You built your first PC on your own and told your friends about it.
You even share some pictures on your Instagram.
Now everyone is asking you questions about building PCs.
A few people even asked you how much you’d charge to build one for them.
You’re thinking about turning your skills into a side gig, and you probably should!
Let’s start by discussing how much would be a fair price.
How Much Should I Charge To Build A PC?
You should charge between $75 to $125 an hour to build a PC, depending on your responsibilities.
The most basic service you can provide to a customer is to assemble their PC parts, including the motherboard, power supply, CPU, etc.
This process shouldn’t take longer than an hour.
You can charge more as the project becomes more complex and you take on more responsibilities.
For instance, you can charge $150 an hour or more for a build with custom water cooling and RGB.
Installing an operating system and programs takes more time, so you should charge more.
Also, if you spend time selecting and buying the components, you can add up to 10 percent of the entire hardware cost to your bill.
Don’t forget to include a special discount for your friends!
If building PCs isn’t your main job, you may even want to skip charging your close friends and ask them to buy you a pizza or invite you to dinner instead.
However, if you want to turn this into a career, we recommend setting an hourly rate for yourself.
This way, you can estimate how long a project will take and quote your customer accordingly.
The average hourly income of PC builders is $19 in the US.
However, shops charge much more than that because they have so many overhead costs.
If a customer comes directly to you instead of a shop, you can charge them more than the hourly rate of a PC builder who works at a shop but less than the price the shop will take.
This way, your customer will pay less, and you’ll earn more—win-win!
Ask around in your area to see how much shops charge for a similar build.
Then quote your customer no more than 60 percent of the average price.
If you’re a novice builder, you can even go as low as 30 percent to win the customer’s business.
Try your hardest to deliver the best possible experience.
Then ask your customer to tell their friends about you.
This way, you’ll get referrals and gradually build a viable business.
How To Calculate The Cost Of A Build
As mentioned, you can charge between $75 and $125 an hour for assembling PC parts inside a case.
However, a few factors can drive that price up.
1. Buying The Parts
If you spend time picking and buying the parts for your customer, you should charge them for your time and expertise.
Some people prefer to charge an hourly rate, while others mark up the price of the parts by around 10 percent.
Both approaches are acceptable, but remember that customers compare prices.
They may feel ripped off if they find a big difference between your prices and what they can get at Walmart or other retailers.
Communicate with the customer early on and explain why they’ll have to pay extra if you buy the parts.
Alternatively, you can include this service for free and charge higher for your other services.
2. Build Complexity
Building a PC has become easier over the years.
However, it still requires skill, even for the simplest builds.
Gaming rigs and workstations with high-end hardware are comparatively more difficult to build.
Sometimes, you must install multiple fans, each one spinning in the correct direction to get the optimal airflow.
Cable management in these expensive builds is much more important because the case will likely have a tempered glass side.
RGB is another factor that may increase the build’s complexity.
When you have more than a few RGB fans and strips, you’ll run out of headers on your motherboard.
You’ll need to use a controller that gives you more ports to plug in your RGB.
Finally, the customer may ask you to install multiple storage drives, which will take some time to set up and configure.
When calculating the cost, consider these and other situations that may make the build more complicated than usual.
3. Water Cooling
Liquid or water cooling is common in gaming PCs and high-performance workstations.
It comes in two varieties: all-in-ones (AIO) and custom loop.
An AIO is a pre-assembled component with a water block installed on the CPU.
It comes with the pump and tubes attached, so all you have to do is install it.
On the other hand, with a custom loop, you’ll have to install everything yourself.
You can choose to cool your CPU, GPU, RAM, and even NVME drives using separate water blocks.
You have to plan and create the loop using the right type of tubes.
Then install the pump and fill the loop with the right cooling liquid.
Some customers also ask you for clear tubes that can be filled with colored liquids.
Working with these liquids requires expertise because they can turn into a gooey substance and clog up the loop.
You should always charge the customer separately for the time it takes to install a custom loop.
You can add a fixed amount to your price if they ask you to install an AIO.
4. Operating System And Drivers
Windows is the most straightforward operating system to install.
Doing so has become increasingly easier over the years.
Installing Windows 10 or 11 is as easy as choosing an installation location, entering your license information, and clicking Next a few times.
However, not everyone can go through the process without making mistakes.
Things get slightly more complicated when you have to install the drivers and configure the system.
You can charge a few extra dollars if the customer asks you to install Windows and regular software for them.
Linux-based operating systems are harder to install and require more tinkering.
Plus, there’s a higher chance for things to go wrong during installation.
Plus, you’ll have a harder time finding compatible drivers for your hardware.
If a customer asks you to install Linux for them, you can charge up to $100, depending on the complexity.
5. Specialty Software
The operating system and drivers are only part of a customer’s software requirements.
Media players, word processors, and photo editing software are available on almost all computers.
Some customers may need special software that’s not for everyday applications.
These include CAD programs, scientific simulators, and machine learning platforms, to name a few.
When faced with these requirements, carefully consider whether you have the expertise to correctly install the application(s).
