) Homepage Journal
    Woke up one morning to an email from a former boss wanting "information about the current SCADA applications" at a place I worked for while under his employ.
    That was pretty bad.
    Then he said, "Sorry for sending it to you so early in the morning, I need it for a lunch meeting".
    It was actually a sales pitch at lunch.
    I was pissed, but that didn't set me off.
    He sent the email with a HIGH PRIORITY MS Outlook flag, so it had a red ! in my Inbox. !!!!
    I debated sending a nasty flaming message regarding compensation for my time, etc.
    Then I looked at my clock. 1PM.. Oops. Woke up too late to help you pal.
  • by thinmac (98095) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:28PM (#4686511) Homepage
    In any situation, no matter how well you document what you do, there are going to be a few things that are both specific to your particular setup and not something anyone else at the company knows. I suppose this would be less of a problem the larger your staff is, i.e. how many people there were doing the same job you were. In cases where this is an issue, I think it's pretty reasonable for your boss to call and ask questions, although I think it would be equally reasonable to not answer if you held a lot of enmety towards said boss. If you left on good terms (which it didn't sound like was the case in the post), then the friendly thing to do is give an answer. If they want you to come over and spend time on a problem, then by all means get paid, but if it's just a quick query, then helping them out seems reasonable.
    • by Zapman (2662) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:13PM (#4686785)
      I was sysadmin for a small company (really small... 8 employees counting management and the receptionist) for a while. I gave notice, but since I was the only one who knew how large swaths of the computing systems worked, I let them know that I'd be amiable to helping them.

      Short version was 'I'll answer whatever questions you have. Just take me to lunch for it.' They knew if things got too bad, I'd be able to give a helping hand.

      They're only real mistake was hiring a paper sysadmin (one with lots of certs but no real experience or clue) to replace me. They did take me out to lunch once.
    • by King_TJ (85913) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @05:02PM (#4687045) Journal
      Speaking of documenting what you do, it's my opinion that employees in I.T. would be wise to limit how much of this documentation they write.

      If you're writing lots of documentation for an employer, you should be getting paid as a "technical writer". If you're employed as an I.T. worker and they're demanding lots of documentation - you need to question it.

      After all, they should be paying you for your knowledge and expertise. Would you expect your doctor to write up documentation for you so you can self-diagnose future problems?

      When they start asking for lots of this, there's usually a boss masterminding it, with a flawed idea that he can "brain drain" you so his other people can perform your job. In reality, they should be hiring people who already possess the skills they need, or are capable of learning them on their own. They shouldn't need *your* documentation to achieve that goal.
  • One way... (Score:5, Funny)

    by fruity1983 (561851) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:28PM (#4686515)
    If she doesn't pay you, or get you into any kind of employment situation, post her company's webpage on slashdot!
  • by Slashdotess (605550) <gchurch@hotmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:31PM (#4686532)
    but I am a good friend of my ex-boss... as for you, well, if you enjoyed doing it and you had nothing else better to do. If this boss understood your character and everything wouldn't they be great as a professional resource for another job or something? The author makes it seem like this is 100% bad but you have to look on the brighter side of things.
  • How much? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by yamla (136560) <chris@@@hypocrite...org> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:32PM (#4686535)
    How much did you get paid? You were hired as an independent contractor here. Contractors normally get paid twice what they'd get paid as an employee. After all, they have to pay their own benefits, etc. etc. So let's say you were getting $60K a year, the minimum you should get paid for your work here is $60 an hour. But you might want to look at getting more than that. After all, they clearly think only you had the necessary skills here.

    If somehow you didn't get paid this time but you didn't explicitly say you were doing this work for free, draft up a bill and send it to them. Hey, it can't hurt.
    • by Zapman (2662) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:17PM (#4686816)
      From: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/nr/1999/vestspeech.h tml

      In the early years of this century, Steinmetz was brought to General Electric's facilities in Schenectady, New York. GE had encountered a performance problem with one of their huge electrical generators and had been absolutely unable to correct it. Steinmetz, a genius in his understanding of electromagnetic phenomena, was brought in as a consultant -- not a very common occurrence in those days, as it would be now.

      Steinmetz also found the problem difficult to diagnose, but for some days he closeted himself with the generator, its engineering drawings, paper and pencil. At the end of this period, he emerged, confident that he knew how to correct the problem.

      After he departed, GE's engineers found a large "X" marked with chalk on the side of the generator casing. There also was a note instructing them to cut the casing open at that location and remove so many turns of wire from the stator. The generator would then function properly.

      And indeed it did.

      Steinmetz was asked what his fee would be. Having no idea in the world what was appropriate, he replied with the absolutely unheard of answer that his fee was $1000.

