Wednesday, 1 July 2009

What services will you pay for?

I have a friend who is the “Admin Handyman”. He recently sent me a solution to something a little out of the ordinary that I was trying to do in MS Outlook. I was over the moon and replied with thanks, asking how he found it when I had spent ages searching for the solution.

His reply was - One of the services I offer is Internet Research. More often than not I do this for nothing, as in your case, when I hear something at a meeting or in a conversation. I should, of course, charge. If I had said I will research the answer for you at a cost per hour would you have paid me, irrespective of the result, i.e. for the time I have taken to do the research?

I thought his question was an interesting one and one which may be of interest to many of the readers. People make choices based on perceived value for money and fulfilment of a need.

I sent Peter the following answer - I suppose it’s back to the balance between time and finances – does one have the time to do the research without intruding on one’s core business and family time or does one have the money to pay someone else to do it? In most cases the cost of getting someone else to do the work will probably work out a lot cheaper than doing it oneself.

You raised some interesting questions around the issue of value associated with internet research.

I think it is a balance between cost and need.

In general I am very wary of giving a go ahead for IT problem solving work that is based on a cost per hour basis. This is because I know how time consuming it can be – whether we are solving it on the machine or researching a solution – and how virtually impossible it is to estimate up front how long it will take.

If something will not work at all and it is imperative that I get it sorted out, then I would generally have to pay whatever it takes.

However most of the time resolving a problem is only worthwhile within a certain cost. Let’s say the limit is R500. Then so long as I can get a solution for R500, I want it. If it will either cost more than this or I risk paying the money and not getting a solution for it, then I will either do without or try it myself.

The reason trying it myself is still worthwhile is that

  • I am in a position to say when it is no longer worth trying
  • I may well learn something useful along the way
  • I can choose to see it as “recreational” and do it instead of watching TV etc.

I think having internet research as a paying service for clients who are cost sensitive may require the following:

  • Define clearly what the required outcome is
  • Estimate how long that will take you
  • Give a fixed quote ie a quote for the job regardless of how much or little time it takes you. The client will then accept or reject that based on the perceived value to themselves of having the task accomplished

If one is doing a fair bit of this there will be some jobs you gain on and some you lose on, so it will work out fairly in the end. The more you do it, the more accurate the quoting will become.

The logic in this answer can be applied to many services. Is it relevant to your business? Do you “buy” in this way yourself?

If you need to contact Peter for virtual or onsite admin services or internet research drop him a mail at and tell him Alison gave you the recommendation.

Do you have an empty swimming pool?

I recently shared a great story on this blog that I had received from Adele Howell-Pryce, and I gave her credit for it. I have since been contacted by Bernadette Doyle, apparently the original author, as per the comment below.

I apologise for unintentionally using Bernadette's work without credit.

It is a great story with a message for all of us. My copy and paste function does not want to work, so unfortunately I cannot replace the article, therefore I am removing it. The link to Bernadette's original is given in her comment below. Enjoy!