[LRUG] Contact Work and setting limits

Simon Starr simon at starr.cx
Thu Oct 29 11:28:46 PDT 2009

One technique to help avoid this (that I don't use half as much as I  
should!) is to send the client an email or letter after your initial  
meeting that spells out your understanding of exactly what it is they  
want and how long it'll take you to do it. For bonus points you can  
itemise it in a list with an individual time estimate next to each item.

This way, they can see where the hours they're paying for are going  
and you've got something to point at when they start changing things.  
You can also go back to them as soon as you realise that you've  
underestimated how long something on the list is going to take and  
hopefully come to some kind of arrangement.

I also wholeheartedly agree with the suggestion that you overestimate  
how long things will take - that way if everything goes smoothly and  
you finish it early you can charge them less and they'll be even more  
likely to sing your praises :)

When I first started freelancing I got caught out a few times by my  
poor estimation skills and ended up doing a lot of extra work for  
nothing - nowadays I've got the experience to know where to stick an  
extra few hours in a quote just in case something doesn't go according  
to plan.

Reading back through that I realise that it probably doesn't help much  
with your current situation but hopefully you'll find some of it  
useful :)

By the way (and vaguely on topic) it's National Freelancers Day on  
23rd November - http://www.nationalfreelancersday.org.uk/

All the best

On 29 Oct 2009, at 15:04, Rob Lacey wrote:

> Hey guys,
> I wanted to ask for a bit of advice about contract work as I know  
> many of you are contractors or have contracted. I am wrapping up a  
> project with a client which has been troublesome to say the least. I  
> initially quoted 13 days to make ammendments to their existing Rails  
> application, and through the process this has stretched to about 32  
> days work. So I badly misjudged the length of the project, primarily  
> because I hadn't realised how broken their app was and how crazy  
> some of the code was (to me at least), along with requirements  
> creeping in that I should maybe have said no to, and problems post  
> re-launch which may have been there all along but have reared their  
> ugly head only now.
> The problem being that the client wants a working site, some of the  
> requirements fell outside of the original spec, and delivering a far  
> from finished article at the end of the quoted time was not really  
> an option. I can see from their point of view I quoted a time and  
> price, and delivered the project be it over a longer period of time  
> so they got what they wanted. But from my point of view the work I'm  
> 19 days down which is far from ideal.
> How does anyone deal with the issue of estimation going horribly  
> wrong? And how would you broach this with the client, obviously they  
> thought it would take only the quoted amount that time, so its a  
> tricky one. Is it fair to approach them and come to some compromise  
> over the cost of the project or do you just pick yourself up, forget  
> it and be more mean (and realistic) with your estimates next time.
> RobL
> _______________________________________________
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Simon Starr
t: @simonstarr
m: 07971 547 544
w: http://simonstarr.com/

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