      Stunned, the GE bureaucracy then required him to submit a formally itemized invoice.

      They soon received it. It included two items:
      1. Marking chalk "X" on side of generator: $1.

      2. Knowing where to mark chalk "X": $999.
  • by interstellar_donkey (200782) <pathighgate@@@hotmail...com> on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:33PM (#4686548) Homepage Journal
    After three years of always having me to call on to take care of anything IT related, I think they have just gotten used to it.

    The first time after I left (I actually quit, was not laid off) that I got the call, I think I handled it the best way possible.

    You tell them 'I'd love to help you out. You know I am consulting on my own now, right?'

    Explain to them that you are your own business. Find a price that is fair... not unreasonably high, but something that is in a solid ballpark. I settled on twice of what I made hourly for the company. When you consider that a:) you are now going to have to pay additional social security as an independant consultant and are having to pay the costs of your own benifits (health care, etc.), and b:) You don't have a full time job, so a little extra is worth having.

    Good luck to you. Remember, you don't work for them anymore. Of course you don't want to mean or vicious to them (to burn your bridges), just be freindly and professional. If you feel that you have some personal obligation to help them out, remember that when they let you go, it was 'just business' to them. Treat them the same way.

    Good luck

  • by tuoppi (415801) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:34PM (#4686554)
    Basic case handling fee: $500,00
    Case study: $280
    Rapid deployment fee: $843,00
    8 workhours: 8 * $184,00 = $1472
    Non-office hours: 4 * $380,00 = $1520
    Travel expenses: 43 miles * $2/mile = $86,00
    TOTAL: $4701

    TO BE PAID: $4701 + taxes
    DUE: TODAY

    Your previous boss didn't ask for price. That means, he is prepared to pay anything.
  • 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..
  • Liability? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by travail_jgd (80602) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:37PM (#4686583)
    I'm just wondering what can happen to a "good samaritan" in terms of liability. If you hadn't been able to fix the network, or if some malware (virus, trojan) shows up sometime in the near future, what's to stop them from coming after you with a team of attack lawyers? While it's unlikely, if somebody was willing to make a demand of you like that, I wouldn't be surprised if they were willing to play pass-the-buck if something unfortunate happens.

    While I admire you for following your beliefs, I don't know that I would have done the same. Only if the livelihood of my friends at the company were jeopardized would I go for it -- or if the money was exceptional.
  • Nortel Networks (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Cheese Cracker (615402) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:38PM (#4686586)
    I was laid off on a Thursday, and the HR person at Nortel told me that I wasn't required to do any more work. Despite this, my manager called me the next day and told me to help them out with one of their online tools. Just like you, I'm sometimes a little bit too kind and helped her out anyway, because I felt that I needed the reference from them in order to get another job. Looking back, I regret helping her... after all, she was the one to put me on the hit list. Anyway, she got laid off three months after me, and I'm running my own business now.
  • by toolafial (626804) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:42PM (#4686605)
    I had about the exact same thing happen to me. I was laid off from my job, and not a week later I had a call from my old boss demanding some information. I quietly replied that my consulting fees are $20 an hour and the clock was ticking. Luckily for him it was only a 2 min question (I don't bill for anything under 30 min). However, luckily for me I did answer his question because exactly one month later another department called me back to do some contract work. Like one comment I read it doesn't help to burn any bridges. Sometimes one just needs to swallow his/her pride. Oh and one note I was able to renew my contract and I am working from home. Oh my gosh you guys working from home is so sweet!
    • >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.
    • by Caradoc (15903)
      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.
  • 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 po_boy (69692) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:47PM (#4686642) Homepage
    Hey, Ali - I've got a problem with my network over here, too. I can't seem to DHCP addresses with my wireless cards sometimes. Come over sometime today or tomorrow and get it fixed for me before business starts back up on Monday. Call me and let me know what time is best for you.

    Thanks.
  • 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.

  • Well... no. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RyanFenton (230700) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:53PM (#4686671)
    Well, seeing as the last place I was able to find work, I was only offered $5/hour... no. The guy actually had to talk to his accountant to discover the minimum wage. I'm an experienced professional C++/assembly programmer on DSPs. I was doing advertising design, web design, new product design, and planning for future PDA programming for this company too.

    His other developer and his family had to live in a trailer - and the boss "gave" him a car and phone, only to hold them over his head. When he was sick for a few days, the boss had that phone disconnected.

    The boss even proclaimed to be an experienced Europian developer, and he did fluently speak several languages... so I'm amazed he could treat people that way... and much worse than that on many occasions too. But his company was the only place that would even allow a computer person with less than 3 years experience find a job. He even made quitting a huge hassle - I had to research and quote many specific laws before he dismissed me with "it's not worth my time" to get paid for my two weeks there, even at minimum wage.