It’s okay if you don’t know how to configure SQL Server and Python for a customer who wants to do data analytics on their PC.
However, if you do, decide how much to charge based on your hourly rate and communicate the cost beforehand.
Some customers expect you to install these applications free of charge because they’re unaware of the complexity.
Moreover, tell the customer that they will need to pay for any licenses and subscription fees for the software.
6. Data Transfer
Transferring data from an old PC or laptop is another common requirement.
Your customers often have an older device that’s been working for years, and now they want to access their data on the new machine.
Transferring files from an old machine isn’t usually as easy as clicking copy and paste.
You’ll have to answer a few questions beforehand to decide on the best approach:
- What type of storage does the old machine use?
- Does the new machine support that technology?
- Do you have to perform data recovery?
If the old machine uses outdated storage technology, such as IDE, moving the files to an M.2 SSD will be more time-consuming than transferring from one SSD to another.
Moreover, corrupt files that require recovery make it more difficult to transfer the files.
Therefore, you have to charge extra.
Note: Data recovery is a complex process and requires special skills.
If you don’t have the expertise for the project, don’t accept it.
Finally, consider whether you’ll guarantee the build and how long.
Like any technical project, there’s a chance that something will go wrong with the build in the future.
The RGB may stop working.
The custom water loop may get clogged.
The computer may simply refuse to turn on.
You should always give your customer at least one week to use the device and tell you about potential problems.
However, you can guarantee that the build will be stable for at least six months or one year and that you’ll fix any problems that occur without charge.
This offer shows that you’re confident in your skills and abilities.
It gives your customer some peace of mind and builds trust.
However, you should deliver on your promise if anything goes wrong with the machine during the guarantee period.
It’s common practice to charge extra for the guarantee, but don’t go overboard.
The whole point is to establish trust so that the customer will bring you referrals and repeat business.
Five to fifteen percent of your asking price for the build is enough for the guarantee.
Note: The build guarantee doesn’t have anything to do with the part warranties.
The guarantee is your promise to your customer, while the part manufacturers cover the warranties.
To make that information more digestible, let’s consider how much you should charge for a hypothetical build with the following details:
|Complexity||RGB fans and daisy-chained RGB strips|
|OS and drivers||Yes|
You will have to spend around two and a half hours on this build.
Assuming you charge an hourly rate of $30, you can charge $75 for the hardware part.
The software part is relatively straightforward, so you shouldn’t charge more than $15.
Finally, you can add 10 percent to guarantee the build, bringing the total price to $100.
How To Become A Successful PC Builder
Building PCs is like many other service professions: people pay you for your skills and expertise.
If you want to turn it into a side hustle or a full-time job, you must be serious about it.
Always give your best effort to every build.
After a while, people will notice the quality of your work, and you’ll get a consistent flow of projects.
In addition, here are a few tips to help you grow your PC building business and earn more:
1. Ask For Referrals
Service-based professions thrive on referrals.
When someone recommends you to their friends or family members, it’s a sign that they trust you and your expertise.
Therefore, you’re more likely to get a new customer.
What’s the best part?
You don’t have to spend time and money on marketing.
You can focus on doing quality work.
However, people may need a gentle push before recommending you to others.
A small discount or gift could be that push.
Sometimes, even directly asking them to spread the word about your business works.
Many people are happy to help you get more customers if they’re satisfied with your services.
2. Pick A Niche
People who specialize usually get paid more than generalists because they have less competition.
You can start with building all types of PCs.
If you want to earn top money, you must gradually become an expert in a specific field.
For example, you can specialize in custom water loops and RGB.
If you learn some design principles, you can set yourself apart from regular builders by creating masterpieces that turn heads.
Building workstations for small or medium-sized companies is another opportunity for specialization.
These companies are usually interested in saving money and having their computers always work.
You can have their business for a long time by providing reliable services.
To pick a niche, identify your passions and interests.
Then research how many people would be interested in the service you can offer.
The best niches are usually the result of multiple needs occurring simultaneously—for example, gaming enthusiasts who want perfect-looking machines with high performance.
3. Use Social Media
Social media can be a great way to tell people about your services and showcase your work.
Post pictures of your builds on Instagram.
Or record videos of yourself explaining how you approach each build and post them on YouTube.
You can slowly increase your followers, some of whom will turn into customers.
Your social media channels can also bring you more opportunities, such as consulting gigs.
And if you get enough followers on YouTube, you can create an independent revenue stream for yourself.
4. Offer Add-ons
Once customers pay you for your services, they’re much more likely to be willing to do it again.
Look for ways to provide more value to your customers and increase your income.
For example, if you built a PC for someone last year, you can offer to clean their case and reapply thermal paste at a discount.
You can even sell peripherals they don’t consider buying when picking PC parts.
Examples include surge protectors, mouse or desk pads, and cleaning sprays.
You can come up with other ideas if you think creatively and pay attention to your customers’ needs.
Not only are these add-on services and products highly profitable, but they also show your customers that you care about them and anticipate their needs.
This is the recipe for long-term business success.