Doing Computer Work for the Family

We don’t mean the Mafia, we mean working your own family. Doing any computer work for relative can be dangerous as it totally changes the rules of business. You want to help them out but you don’t want them to call you all the time as if you were their own personal tech support. In this article we’ll show you how to deal with relatives and business.

Imagine that your cousin/uncle/aunt called you up on the phone, said that they have a virus on their computer and asked if you could take a look at it. You say “sure” because chances are that all you will have to do is load a copy of AVG Antivirus on it and let it run. While you are onsite at a repair job they drop it off to your home and at the end of the day you fire it up to take a look at it.

Sure enough, it has a virus and you let AVG run its course. However, you soon find that many critical system files have been infected and the antivirus cannot remove the it, only quarantine them. In fact, so many of the systems critical files are effected the best course of action is a backup, format and reinstall. Your quick favor for your relative has just become a real pain in the ass.

So, What do you say to them? Do you tell them that its a big job and you’ll have to charge them? I doubt that will go down well because they most likely got you to do it because they know you’ll do it for free.
Do you tell them that you cant fix it? They’ll question your competency and have doubts about recommending you to others.
Do you tell them you wont fix it? You will most likely disappoint them.

This is a nasty trap to be in, but it can be worse. Heres another example:
Your cousin calls you up on the phone and you are always happy to have a chat to your good ol’ cousin. He has a small problem with his computer and asks what he should do. You suggest that he types in a few commands and voilà! problem fixed. He thanks you and hangs up.

Two days later he has another problem and he calls you up at 10:30pm on a Saturday night while you are out with your friends. A little bit annoyed, you tell him a few commands and help him out and he hangs up. The next morning he calls you at 7:30am and wakes you up with another computer problem.

Guess what? You just became your relatives personal tech support and your not even getting paid for it.

So how do I stop all this from happening?
Always charge something. You can give discounts by waiving your callout fee. You can trade services “fix my car and I’ll fix your computer” or you can just charge a bottle of alcohol like Jägermeister, Vodka, Tequila (the expensive stuff) or a 24 pack of the cheap stuff.

By always charging something you show them that you are not an unlimited supply of technical help and because of this, they will only call you when they really need you. If they really need you, they more than happy to give you a bottle of alcohol to help them out.

I am already in this trap! How do I get out of it?
This is a hard one to get out of, not without telling a a few white lies anyway. Tell them that you are far too busy to help them out at the moment. Play it up a little bit “you know how it is, work work work, gotta pay the bills etc..”. However, tell them that you can put them at the front of the queue but you’ll have to charge your usual rate of $xx per hour. If they really need you they’ll pay it, if they don’t they will leave you alone.

When you are getting paid for your work, you will give it 100% and a little more because they are a relative. Also, because you were so good they will be more likely to recommend you to their friends which turns into more paying work.

Doing a favor and working for free is just not worth it. I personally will help my mother, father, sister and girlfriend for free because I am very close to them and I know they help me out when I need it, but for any other relatives; they have to pay up.

Drop us a comment if you have been in this situation or have your own tips with dealing with family members

Bryce Whitty

About the Author

Bryce Whitty
More articles by me...
Bryce is an Australian computer technician and the founder of Technibble. He started his computer repair business when he was 17 years old and is still running it 9 years later. He is an avid traveller and spends at least a month of the year in another country.

Comments (6)

  • Youngwun0 says:

    LMAO….funny that you should bring an article like this bryce…. just a few minutes ago i was speaking to my mom about her friend whom always seems to get into computer jams and after installing a fresh copy of windows for on her pc she caught a virus and expects me to take care of it for “FREE” now i had done repairs for her maybe 3-4 times for “FREE” and now i am trapped, a few days ago my mom told her that i have to start charging when i start going to this IT course and she laughed and said “haha… yeah alright” in a sarcastic manner… me and my mom agreed that after i take care of this virus problem for her i should tell her i have no idea how to fix whatever comes up, one thing i find KIND of thought about is that she did help me get 1 other client (who paid for a repair) and if i lie to her she may just assume i really know nothing and won’t recommend me to others but then again i don’t think it’s worth it if she is going to be the way she is and have me doing this free work with no intentions of paying or tipping, the most she has given me was a glass of iced tea while on the job lol, that comment she blurted out about “yeah alright” pretty much pissed me off she should have stood quite or been more considerate and asked how much or something, i wouldn’t have charged her much anyway… but my advice to others goes just as bryce said ALWAYS CHARGE SOMETHING! The only people i do free work for is my mom, brothers and a close aunt of mine, neither are as whiny as the friends i have done free work for.