    Now I'm still looking for a job... any job. And I can't. I haven't for months. I've called half the numbers in the yellow pages and looked at all the leads in all towns within three hours drive. I have to say, looking for work as a programmer in central Florida REALLY sucks.

    Ryan Fenton
  • 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 chaidawg (170956) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:55PM (#4686682)
    My ex-girlfriend called me up a couple of nights ago because she needed my talents to work on her setup. I used to get paid for this sort of thing (dinner, massage, her talents on my setup). Should I charge her for that night, or do I have no expectation of compensation?
  • Simple rules... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by xanthig (538198) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:56PM (#4686690)

    You broke one of the most important rules of employment. Never Work for free! Not only does it assign a zero value to your time, but it assignes a zero value to the time of anyone doing that task.


    The second rule you broke, taking a lesson from M$ here, is that if they need you, you've got them exactly where you want the. Grease it up with vaseline and give it to them good and hard, to the tune of at least $100/ hour for skilled IT consulting


    Many people have posted that, "You don't want to hurt your chance to use them as a reference." But then again, you don't want them letting your prospective employer that you're a cheap date either.


    finally, for the question of returning to any employer as an employee (and not an independant consultant). Remeber this adage... Old Jobs are like old girlfriends, Never go back

  • by gradji (188612) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @03:59PM (#4686705)
    I know as denizens of Western civilization (especially the U.S.), our first reaction is

    [1] Sue them!

    and then ...

    [2] How much can I get?

    But I think it pays to think about your situation first. There may be some dynamics you might otherwise overlook.

    Case A: Laid Off, Unemployed

    If you're having problems finding a job, it may pay not to incite your former boss. You never know when your old firm may get a large project and decide to bring aboard some consultants.

    While it hasn't happened to me, I have friends who were laid off, provided some occasional support at reasonable rates (this is *key* ... the golden goose lesson) ... and then were hired as outside consultants later. They ended up making a lot more money as a consultant than as an employee (for the same basic work). One is even getting frequent inquiries by the client about possibly joining them full-time.

    Case B: Laid off, Employed Now

    You have some incentive to maintain cordial ties with your old firm. But the incentives are definitely reduced by having current employment. If you hated your old firm and want to maintain loyalty with your current one, I'd just pass or agree under some pretty restrictive terms (i.e. define the total # of hours and compensation). Consulting money is nice but, clearly, your long term prospects are not tied with your old firm, better to focus on your current firm.

    Case C: Quit

    If you were the one who quit the job, I'd consider providing some support especially if you either [1] really left the firm holding the bag or [2] still have friends at the firm who would otherwise suffer. But make sure to get paid ... but don't scalp them ... fair market wage.

    You'd be surprised how this type of action can result in good karma. I had a friend who quit his job for a higher paying position at a high profile company. Unfortunately, lay-offs happened and, as a high-salary newbie, he was one of the first to go. His boss at the old firm - he couldn't rehire my friend - went out of his way to call a few of his competitors to recommend my friend - he did this primarily because he appreciated how my friend provided support (many times for gratis) for several months after he left. My friend got a job based on one of these recommendation.

    Case D: Fired

    No way in hell. Or make sure it's enough to pay for your big screen plasma TV, your sizable tab at the local watering hole, and possibly a year's rent ...
  • by CDS (143158) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:01PM (#4686720)
    I had a similar situation -- I was laid off the 1st of the year. In the following months, my previous firm contacted me regularly, mostly asking how I was doing, letting me know they wanted me back & were looking for ways to accomplish that, etc.

    Then one day I got a call from them. They had a customer who wanted some work done, but it was such a small job that just drafting the agreement would be more expensive than the job was worth. They contacted me and told me if I wanted to freelance the job, they'd put me in touch with the customer. I accepted it (of course). it turned out that it was too small for even a freelance charge, but I answered the guys question and it generated positive advertising for my previous firm.

    A month later, I got another call from them -- another freelance job - this one was for the wife of the head of my old firm. I again accepted it and his wife was happy with my results.

    Then my old manager called. He didn't have a freelance offer this time -- he wanted some advice on how to collect unemployment! (yeah, business got so bad the managers were being let go...) So I was very helpful & supportive of him too -- told him where to go to sign up, what the process was, etc.

