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I have been a fulltime student recently working on graduate work to complete a graduate degree. While continuing my studies I have maintained my computer hobby. However, recently my computer hobby has been threatening to turn into a full-fledged side business. Because I am starting to have people come to me for computer help who I have never met before (who generally heard word-of-mouth from other people whose computers I looked at) I am seriously considering putting my conditions for working on a computer into writing (for potential damage control and perhaps liability reasons). Are there any standards for this that I should reference? Should responsibility be waived for times when the computer is left in my care or any time I look at a machine? Any advice you can provide here would be appreciated. What other lessons have you learned that I should be aware of in relation to helping people while continuing my studies as a hobby? Thank you in advance.

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closed as off topic by Shinrai, Not Kyle stop stalking me, Daniel Beck, Dennis Williamson, MaQleod Mar 9 '11 at 1:08

Questions on Super User are expected to relate to computer software or computer hardware within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

off topic (this site is about hardware and software, not business) and too localized, as it sounds like you're asking for legal advice. – Daniel Beck Mar 9 '11 at 0:12
@Daniel - I disagree, this site is about Q&A for computer enthusiasts and power users. I am also not looking for legal advice just ideas and suggestions from others that have gone through something similar. Thanks for the posting. – John Mar 9 '11 at 0:13
Please read at least the first three lines of the FAQ, not just the first line and the "notification" you get on your first visit. Thanks. – Daniel Beck Mar 9 '11 at 0:18
Please don't cross-post‌​. By the way, you are asking for legal advice. – Dennis Williamson Mar 9 '11 at 0:45
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Couple of pieces of advice.

First, NEVER assume liability for data. Every repair shop always has a disclaimer about that. You may want to clone every system before you start work on it, but that's up to you.

Second, set a SLA (service level agreement) upfront. Something like that you will do a best-effort attempt for say 1 hour and then provide an estimate. Estimates are always payable and can be waived if they go ahead with repair. This gives the customer a set dollar amount for having their system looked at, provides you with a way out of timesucks, and forces you to stick to a rule so you don't spend hours on any one project.

Third, since this is a hobby and you are schooling, decide upfront - how many systems per week or how many hours per week and stick to it.

Fourth, never forget about the larger view. When we have router problems, we just install a new router as a first step. The time/cost/downtime makes extensive troubleshooting not worth it. If a drive dies under warranty, we install a new one and bill for it. Yes, we can pull the drive, wait couple of days to get a new one, reinstall/reimage OS... meanwhile, the client is down.

Also a suggestion - browse the book "Passionate Programmer" - some of the things may apply to you such as seek out a specialty, see what people need, market yourself...

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