How much should you pay for a gridmaster?

We all know that qualified tech staffers cost money. But how much money, exactly?

It’s not like you can look up the going rate for an OpenSim grid administrator … or can you?

A grid admin is a lot like the webmasters we used to have back in the early days of the Web, before everyone either outsourced it, or stopped using the word “webmaster” because it sounded too much like “dungeon master” from Dungeons and Dragons.

The job requirements are a bit more complex — in addition to managing a web server you also have to manage a grid server. The databases are larger. And the traffic streams are more bandwidth intensive. Plus, although you can cache individual pieces of content, you can’t cache an entire region or grid, like you can with websites. That means that you can’t use CloudFlare or similar services to deliver your content faster around the world and minimize the impact of denial-of-service attacks or traffic spikes.

On the flip side, the administrators running grids often have very little experience doing so — not through any fault of their own, but just because the technology is so new.

So, I’m going to look at data for web administrators and assume that the increased complexity of the grid administration job is cancelled out by the less related work experience, on average, on the part of the administrators themselves.

Salaries for Web administrators. (Image courtesy
Salaries for Web administrators. (Image courtesy

The result is a salary of about $70,000 per year in the United States, ranging from $50,000 on the low end to $90,000 on the high.

Expect smaller companies to pay a little less, larger companies to pay a little more.

If your salary offer is significantly outside this range, however, then there are likely to be significant problems with your employee, in one way or another.

Hourly rates

If your expected annual salary is $70,000 and you do occasional hourly work, then your hourly rate should be $105 per hour.

You get it by multiplying your salary by three, then dividing by 2,000 — the number of hours in a year.

Why multiply by three? Because you have to count in administrative overhead, marketing time, and taxes and benefits. When you work on salary, your employers have a separate department for accounting and bookkeeping, and yet another department for sales and marketing, plus they pay a share of your taxes and benefits. When you work by the hour, you have to take care of all of that on your own, either by hiring assistant who you pay for yourself, or by spending time that you could have otherwise been using to do paying client work.

If you work on long-term contracts, with a miniminal amount of time you have to spend on administrative overhead and marketing your services, ten multiply by two, giving an hourly rate of $70.

Working for barter

Trading services for, say, hosting, might seem appealing because you don’t have to pay taxes on your income. Nope. You still have to pay taxes whether you get paid in cold hard cash, or in Bitcoin, in chickens, or in server space.

Barter has significant disadvantages, however, mostly at the conclusion of a project.

Say you did a lot of work for someone, setting up their grid. They now have the results of your work. They promise you server space, and, as long as you were working, they kept that promise. But now your work is gone — and, as a general rule, so is your server space, or your virtual land. And there’s not much you can do. At least, if you were working for money, you’d still have your money, and you can always rent your server space elsewhere.

Similarly, if you are a customer, and your administrator is working for barter, then you might feel in a position of powerlessness when it comes to dictating the work requirements — after all, you’re not “really” paying them.

When is a discount warranted?

Sometimes, though, it’s possible to find a grid administrator willing to work for free, or for a very low price, or for barter.

When it’s for a good cause. Many professionals will happily volunteer their services or take a cut in salary for a non-profit they believe in. Some will even set aside a certain amount of time each month that they will work for free for charities.

When the vendor shares in the company’s potential success. Paying suppliers partly or entirely with equity is a long-established startup tradition. For companies that are set up as single proprietorships — the very-most basic level of possible corporate structure in the U.S. — this means that the supplier would be coming on board as a minority partner, and would then share in all company profits and losses. Some of the difficulties involved include valuing the company appropriately.

When it’s the grid administrator’s first job. A customer takes a big risk when they hire someone new to the field, and a discount will compensate them for that risk.

When the customer agrees to serve as a testimonial. This is especially true of consultants just launching their businesses, or rolling out new services. If a customer agrees to serve as a reference to future clients, to provide a testimonial for marketing materials, or to speak to the media about the services they received it gives the consultant a significant marketing boost.

Maria Korolov