    Then I got one last call -- now I'm working full-time for my old firm again. They were so happy with my attitude and willingness to help them out even after letting me go that they found a spot for me & I'm gainfully employed again -- with my full benefits just like I never left (3 weeks vacation, I'm vested, etc). Admittedly, it WAS a paycut from my old salary, but in this market, I'm not complaining :)

    Sorry about all the rambling. I guess what I'm trying to say in a nutshell is: Don't burn your bridges. Having a positive attitude and being willing to help them out can never hurt - it can only help. Even if they don't have any openings, they may hear of other firms that need people & could suggest you -- or give you a positive review when a future employer starts checking references. You never know when someone may be talking to them and your name may come up...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:04PM (#4686742)
    I worked for a place where a new Sr. person came in who had "issues" with gay folks. Within a few months she was drumming everyone non-straight out of the place: Sudden job-performance problems, lousy schedules, not getting relevant information, etc. At the time the US State we were in had no protections against such and so one by one folks got pushed out, me being one of the last.

    To add insult to injury I didn't get paid much of my accumulated vacation time. I'd been foregoing taking my time as we were in such a crunch, got promised it would carry over, etc. Due to poor record-keeping on my part (and being young and stupid) I didn't pursue the issue much but wrote it all off as lesson-learned.

    Anyway a few moths later I got a call from a friendly former coworker asking me, in a very stilted way, about some security systems I had written, what was the password, etc. I picked up pretty fast that this wasn't actually a social call, that my friendly co-worker wasn't alone in the room, that they wanted me aware of such, and they were being pressured to make this call.

    So, I told them no, I didn't recall the exact passwords but I was sure I could break into what I'd secured and would be happy to do so under contract. I then quoted them an outrageous hourly rate, said as I was unhappy with my former employer I' double that, and no assurance of how long it would take me. My friendly former co-worker politely thanked me and said they'd "pass it on".

    Sure enough an hour later I got a call asking me to come in ASAP. So I did. I got them to confirm the rate in writing, refused to give an estimate, and sat down. And played games, very visibly, for two days, until the sum I felt I was owed in vacation time was met. About 10 minutes after that point, just as I was finishing up my report, the finance guy came in with a pre-written check (they knew perfectly well what was going on) and asked me for the password.

    I handed him my report, told him I'd call from the bank with the password as soon as I'd cashed the check. He balked at that but I pointed out that many of my payroll checks had "bounced" but had been covered by the bank, I wanted to be sure there'd by no awkward problems with this one. He threatened to void the check if I didn't give them the passwords, I said fine I'd be no worse off then before, and if he didn't get out of my way I'd call the police for imprisonment. He gave way and I left.

    So, 30 minutes later from the bank I called, told him the password used on everything, and then took some friends out for drinks, including the friendly former co-worker who had slipped out early. By the way the friendly coworker resigned the next day, the nasty Sr, person lasted another few months, the whole place went under a few years later.

    Oh, and a few times later I was in situations where Sr. folks from that place were applying for jobs and I was in the decision process, each time I knifed 'em.

  • by FreeLinux (555387) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:09PM (#4686770)
    As Cliff stated, you don't want to burn any bridges. Even those that you desperately want to burn, should be maintained. You never know who or when you will need someone in your future.

    At the same time do not let anyone take advantage of you. You said that this was a former employer. This immediately releases you of ANY responsibility or obligation to them, you don't work for them anymore!

    This could be a slightly grey area if you had recently, within a couple of weeks, left the job on your own accord and the failed system was your responsibility. But, even here there is no REAL responsibility, simply a matter of your own moral feelings on the matter. But, you stated that this emplyer became former 5 months ago. No matter what the reason for your departure there is absolutely positively no obligation on your part after this period of time.

    The next time you are presented with this situation, stop for a moment and think. First what are your feelings? Simply, do you want to do it or not? Secondly, review your current situation. Are you working somewhere else and are really to busy to spare the time or perhaps it may be a conflict of interest if you are working for a competitor now. In your case, you stated that you are unemployed so these would not be a problem here. You have time and there are no conflicts.

    So, having decided that you can do it and that you want to do it, the next step is to specify the terms of a short term contract. Yes, contract. Even if it is only verbal you are still entering into a contract with this company. You need to come to an agreement on the type and amount of reimbursement for your time. You also need to agree to a set of milestones, if you will, that will be used to determine the successful completion of the contract.

    For example, the situation that you related should have gone like this... Yes Jane, I am confident that I can resolve your problem. As it happens I am available to do consulting work of this kind, right now. My fee is $100 per hour for this type of work and I do charge travel time at that rate.

    Janes response will likely be: "Wow, I don't want to pay that much." To which you should reply: "I certainly understand that but, that is a competitive rate in the industry and it is what I charge. I suspect from what you have told me so far that it might take 6 hours to fix your problem." At that point she will either say flat out no, and move on to another consultant, or she will say that she has to get back to you. This will give her time to get approval for the expenditure and also get estimates from other consultants. If she calls back make sure that she is in agreement to pay you for fixing the problem and that she fully expects to pay at LEAST $600.

