My tools make you better, you used to rent them, now I work for you...I'm still using my tools.
February 15, 2011 6:11 PM   Subscribe

Contractor turned full time employee. Still using my own laptop and other tools. How should I be compensated?

Having freelanced for the last decade, a client enticed me to come on full time to do what I was doing as a contractor.

I work in communications/strategy/advocacy.

I was hired for my technical/strategic skill set, part of that skill set includes the tools I use: my laptop, still and video cameras, the associated software (think print, web and video).

This organization would not easily be able to replace my skill set and associated tool kit which has greatly expanded their reach and public presence.

I've been here a while now, and I am still using my hardware/software and am fine doing so, but feel I should be compensated in some way. The employer seems to be open to this. My hope is that the hivemind can help figure out what is fair compensation and how to go about getting getting it.

I'll be keeping tabs on the thread and can answer any questions.

Thanks for your help!
posted by Fuzzy Dog to Work & Money (5 answers total)
I'm not a lawyer or accountant, but I have to do equipment "lifecycle management" as we call it and some of the issues may be similar. In order of preference:

-Can you figure out a fair market value for the items using, for example, eBay?

-Do you know the amortization on your equipment? This might have been done for your taxes. You could use this to estimate the current equipment value.

-How often do you need to replace the bit and pieces? Could you figure out a "used value" then charge them the remainder of depreciation until end of life? For example, my employer rates certain pieces of equipment to have a useful life of 5 years. Let's say it cost $100. By the beginning of year 3, it would have a prorated value of $60.

If you can work out an expected end-of-life for each piece of equipment, you could either have them compensate you yearly for the expected annual depreciation, renting the equipment for the year, or buy the items outright for the depreciated cost. You may want to go over cost, but figuring out your costs would give you a good starting place.

You might also want to add a case for accidents and theft in the course of your work, requiring full replacement.

Of course you might well want a lawyer and/or an accountant to look provide advice, but that's where I'd start from.
posted by bonehead at 6:29 PM on February 15, 2011

I would go about it the other way around. As a contractor you were making, say, $100 an hour. After taxes and health insurance and all that jazz, maybe you only netted $50 an hour. So, if you are now getting a salary that nets you the same $50 an hour, you are even. If they are paying you less, ask for more. If they are paying you more, let it slide.

Or, add up what you've spent in the last 10 years on that equipment, divide it by 10 and that's how much it costs you a year to maintain this stuff. Ask for something around that number, depending on how much or how little you use the stuff for other clients and personally.
posted by gjc at 9:09 PM on February 15, 2011

Best answer: You should be charging enough for your special knowledge and tools that a $2000 laptop doesn't matter so much. It really just sounds like a compensation issue, so...a $3000/yr raise? A laptop a year and something extra for the domain knowledge and software tools. If you think it's worth more than than, then ask for it. They're amenable, be the badass.
posted by rhizome at 9:45 PM on February 15, 2011

If I had a piece of equipment that wasn't quite performing as well as it used to, I'd approach it this way:
Hey boss, [my piece of equipment] is beginning to act flaky and I need to replace it soon, how do I go about getting reimbursed for the replacement cost?

Hey boss, I will probably need to upgrade my [piece of equipment] at some point. How do I go about getting reimbursed for that?

As for fair past compensation ... well for your point of view that should have been above and beyond your salary, but maybe from their point of view they think salary should have covered equipment costs? What I'm saying is that it can be a bit of a minefield to try and recoup past expenses over something that did not have an explicit agreement. It might be possible, but that depends less upon what's fair and more upon the personality and culture of your boss and company. Personally, I'd chalk it up to a lesson learned, but I'd make sure to make it clear that going forward those will be company expenses.

Aside: If the company didn't reimburse you for your equipment, you might be able to get a personal tax break for any equipment related expenses for that tax year.
posted by forforf at 6:30 AM on February 16, 2011

Why not have the company buy you a new laptop and licenses of the software? Did you develop any of the software yourself?
posted by reddot at 8:54 AM on February 16, 2011

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