[nycphp-talk] [OT] Consulting work

inforequest 1j0lkq002 at
Sun Jun 12 20:00:55 EDT 2005

Sensible discussion.

I disagree about the risk part. If the consultant takes on too much risk, such as might happen with a loosely-defined,  fixed-price project, it is risky for the client. In that case, who took on the risk?

It costs money to make careful, detailed specs. That effort has to be covered somewhere -- is it a product of a prior loss (client's last project failed, but now they know what they want) or is it fruit of the consultant's expertise and experience (in which case her rate should be commensurate, no?). There is no free lunch.

Also detailed, careful specs preclude much of the creative/techno-creative input a consultant can have. If bound to a spec, then sure -- it goes well, but many consultants want to contribute creative solutions and not just code to specs. 

Bottom line is satisfy the client, no? If the client knows what she wants, then do the work for hire. If the client doesn't, then help her define it, for hire, or perhaps choose to limit your scope of involvement until the project is well-defined.

Just be sure not to choose to do a project that is not defined, or define a project for free (perhaps expecting to get the build). That way you either work on well-defined projects, or work on defining projects. 

As a hirer/manager I prefer to pay hourly rate for technical services, commensurate with knowledge, skills, and experience. Then I apply frequent checks of work against desired product, which requires me to project manage in light of project goals and objectives (blasphemy!). It permits market rates for services, with the good guys able to charge higher rates -- which is fine, because I also don't buy large blocks of time. I bear the risk, because it is my project, and the consultant bears the risk of reputation and uncertain employment -- as usual. 

Most of the problems I see are between naive clients who don't manage and don't hire a manager, and consultants who took on ill-defined work or work that looked like a loser, hoping to convert it somehow or perhaps bail if it got too bad (or something better came along).

Caveat emptor. Nothing new here, move along...nothing to see.

-=john andrews

-----Original Message-----
	"Adam Fields |nyphp dev/internal group use|" <...>
Sent: Jun 12, 2005 7:31 PM
To: NYPHP Talk <talk at>
Subject: Re: [nycphp-talk] [OT] Consulting work

On Sun, Jun 12, 2005 at 06:46:02PM -0400, Francisco Reyes wrote:
> The way I see it, it's all about risk.

On this, I agree, but I think your black and whites below are too
black and white.

> Hourly rate. The customer takes all the risk.

That depends. Do you have accurate specs and reasonable estimates? In
my experience, the upfront work done to make hourly contracts work
makes for better projects with higher customer satisfaction at the
end. It also results in happier consultants, who don't feel like
they're getting nickel-and-dimed all the time.

If you don't trust your consultant to do the work as efficiently as
possible, don't hire that person.

> Fixed rate. The consultant takes all the risk.

Depends. Again, in my experience, fixed rate bids are often heavily
padded, because the consultant assumes they're going to get screwed.

I work almost exclusively hourly, and if I finish something early, I
always bill less than the estimate. Yes, this has happened a few
times, and when it does, it's actually cheaper for the client.

Either way, I get paid for work I actually do.

				- Adam

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