    Of course, Jane might decide to try to bully you when you advise her of your rate. She might say something like: "What?? $100 an hour?? No way. You built this system and it has never be right! It's your responsibility and I expect you to fix it immediately! I'm not paying you to fix your own mistakes. In fact, if you don't fix it, we will probably sue you!"

    Your response to this should be: "I understand that you feel it is my responsibility, Jane. However, I do not work for you anymore therefore, it is NOT my responsibility. I'm sorry that you feel that I did not build the system properly however, the fact that it has worked for several months without me suggests that it was in fact, working properly. Even so, it is still not my responsibility anymore. But, I would be glad to look at it for you, as a consultant.

    Finally, if Jane says that they are going to sue you, end the discussioin right then and there. Say: "I am afraid that, under the circumstances, I will not be able to assist you with your problem. I wish you the best of luck with it. Thank you for calling." click.... Naturally, this assumes that you do indeed not have any contractual liability to the problem. In your specific case, after 5 months, you didn't.
  • by watanabe (27967) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:09PM (#4686771)
    This is a classic problem for people who are just starting to contract out. As someone who use to contract out, and someone who now frequently hires young contractors, I can give you a few thoughts from both sides of the fence:

    1. Every employer worth working for will expect to pay you something for your time. A helpful employer working with a young contractor will bring up the topic of compensation for you. Don't expect that to happen.

      Here's how to bring up the topic of compensation if you're not talking to a particularly helpful one:

      • Say "I'd be happy to help, and I think I have a good mix of skills to do that. My going rate is $x an hour, with a minimum of $y."
      • Agree on a price with yourself before you sit down to the negotiation. Until you've done this for a while, you're going to talk yourself down in the meeting. So, you'll intend to say the above, but instead you'll say "My going rate is $x an hour. [1 second pause, in which you think "Oh my God, that's too high. They're going to be angry."] But, for you, $x/3." I have done this, and seen it happen so many times, I can't even count them. Younger types sometimes have their hands shake when they say their price. That's a sure tip-off to an employer that they can lowball an offer.
      • When you're starting out, it's almost IMPOSSIBLE that you are going to ask for a price higher than you're worth. I know it won't feel like it, but believe me, it's true. Use the following calculation to get at a price you SHOULD NOT go lower than in your offer: Take your fair Annual Salary, divide by $2,000. This is what you would get in salary per hour as a full time employee of a company. Now, multiple by 1+ (50% for taxes and expenses + at least 50% to account for sales time, time you're not working, time you spend pitching and doing project spec and evaluation + 50-80% to account for the employers lower costs hiring a contractor, [no social security, medicare, can fire you when they want, etc.] ) = multiply by 2.8 as a BASELINE. It's not worth going below this number, trust me. You are losing money, net. So, if you made 60k as a programmer, that = $30 an hour * 2.8 = $94/hr as a baseline.
      • If you want to get to your baseline number, you can't start there with an offer. Start higher. That way IF you are talked down, you have some room before you have to say "no, sorry."
      • Don't be afraid to say "Sorry, sounds like it won't work. Call me if you change your mind." If you're never turned down at a certain price, you are too cheap!.
      • NEVER work with an employer who asks for free work, etc. You should prove your value to them, but not by doing free work. Just say "Actually, I don't work in situations like that because I've found that usually people who want a situation like that aren't prepared to pay for my real value." If they ask again, just say goodbye. TRUST ME, the money that you finally get out of them WILL NOT BE WORTH IT.
    2. Sadly, I'm late, and have to go before I finish, but for a simple book on how to negotiate, I'd recommend Gary Karrass' book, Negotiate to Close. Good luck!
  • Jesus Saves (Score:5, Funny)

    by horati0 (249977) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:20PM (#4686827) Journal
    [...]like if you get slapped, turn the other cheek, as Jesus once said...[...]

    Yeah, but Jesus never had to fix a LAN.

    Boss: "My Lord, could you get our 250-node token ring VAX LAN back online? You'll need to check every inch of the coax cable, duct-taping nicked insulation as needed."
    Jesus: "Fuck that!"

    waiting to get smited,
    horati0
  • I've had worse (Score:4, Interesting)

    by geek (5680) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:20PM (#4686828) Homepage
    My ex boss was on the phone with the FBI telling them I hacked the network and took down the webserver (nationwide ISP with ONE webserver).