    If anyone has any advice feel free to shoot one at me lol

    BTW: she told me about this virus about 3 months back and i am taking my sweet time :P i will complete it as i promised but that’s it!

  • Hank says:

    I have never really had this problem most everyone has always insisted on paying me something. The only people I try not to charge are my grandparents. The only people who I end up not charging and wish I could are my mom and dad and the younger of my two older brothers. Problem is they know when I am busy and not for the most part. They ask me computer questions and to fix things and alot of it so minor and unimportant that I get tired of it. I do get free bed/room, internet, electricity, water, and food from my parents so I guess I can’t complain too much.

  • Yeah… this has always been a tuff one for me. With most family and friends, early on they found out what I do and they would typically make a point of saying they’d call me. This was the perfect time to set expectations. I would let them know that that I’ll take good care of them and give them a “family and friends” discount. That sets the expectation early on that they’ll get top notch service at a discounted rate however; I will need to be paid for my time.

    When someone in the extended family or friend network tries to call for free service I’ve found that they are the ones who belittle the efforts, complain the most or try to place the blame for their actions on me. It seems that the more you “take care” of family or friends the less they appreciate the service.

    Far be it for me to enable anyone to devalue my service!

    I’ll provide some advice at no charge for just about anyone. This usually helps me position the value of my service, get to know them and let them see how eager I am to assist. Once we start getting into Computer Repair 101 I’ll let them know that I’m running out of time and we’ll need to schedule an appointment because, after all, I am very busy. It just doesn’t make sense for a magician to reveal their secrets. Let’s face it, if someone wanted to know bad enough how to fix their own computer they could logon to a place like”¦ I don’t know”¦ Technibble!

    For the moocher(s) in the extended family who don’t want to pay for service it’s easy. I just tell them I’m very busy and I’m booked up for quite a while. I’ll be happy to send out another technician, but they’ll have to pay the full service rate. I make no effort to soften the fact that I am very busy, I have a lot of paying customers and I have to pay the bills and put food on the table.

    I had one (well, one that immediately comes to mind) “friend” (loose associate) who acted surprised to hear I would expect to charge them. I casually asked what they do for a living. I then asked if they would do that work for free. “Whoa, little buddy”¦ that’s a totally different”, they replied. I said “I fail to see the difference”. I offered to work out a barter or if they can refer (X) number of clients to me I’ll be happy to provide them service at no cost.

    Now, for the mother of the century”¦ the one with a heart of gold who would stop at nothing to help not only you, but every single one of her friends with unconditional love, selfless compassion and genuine good will towards all”¦ I have no idea. I’ve tried to let her choose one or two people who she can waive the fee for remote service and after my paying clients have been taken care of, I’ll get to them. I’ve set the expectation that I can’t help everyone yet the plea’s still come in. I still find myself working into the wee hours of the morning to fix their problem. How can you say no to the woman who raised you without feeling like a scum bag?

  • Ed says:

    Great article. However, I would still have a problem charging my family. I’m lucky enough to know how to fix computers. I share a little of my time, with them. It all works out. However, I would draw the line, once my good nature gets taken advantage of. I definitely don’t have a problem with that.

  • A little less painful solution that i discovered not long ago was to set up remote desktop on their pc and try fixing problems at the comfort of your home !

    Not all problems can be solved this way, but it will definately save you the hassles of going to their place every now and then ! ;-)

  • iladelf says:

    I basically barter, saying, “Ok, I’ll do this for you, but you have to give me x in return”, where x can be anything, from legal help (my bro’s a lawyer), vehicle help, tickets for ballgames, etc., etc.

    That way, you get something out of it. No, no money changes hands, but you do get “paid”, somewhat.