1. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    Generous Per Diem Pay for Handyman

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Laurin Kelly, Mar 5, 2017.

    Okay, here's the setting:
    • MC is a handyman - not a contractor, not bonded or licensed in any way.
    • Hired to do a job with mostly cosmetic fixes. Painting walls, fixing dents/cracks, installing new bathroom fixtures.
    • MC lives in a small town in Indiana and this is winter, his slow season where jobs are far and few between.
    What would be a generous daily pay rate, keeping in mind it's all cash and under the table so no taxes are due. Generous meaning enough that you'd take the job even though you think your client might be a little nuts (but not really dangerous).

    Does $200 USD per day sound about right? He'd be working mostly a standard 8 hour day.
     
  2. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    Depends on where the setting is.

    As a point of ref. I am a carpet layer, and as a min. make $100, but bid out
    jobs that are bigger by the yrd. So unless you really don't mind spending a
    grand a week on a handy man for the winter, have him bid out each job
    accordingly. No bond and no insurance means he had better be worth 200 a day.
    But since most don't have to buy a 400$+ piece of equipment to do their job
    effectively, 100-130 a day would be more appropriate. It is a jack of
    all trades not a bloody trade/journeymen. :)

    On the for real, it should be a bare bones fair amount based on the living costs
    in the area it takes place. 200 in a New York City type place will get you plenty
    of work, because you are being reasonable. Middle of nowhere in the west, and
    you better have a damned good reason for charging so much for doing simple
    work.

    Hope this helps, and maybe you should look into what private handymen charge
    in the area where your story takes place. It will vary by age and exp. :)
     
  3. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    My handyman charges $25 an hour. I'm in rural Ontario, Canada, so... I'm not sure if it's comparable to your location or not.

    I know he's got more work than he can handle, but I think that's because he's good rather than because he's cheap.
     
  4. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Well, taxes are certainly "due", in the sense of owed. I quibble about this because it means that both employer and employee are comfortable with a situation that would make the IRS annoyed with both of them if it were found out. (This assumes that there's enough work to pass the fairly low amount that calls for a 1099 on the employer's part; if not, then it's only the employee in trouble. But if the employer writes it off as an expense, there's a paper trail. Yes, I am an excessive rule-follower.)
     
  5. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Might not be an employer/employee relationship, though? At least in my jurisdiction, it's possible for someone to be self-employed, meaning they're their own employer. So when I hire my handyman, it's like I've hired a company to do some work for me. If that company doesn't pay their taxes, that's their issue, not mine.

    Where I am, there are a bunch of rules that determine whether someone is self-employed... things like how much control they have over their own work, etc. I assume there's something similar elsewhere...
     
  6. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    Oh yes, technically and legally the taxes are due but realistically there are a lot on under-the-table arrangements happening all over the U.S. at any time.

    And in my case the business owner isn't even human, let alone a taxpaying U.S. citizen that the IRS has visibility to.
     
  7. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    @Laurin Kelly

    If they are paid in cash, then they don't have to pay any taxes.
    How can the IRS prove they are making any profit, unless they
    are one of the few private contractors that is playing by the 'rules"?

    My mother prepared taxes in the past and in our state you have to
    make a min. of 5 grand before you should report your earnings.
    Now this may vary from state o state.

    So unless you 1099 the guy, he will be making what he is worth,
    and is not obligated to report his earnings. (Because cash under
    the table is not traced by the tax collectors.) But if your playing it
    that way then that would be your best bet, and have the one hiring
    them, to have the other party to fill out a 1099 Form. Otherwise
    they are simply getting profit of their labor, and are not obligated
    to report their earnings for the physical year.
    And if you really want to have fun. then have them fill out a
    Schedule C Form at the end of the year, and file their quarterly
    taxes on top of that for tools/materials for their business.
    (As a private contractor a Schedule C is a pain in the ass to fill
    out for non-under the table business.)
     
  8. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    This thread seems to have turned into a discussion about the legality of taxes and who should pay, but I don't think that's the question.

    @Laurin Kelly,

    You might be able to get yourself a good figure by selecting the area of your setting or using a model area. Then look at minimum wage and multiply that to find out what that would be for an 8-10 hour day (depending on how long your character typically works) and use that number as a jumping off point.

    Minimum wage is minimum, so if this is a generous Per Diem, you might want to shoot higher than whatever number you come up with ($200 is certainly higher).
     
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  9. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    isnt minimum wage for employees though - so it doesnt apply to the self employed one man bands who can charge what they like if they are desperate for work.

    i'm in the uk so its probably not really comparable, but over here the standard day rate for a contractor like that is between £100-150 , but there are a lot of cow boys working for much less.

    My other thought is whether it is really necessary for it to be generous - this is the slow season so he can't afford to pick and choose his clients (also do you need to mention an ammount at all "bob's eyes widened at the ammount the client was offering, at that rate of pay he could afford a full contractror, but fuck it bob wasnt going to tell him that" )
     
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  10. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    I said use it as a jumping off point. I did not say that minimum wage and Per Diem are the same thing.