    One of the othe employees called me and told me (good friend) and advised that I call him. So I did, and within 30 seconds the server was up and all was dandy. I didn't get a thankyou, just a "If you do it again I'm going through with the FBI complaint".

    The dumb ass he replaced me with switched out the BSD kernel for the GENERIC one which couldn't handle the apache requests without running out of file handles. Of course it's all my fault.

    So consider yourself lucky she called for help. It could have been much worse.

  • by fmaxwell (249001) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:22PM (#4686833) Homepage Journal
    I've seen the posts saying 'invoice them.' Don't. Invoicing them at some rate you dreamt up and to which they did not agree is simply unprofessional. If you want some compensation for this, I suggest that you contact your ex-boss, for whom you did this favor, and ask her for a letter of recommendation.

    Should this happen again in the future, express your gratitude for being offered the work and then politely inform them of your rate (or a flat fee). Spell out any minimums (e.g., 4 or 8 hour minimum), whether the billing starts from the time you begin work or if it is portal-to-portal (i.e., includes travel time), and payment schedule (e.g., downpayments, terms -- like net 30, payment in advance, etc.). If they balk at reasonable terms, then be polite but firm and tell them that you cannot accept the work.

    If you do your ex-employer a favor, then you should make sure that it was you that decided to. I have, on occasion, sent ex-employers e-mails warning them of bugs and product updates for systems that I set up while under their employ. I don't expect to be paid for that in anything other than good will.

    like if you get slapped, turn the other cheek, as Jesus once said

    Jesus's situation would have been more analogous if Pontius Pilate had demanded that Jesus do unpaid work for him after the crucifixion. Besides, Jesus was not always in fear of losing his job to a cut-rate, H1-B messiah brought in from some third-world country. He'd have gotten pretty tired of being slapped around had he been in the computer industry.
  • by LuxFX (220822) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:23PM (#4686842) Homepage Journal
    Several years ago, I had a small contract to do flash design for the website for a small indie film. The pay structure was divided 25%, 25%, and 50% for the final. The first two were fine, and the project was going smoothly. After finishing the project though, I kept getting the run around about my final payment.

    Eventually they had the premiere of the movie, and I was invited. At this premiere I was told that, sorry, they had no more money, and couldn't pay me. They had overestimated the $$ in their bank, and it turns out the last of their money was spent on the refreshments for their premiere party. Sucks to be me, but I didn't counter them legally, it was less than $1000 and I just wrote it off as a loss and broke all connections.

    About a year later, the same people thought that they were finally getting a bite on their movie, and decided they desperately needed to update their website. They contacted me and asked why they had never received the source code for their movie, as per the contract--they needed it so that so-and-so's cousin, who 'knew flash' could update the website. I told them, because I had never gotten paid, also per the contract. When they didn't pay me, I said, the contract was broken.

    At this point they got really upset and brought in so-and-so's uncle the lawyer and told me that what I had made was a piece of crap and the money they already paid more than covered the value of the project. And that if I continued to resist, they would sue me.

    This was on my birthday. I've never had a bad birthday since. No matter what happens, I will always remember how this one was worse.

    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. Also, I had no money and even if I won this case it would be on the other side of the country which was just more money out of my pocket. So I told them, ok, I'll give you the source code exactly as it is right now, and you'll leave me alone for good and neither one of us ever talks to the other one. Ok, they said.

    What was my trick? My code (and my flash movies are highly dependant on actionscript) was completely uncommented. It would have been a beast for me to figure out, and more so for somebody else that knew flash as well as I did. And much more so for so-and-so's cousin that 'knew flash'.

    In the end, they got off my back, I wasn't sued on my birthday, and I came out feeling like I had won anyway. Because they were never able to figure out my source, and were never able to update their website. (and incidentally, never sold their movie)

    • 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).

  • Wrong way (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ektanoor (9949) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:28PM (#4686868) Journal
    Many people think that IT personell are some kind of running clerks at a cafe. These ones have absolutely no respect for your brains, your experience and your sweet. More, they tend to hide their incompetence, ignorance and stupidity behind a mask of arrogance and superiority. If your ex-boss called you demanding something, the first thing you should have done was to say "Cool but that will cost you US$XXXX...". If he comes up with threats and dubious statements about your past work, you better send him fast to Hell and tell him to forget your name and your phone.

