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small jobs, fees, and contracts

small jobs, fees, and contracts

small jobs, fees, and contracts

I just finished reading AlpineEngineer's thread about "billed time" and thought I'd  get some input on a similar problem.

I get phone calls from people who are looking for an engineer to come out to their house and evaluate an existing condition or problem and present them with either an explanation of what the problem is or potential solutions.  For example, "I want to remove a portion of the rear wall of my house to expand my kitchen."  Sometimes I'm dealing with a contractor who can give me enough information that I have a good handle of the situation both time-wise and design-wise, but with homeowners that isn't always the case.  

I've recently settled on charging a minimum fee (equal to 3 hours) that I collect on site for the first 2 hours of my time, including travel time.  On site, if additional work needs to be done, I quote them a fee to provide a solution which they can pay me for at the time of completion.  

How do you typically handle "jobs" like this?  And how do you handle liability/contracts for such jobs?

I look forward to hearing your ideas.


RE: small jobs, fees, and contracts

We bill hourly and have a minimum $500 dollar fee for this type of work and a "small jobs" contract which is signed prior to any work being performed.

If the "client" doesn't want to sign or says the fee is too much... I just tell them to have nice day.

RE: small jobs, fees, and contracts

I am the same.  I warn them my hourly rate is $100 an hour and it will cost them around $250 for me to look at the project to get them a proposal.  If they need a report to beat over the head of a contractor, it will likely be another $1000.

They are used to a "free estimates" world and I tell them I do not bury my estimating costs in my hourly rate or proposals.  And I usually submit a draft contract with the proposal.  I definately so this for property owner's with a history of court cases - even though these are usually tenant evictions.

If I get a comment like "you must not get much work," I usually do not reply but ask them if they would like a name of another engineer that may be able to offer them a free estimate.  This is typically a friend that has a day job but does work on the side.  They do not mind picking up an odd job from time to time.

I have to say, they usually hire my friend but I only invested about 5 minutes in a phone call and the person feels I was helpful.

Don Phillips

RE: small jobs, fees, and contracts

So rday,
You fax them something to sign with a broad description of what you'll do before you go to the job?

and do you typically require payment when you arrive at the site, or do you just send an invoice afterwards?

RE: small jobs, fees, and contracts

My accountant brother recently asked me if I knew any civil engineers? (His basement has a water intrusion problem whenever it rains). He seemed strangely surprised when I told him that they would probably charge $100/hr with a minimum fee for their services. Apparently he thought that engineers have nothing better to do with their time. I wonder if he would do accounting for free to a stranger?

RE: small jobs, fees, and contracts

I agree fully with rday and DonPhillips.

Regarding the water intrusion - his foundation drains are plugged.  I doubt this is the case with his bank account though.

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering

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