Repairing typewriters

Last week, I received emails from two former clients who needed some help with some legacy work. One needed some tweaks done on a print ad that was at least three years old. The other had moved his web site to a cheaper hosting solution, but the cgi no longer worked. He wanted me to help him fix it as his current hosting provider did not edit scripts.

In each case, the client did not know where else to turn to get the work done. They had — metaphorically speaking — old typewriters they still needed but could no longer find repairmen to fix. All of the cool kids were making drag ‘n’ drop jQuery websites with blackbox OAuth Twitter and Facebook login screens they really didn’t understand.

Neither former client knew anyone who could repair an old typewriter except me. Would I do this really quick fix for them?


I could have done the work in just as much time as it would have taken to say no. But then, how do I charge? Hourly? Fix-rate for three seconds worth of work? How much is that really worth?

I know what it is worth to me, but clients see things in units of work and charging $400,000.00 to apply a set of skills everyone else has either abandoned, forgotten or never bothered to learn would have seemed excessive. Yet, that was what the work was worth to me.

Here’s why.

When I spend my time repairing typewriters. it takes away from me learning and growing the new skills that I need to remain competitive with the kids who are younger, faster and don’t appear to need sleep.

When I spend my time repairing typewriters, my clients will see me as the “typewriter repairman” instead of the forward-leaning visionary I need them to see. When it comes time for a new project in the “new space,” they would never trust their future to an old geezerly typewriter repairman.

Nobody trusts an old dog to do new tricks.