    Beware that you open-hearthed behaviour could have caused more damage rather than help to yourself. There are times when old bosses start to talk too much about their ex-employees as "smarties that left hacks and bombs to spoil our work". And when you come back and do something in half-second, they may try to use it to make a serious accusation that you tried to crook them. While I have never seen such stories getting to courts, there are pretty real examples how ex-bosses tried to extort cheap work out of their ex-employees by playing such scenarios. Personally, many years ago, I was in such situation and things nearly ended in a violent fight inside a "respectable" commercial bank.
  • This is why... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by macdaddy (38372) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @04:39PM (#4686924) Homepage Journal
    ...I think all IT people should do SOME consulting and make it known to your co-workers that you have done some. I don't mind answering a question from a past employer if I left on good terms. I will not do work for free though. Currently I do consulting on the side and I've made it clearly known to everyone that I do it. That way if a former employer (left on good terms) calls me for help, they should not be surprised if I tell them that I'm doing consulting in my spare time and that if I work for them my standard consulting rate will be applied to the task. In fact they really should expect it. If they say no then simply say that you're doing this as a business now and can't afford to do pro bono work.

    ALso, a minimum number of hours is also worth it. Min 3 is fair for most tasks like KIA server. Min 2 or even 1 if the task is pidly and you want to make the point. Also make it know that your charging system works like the telephone company's long distance system, only you count by hours and not minutes. Ie, you round up to the next hour regardless if you work 5 or 45 minutes into an next hour.

    You should have all this stuff typed up in a contract and have it signed by the boss (no one else!) as soon as you get onsite. Without it, don't do any work. Also don't negotiate. That's the contract, take it or leave it. You need to have legalease wording that absolves you of all responsibility if the system breaks again after you leave. You need to make it clear that you can't be sued after the fact. I travel is required, include a blurb about mileage and the rate. Include text that says what will happen if they fail to pay by 30 days after service is rendered. Also say that failing to pay also includes a bad check.

    Carry a carbon copy ticket book with you. As you work on different systems, write out what the system is and why you're doing it on the carbon form. Write down every system you have to touch and the major points of what you do to each. "Had to reboot border router." "Had to kick the DNS box in the nads". Before you leave have the boss (no one else!) sign the each carbon page (if you had to use multiple pages) and give them one set of the carbons and file away the others. This way you can show exactly what systems you touched. If their NT box breaks later and you didn't touch it, they can't blame you for it. It's also very wise to record all tty output (commands, stdout, etc). If you have a laptop with a CDR in it, burn two copies to disk. Both you and the boss should sign both. Give them one. Don't let them leave you alone at any point and time during the onsite visit. If you aren't alone, they can't claim you stole backup tapes from the locker or pissed under the raised floor.

    Write every password they gave you on the carbon mentioned above. Include in your contract that they are responsible for changing every password they gave you after you leave. Also include that you are absolved from any future damages coming from said systems where the passwords weren't changed. Writing it on the carbon emphasizes this.

    It's important to make sure the signatures are from a person at the company authorized to pay you. Odds are you old super isn't authorized to make such payment. The director of the dept is usually the person that can do such things. They could potentially claim that the person that signed the contract wasn't authorized to make such agreements. Don't give them a way out like that.

    It wouldn't hurt to use a tape recorder for all verbal conversations and make that something else they agree to in the contract.

    Have the contract say something about parking (if parking garage fees are incurred or if a certain parking permit is required for parking (tickets or towing are the penalty).

    All these are just some of the ways you could potentially get screwed. It's better to take precautions beforehand than post mortem.

  • 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)

  • Never be a pansy. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by supabeast! (84658) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @08:37PM (#4687971)
    When an ex-employer calls you for something and does not use the words "please," "thank," and "you" in every third sentence, blow him off. If an ex-employer wants work out of you, demand payment at a flat rate of at least $100/hour, and get an agreement in writing first. You are nobody's bitch unless you let yourself be.

    I see people in IT caving in to employers all the time, and it disgusts me. Remember, you are there because THEY NEED YOU. Never take shit that you did not earn (But learn to take it well when you have it coming). Never, EVER, let an employer act like you owe him anything. The best way to get ahead in IT is to be an arrogant prick, because if you just do your job well and act like a drone, people will have no reason to notice you and will walk all over you. You are there because you are better than anyone else they could have doing that job, never forget it.

    Malcom X once said "It takes a nation of millions to hold us back." IT people need to think about that philosophy more often, because people take advantage of us, ignore us, and dump shit on us left and right, and too many geeks just sit there and put up with it.
  • by gelfling (6534) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @09:06PM (#4688115) Homepage Journal
    That's what I'd do. Walk in buck naked with a Zippo in one hand and a 5 gallon Jerry can in the other and screaming that you're gonna fix their tech support problem once and for fucking all.
  • Do it all the time (Score:4, Interesting)

    by phorm (591458) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @09:26PM (#4688197) Journal
    I still keep contact with an ex-boss of mine who works in the web industry. I actually have a small part stock in the company based on work I've done, but I really do it because I like him, the company, and what they do. I do the same for other people I know, as long as I'm not super-busy, I'd rather be doing something productive than sitting on the couch with a beer on my stomach.