    Minimum wage is the easiest way to find a solid point of reference in a specific area.
     
  11. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I think minimum wage in my area is about $10/hr, so my handyman gets 2.5x minimum wage. He rarely works an eight hour day for me--more like ten or twelve. So I pay more than $200 a day. But if your guy is sticking to the shorter day, $200 wouldn't seem out of the question.

    That's assuming he's reasonably skilled. My guy does good work - he's not some high school kid who took a couple shop classes.

    ETA: Another comparison might be other domestic staff? My cleaning ladies get $15 an hour - that's $10/hr LESS than I was paying when I lived closer to Toronto. $15 is on the low end even up here - $20 is more standard, I think.

    So a handyman makes about 25% more than a cleaning lady? If you can figure out what cleaning ladies make in your region, that might help...

    The guys who cut my lawn charge $45 per visit. Hard to convert that to an hourly rate, since they're bringing all their own equipment, etc., but maybe it could be a rough guide... the handyman's hourly charge is just a bit more than half of what it costs to get people to come and cut/trim a standard-sized lawn.

    What else can I come up with?!? Snowblowing the driveway costs $25 a visit - if there's snow where your characters are, the rate for a cleared driveway is EXACTLY the same as the hourly rate of a good handyman!

    Dogwalker is $10, but she's just a kid.

    What other aspects of personal responsibility have I shirked in exchange for cash....?
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2017
  12. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    Sounds like somebody has a lot of disposable income. :p
     
  13. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Or is very, very lazy...
     
  14. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    Well not that lazy, the vast amount of cash exchange for service
    didn't come from under your couch cushions. :)
     
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  15. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Ghostwriter ? :D :D :D
     
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  16. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Now you're talking!
     
  17. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    Thanks everyone! Based on the above and a couple of off board conversations, I'm going to go with $200 per day. This is for a short story that I'll be submitting to an anthology call at the end of the month, so if it's accepted I can always see if the editor thinks its too high or too low. And if it's not accepted it probably won't see the light of day anyway, as I don't know what the hell I'd do with it afterwards except maybe offer it for free as an extra on my blog.

    @big soft moose the amount being paid per day is referenced specifically in the dialogue between my two MC's, and in the context of the scene it really can't be vague. Sorry I can't give more detail than that, but you'll have to trust me on it. ;)
     
  18. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    fair enough though i do get frustrated with this kind of thing from less experienced writers than you - you are in total control of the story, if you wanted too you could alter it to not be referenced in the dialogue, or change the context of the scene
     
  19. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    But if I'm already very happy with both the context and the flow of dialogue, why would I tank it because of a tiny detail like a specific dollar amount? That seems completely counter-intuitive to me.
     
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  20. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Banned Contributor

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    If it's a small town, $200 for an 8 hour day would be a bit high, at least by my reckoning.
    I'm renovating a turn of the century home, and I only use people who work off the books. I don't declare it on my taxes, and they are free to do what they want as far as paying income tax. Also, I don't know anyone in the business, freelance contractor or handyman who only work an 8hr day.:) Last year I had a painter over to help with one side of the house, only because I don't have a ladder to get to the upper most sections, and we worked from 7am to 6pm... he charged me $150. I bought us lunch, and gave him an extra $20 as it was pretty difficult work. I live in the historic district of a big city. That's why I'm saying $200 for 8hrs work is a bit excessive, especially if it's a small town.
     
  21. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    Excellent! That's exactly what I want it to be. :D
     
  22. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    And that's fine ... it doesn't really apply to you as an experienced writer but it really frustrates me when people say "oh I can't, because the story won't" when the reality is that the story does whatever the writer wants... if they want to include a cast of wombles driving T80 main battle tanks whilst having a love hexagon, the writer has the freedom to do so

    "don't want to" is a choice , "can't" is an excuse

    In your specific case i'd say if you are already happy with the context and flow the ammount is unimportant, just pick a figure ... after all your readership arent largely going to be workmen in small idaho towns so no one is going to know whether its a fair amount anyway
     
  23. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    But your readership may very well have recently employed a workman, and be aware of the going rate...

    In my case, in the UK, I've recently employed an electrician at £180 p.d....which would equate to $200 p.d....but our guy is qualified, certified, etc., and tax-paying; so $200 for a handyman who's in the black economy is generous.

    As far as the legality of paying tax on your handyman earnings...I used to play squash with a couple of guys; a handyman with a full-time job did some handyman work for a solicitor, paid cash and not declared. The solicitor gave the handyman the phone number of a friend of his who wanted some work done. Handyman phones the number, only to hang up when the call is answered "Good morning, tax office."

    The solicitor later got struck off for something else...
     
  24. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    But the 'going rate' varies massively depending on supply and demand - particularly in remote communities, so it doesnt really matter, especially as its supposed to be generous anyway
     

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