Ideas on charging for a very part-time job
September 5, 2020 2:45 PM   Subscribe

A friend just called and said the company she is working for needs a very part-time job. Well I've got three other part-time jobs in the hopper, so yeah... The job would consist of once every month or so driving my car to courthouses in tiny towns that aren't online and picking up or copying deeds. Most are about 2 hours away; but she can add more, further, places if I work out and want them.

This sounds like my idea of fun; I love to set out and explore new places, it would be 95% rural driving once I was out of the city. The actual work would be five or ten minutes.It seems to me that asking for mileage would more than sufficient; of course my car wears like iron and highway miles are easier on the car. Should I also ask for a token amount? Hourly? Per item?

I actually had a professional driving job before: driving a very elderly millionaire and her sisters around--but that was a flat rate that she set. (And it was so amusing, I would have done it for nothing.)

Thanks for any thoughts.
posted by Rumi'sLeftSock to Work & Money (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You should charge a living wage for your time while driving and doing the task, plus the IRS standard for mileage.
posted by rockindata at 2:47 PM on September 5, 2020 [34 favorites]

They are paying you to be a driver/delivery person. The actual work includes the driving, not just that time in the building. You should make sure that you are making at least minimum wage plus wear and tear on your car.

For the car, I would probably just use the standard federal mileage rate of 57.5 cents per mile since that requires the least justification and probably more than covers your actual expenses. Track your time and mileage and submit a bill once a month.

For your time, I would ask for the living wage for your area for the total time. If they push back, you should still get the federal or local minimum wage for all of the time spend on their job.
Here is an article from MIT that puts the national average living wage at $16.07 in 2017 with significant regional variations.
posted by metahawk at 2:55 PM on September 5, 2020 [5 favorites]

You should ask her what the job pays, whether it is paying legally, and if so if it is w2 or 1099. Really she should have brought that part up in the first place, otherwise you would have reason to suspect this is not technically a "job".

They likely expect you to do this as an independent contractor and file mileage reimbursements on your own taxes. Unless you are familiar with self-employment taxes already, you should be careful here.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:59 PM on September 5, 2020 [5 favorites]

The actual work would be five or ten minutes.

Nope. The actual work would be the time you spend driving, picking up, and delivering the documents. The fact it just so happens that you'd enjoy it is immaterial to the value of your labour.
posted by penguin pie at 3:24 PM on September 5, 2020 [32 favorites]

If you go to the home page of the site for the article that metahawk linked to, that is a living wage calculator for communities and regions throughout the United States.
posted by NotLost at 3:31 PM on September 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

The usual question is: what is your time worth? You may spend a total of 5 hours - two hours of traveling, round trip, plus some time in the courthouses. That five hours is a block of time spent doing this vs. doing something else for a paying client. As others have said, don't devalue your time.

The IRS mileage rate is intended to pay for fuel, maintenance, etc., so it is a commonly-accepted figure for the expense side of the bill.
posted by yclipse at 3:40 PM on September 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Don't forget that your car insurance may not cover using it for "work," so to be covered, you might have to change to more expensive insurance. You can get away without doing so.... Until something happens and you can't. It depends on your risk tolerance.

But in general, you should charge a reasonable hourly fee plus mileage. Because you might think this is a fun lark but it's other people's livelihood and undervaluing your time is also cutting their throat.
posted by Candleman at 4:40 PM on September 5, 2020 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Lyn Never Oh, I already assumed it was a independent contractor job. I've done a few 1099s in my life. Frannie would never steer me to a sketchy job, she works for the same person, and she's a straight-arrow. No funny stuff.

Good call on the mileage reimbursements, though. An angle I did not know that I will look into.

Candleman: "Cutting their throat" I am not following you.
posted by Rumi'sLeftSock at 5:16 PM on September 5, 2020

Lots of good ideas above, but just want to throw out one more re your explanation, "This sounds like my idea of fun; I love to set out and explore new places." Exploring might mess with your mileage claims (i.e., Why is it 125 miles this month when it was only 98 last month?)

So, you'd have to note and track your off the straight and narrow path mileage. This could get messy. "Oooh, let's just see what's up this valley, around the bend, just a little further."

One possibility is just pick a pretty fair estimate and set it as a flat rate. Round up to the nearest full hour of estimated drive time and add on a standard estimated mileage. Then rove and explore to your heart's content.
posted by Gotanda at 5:17 PM on September 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Candleman: "Cutting their throat" I am not following you.

Let's say I work in the business of driving places to copy documents and similar things. I charge $15/hour plus mileage, which is the baseline for a living wage. Each trip is ~4 hours, so every run I make earns $60, plus covering the expenses accrued by the travel. (Yes, in practice, you can make a small profit off of the IRS reimbursement rate, if you drive a cheap and fuel efficient car.) It's my only job, so I have to charge what allows me to make a reasonable living.

Someone comes along and says that they love to set out and explore new places, and says that rather than charging for the time spent, they'll charge a $20 flat fee plus mileage. Now all of a sudden, the employer decides that it's not worth paying a living wage to me, because they can find hobbyists like you. Maybe they shift all the work to cheap people like you, maybe they use your existence to strongarm me into working for minimum wage that doesn't actually pay my bills. Maybe they shift the longer runs onto the hobbyist, because they're not paying for the drive time, dropping the hours available to the professional.

It's important to consider these things when doing work that seems like "fun." I've been on both sides of it - I've lost out on very reasonable bids on work because someone that didn't have to pay their bills with the work undercut me because it was a pleasant lark for them. And I stay very conscious of what organizations I donate my time to, in order to make sure I'm not undercutting people doing work they should be paid for. (In other words, I donate time to charitable organizations that literally can't afford professional work and charge full price to anyone else that can.)

What's the business model of the company you'd be working for? Would they pass the savings on if you worked for next to nothing to their consumers? Are they social justice oriented?

The bottom line is charge for your time, even if it seems like fun, because it's probably someone's job.
posted by Candleman at 6:18 PM on September 5, 2020 [15 favorites]

More like 20/hour because you are not getting any benefits at all. plus mileage.
posted by theora55 at 6:47 PM on September 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

I have to deal with this issue at work. I've never found it easy. The two things I consider these days are opportunity cost and the amount we do or would have to pay an employee to do it. FT/PT employees get paid regardless of whether they're 'on tools' or driving. If we're not billing their driving time then we're paying for the lost opportunity of having them do something we can bill for. If we don't bill enough hours we'll eventually go out of business and nobody has a job.

It can be especially difficult billing for your own time because you have to feel entitled to be fairly compensated and many good people have trouble with that. It may be easier to think of it as if you had to hire someone else to do it.

Ultimately though, if you're not billing for the time you're driving as well as the full costs of the vehicle then you're ripping yourself off. If you wouldn't do that to someone else, you probably don't want to be doing it to yourself either.
posted by mewsic at 1:59 AM on September 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

Does your opinion of the job change if you're doing it in pouring rain, or a huge snowstorm, for example? If so, think of what you'd charge for that, and charge that all the time. Not every day is going to be beautiful driving weather.
posted by hydra77 at 9:00 AM on September 6, 2020 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: And I have ended up driving in monsoons and snowstorms--ugh!-- the beauty of this job is that it's once a month, and flexible within constraints (a week on either side). Yes, driving in a snowstorm is no fun.
posted by Rumi'sLeftSock at 12:08 PM on September 7, 2020

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