    I'm sure it's different for a big company, but I do what I do because I enjoy it. I've been offered to do more work again recently, but this time it's for pay because I'm more busy and thus my time is valuable.

    That being said, it's one thing to ask somebody you're on good terms with. It's another to "demand" assistance and then not give help. Geeze, I work expect to at least be offered dinner or a few drinks in such a circumstance.

    Reminds me of back in college, when I accepted food/drinks for fixing people's computers... :-)
  • Evaluation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by willpost (449227) on Saturday November 16, 2002 @11:28PM (#4688604)
    Perhaps I can help. I was a contractor for the last 5 years, and I saw so many tricks people used to get free work.

    - her entire corporate LAN was down
    Meaning: It's costing her company 1 day of their capital. Unemployment is costing you 5 months of your capital

    - helped her save the day
    Meaning: You helped her save her job, even though she mismanaged by removing a necessary support position.

    - my ex-Boss calls me and demands that I help her out. Boy what attitude. She did not even bother calling me back to thank me
    Meaning: She's unpleasant and not a friend. She's blaming you for the problem and you believe it's your fault.

    - an opportunity to make a little money off of your old company
    Meaning: It's wrong to get paid by a company?? What is the purpose of any business (including yours)? It doesn't sound like you hang out there for fun. There's nothing wrong about receiving some sort of pay for your work.

    - It doesn't pay to burn bridges, especially if they need something that you can provide
    Not so: Getting paid is not burning bridges. You want to be known for the quality of your work, not your charity. How about your bridges that she burned?

    I could understand if the item that broke was covered under warranty by you. If they were a poor charity or she was friendly I might even do them a favor.

    - she knows that I'm a kind person
    Kind people don't complain about what they have decided to give away.
    Successful people make a quick decision and stick with it. It would be wise to work on your bargaining.
  • by jdkane (588293) on Sunday November 17, 2002 @01:00AM (#4688926)
    There was an engineer who had an exceptional gift for fixing all things mechanical. After serving his company loyally for over 30 years, he happily retired. Several years later the company contacted him regarding a seemingly impossible problem they were having with one of their multi-million dollar machines.

    They had tried everything and everyone else to get the machine fixed, but to no avail. In desperation, they called on the retired engineer who had solved so many of their problems in the past.

    The engineer reluctantly took the challenge. He spent a day studying the huge machine. At the end of the day, he marked a small "x" in chalk on a particular component of the machine and proudly stated, "This is where your problem is".

    The part was replaced and the machine worked perfectly again. The company received a bill for $50,000 from the engineer for his service.

    They demanded an itemised accounting of his charges. The engineer responded briefly

    One chalk mark $1
    Knowing where to put it $49,999

    It was paid in full and the engineer retired again in peace.
  • I just recently had something very similar happen to me. I had created a simple web site for somebody last spring, and included instructions to modify the files (he didn't want to pay me to update the site, but wanted me to teach him how to do it). I provided him with some basic ftp instructions, and told him to not modify parts between the <? and ?> symbols (php pages). Using proper HTML was up to him.

    A few months later his host upgraded the server his site was on. I modified the templates for him at no charge - no need to burn bridges, and it was fairly easy for me to fix.

    A few months after that, he tried updating the site and botched it - he did not download the files first, but instead used copies on his local machine already (downloaded before the server was upgraded). Once he started getting php error messages, he contacted me, accusing me of giving him bad instructions (actually, he said I "wrote the site incorrectly") and I need to fix it right away. Very demanding, very accusative, and unwilling to answer any questions. After a few messages full of him sidestepping my questions (presumably because he did not want to admit he didn't follow the instructions), I was able to figure out what happened, and told him that since he did not follow the instructions it was not my fault.

    I told him I'd only charge for a half hour of work to fix it. I made the price low because I wasn't in need of the money - it was meant to get the point across that this work is above and beyond the original deal. The total cost to him would have been twenty-three dollars and fifty cents. He kept fighting me and insisting that he is not a moron. (his justification? "I'm the head of a marketing department." Oh, I'm sorry, you couldn't be a moron, then!)

    After a week, I told him I would fix it on the condition that he never contact me again. I told him there was clearly nothing I could do to make him a satisfied customer short of doing everything for free. I told him I'd gladly lose twenty-three dollars just to never have to deal with him again. I told him I hoped the time he spent fighting me was worth no more than twenty-three dollars.

    I don't regret burning that bridge. If the other party has no interest in reimbursing you for your work, then you're not really even buring a bridge - you're getting rid of excess baggage.

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