Tag Archives: projects

Hourly rates, Amount of work and Availability

Note: This essay is not always applicable while some projects definitely demand a straight work schedule, reporting and collaboration between the team members. However it reflects the majority of projects and clients out there in the wild.

As an employer I prefer to charge on a project basis. It's easier to plan my budgets and the costs of the final results. 

As a contractor I prefer hourly payments. It helps dropping the pressure from incorrect specifications and further negotiations after the project and the budget have already been set.

However I am well acquainted with the pros and cons of both methods. But there are three terms that I believe most clients use in an inappropriate context without gaining the maximum productivity and optimal costs for their projects. We're speaking about the hourly rates, the amount of work and availability.

Hourly rate

As I said I got tired of arguing with clients with dummy specifications and clonings of the "Clients from Hell" samples. I don't expect all of them to be technicians. But usually the time dedicated for meetings, specifications and other meetings during the process exceeds the actual development time. And also the initial meetings and negotiations are still 'Awaiting' and projects are not actually accepted so there is a serious risk of "This price doesn't fit to my budget, I cancel" so... yeah.

So I prefer the hourly rates. I estimate single tasks and modules based on what I know. In case of any misunderstanding we have a short chat/call with detailed data what is the extra work all about, what else needs to be done and how will this reflect the previous estimate. On approval we work, on rejection - I don't waste my time. Simple as that. 

What annoys me most is that clients are looking for specific hour rates. For instance: "I am able to pay $10 per hour" while I am estimating some projects on $20/h. And I get rejected because of my _hourly rate_ without even being able to estimate the amount of work to be done.

This is completely wrong for one simple and basic reason. A task to be solved is based on the following formula:

Solution = amount of time * hourly cost * quality coefficient

Lets start backwards.

  1. Quality coefficient - a decimal variable between 0 and 1 that values the final quality of the solution. For instance, talking about a website creation, a QC of 0 would be completely useless end product. A coef of 1 would be a multilingual website (if needed) which is W3C valid, cross-browser compatible, reusable and well documented source code, stable and secure. 
  2. Hourly cost - simply the price for working for 60 minutes.
  3. Amount of time - here is the tricky moment. This is the time that an expert needs to complete a given task. You know what? My $5-coders I work with are pretty slow and their end work quality often needs refactoring. While they solve a simple problem in 4+ hours with a coefficient of 0.7, my core developers for $20/h complete their assignment in less than an hour with 0.95+ quality. And asking for more.

So, what I am about to tell is: don't judge the coder by the hourly rate. It's irrelevant until you know the end estimate and the quality of the work.

Amount of work

This is another standard requirement which is particularly based on the hourly rate.

In my experience there are 2 types of projects - maximum work for a short term or flowing work which is long term. Most employers require long-term non-stop working. This usually affects the productivity of the worker and his/her motivation as well. 

If you work with an experienced coder or designer, or whatever who could do proficient and high quality work for a short time, you need to give him/her the freedom of the 9-5 working office schedule. Sometimes this is not possible due to some company requirements about the availability and meetings and so on, especially when people do work in different time zones. So here it is step 3 - the availability.

Availability

The availability is the time range while the worker is available to contact the project responsible person. However most clients expect that the person is available only during the time of the actual work and also, that he/she is working all the time during the availability period. Which is completely not mandatory.

For projects that need some quick reaction and support the contractor must guarantee availability hours and _not_ work hours. Its just like the support positions - 2 people should be _available_ 12h for any possible exceptional situation. But it doesn't necessary mean that they need to do actual work during this period. 

My practice is working on 2 or 3 projects a week, as the projects vary in their specifications I dedicate 40-50 hours a week at total. I am available 70+ hours a week for a client if needed to get some consulting or just status updates and I do quick and clean work for the 15-25 hours that I have agreed on working for the given project. This usually leads to best results at a minimal cost.

What I could have done for the conservative clients?

I don't like cheating and I usually cancel projects and reject client invitations for people that wouldn't understand this article. But, you know what? If I am confident in my skills (as I am in few technologies I've been polishing my skills in during the last 7 years) I could have done the following:

  • estimate projects completion time multiplied by three or four 
  • giving half of my availability

As a result I would charge for 4 times slower work and 2 times the price I would charge normally with a flexible client. I would mark in my work diary 120 hours of work (3 projects * 40 hours) while it is hardly possible while I actually work on my normal rates and schedule. No one would even doubt if I am a fast and clean worker. But why should I cheat if we could agree on my preferred rate and a flexible working time?

del.icio.us Digg DZone Facebook Google Google Reader Magnolia reddit SlashDot Technorati ReadMe.ru Dobavi.com Dao.bg Lubimi.com Ping.bg Pipe.bg Svejo.net Web-bg.com

Two students presented CodeIgniter research projects

Beyond the training and consulting business I am also part-time teacher for the Technology School Electronic Systems - Sofia and I do teach web technologies and WordPress. As the representer of the Web 2.0 world I took part in mentoring 2 teams for their diploma research assignments based on CodeIgniter.

One of the projects was a music web portal for artists, media, albums and more. Encyclopedia format for music addicts that could easily transform in a front-end manner using the same database structure. It was meant to start as a hard rock and metal project and later easily skinned and themed into other music categories as well. I really do hope to see it ready, as I already saw most pages and the database structure which extended the modeling structure that exists by default in CodeIgniter.

The other project is a social network for places. A mix of the foursquare listing of categories and places and the Golden Pages catalogue, but with better interaction for users, taking advantage of the localization browser services and latest HTML 5 fine tunes. It has a pretty neat design and more than 30 DB tables at the moment and is going to be ready soon. Users in the site could interact to each other and follow the new places being added with their comments. The basic idea is filling in a database of places with location (easy to find in a Google Map) with comments, ratings and more that is built on the CodeIgniter framework. This is a great profiler that helps the PR managers of a company or a restaurant to improve the quality and social skills and keeps the good rating online.

I'm glad to see the enthusiasm of the development process and the improving code quality and feature set. Both teams work hard and would probably take part in competitions with their projects.

del.icio.us Digg DZone Facebook Google Google Reader Magnolia reddit SlashDot Technorati ReadMe.ru Dobavi.com Dao.bg Lubimi.com Ping.bg Pipe.bg Svejo.net Web-bg.com

Motoclub.BG – our new moto project

 

We delivered Motoclub.BG and now it's available and accessible. The web portal is an online version of a magazine for motorcycle sports and vehicles, ATVs and others. As the bikers' favourite music is rock/metal, breaking news on concerts and live events in clubs are posted there as well.

The portal has few interesting sections for magazine online overview. You could find news and specialised articles, moto calendar with coming events, catalogue with specifications for different brands and so on. Filters and archives provide searching via keywords or month/year ranges. RSS feed on latest news is staying in the left column, next to the invitation to the Facebook group of the website.

The project is CakePHP based with MySQL database behind. I've implemented a few custom solutions on user management and RSS aggregation which I'm going to describe later.

del.icio.us Digg DZone Facebook Google Google Reader Magnolia reddit SlashDot Technorati ReadMe.ru Dobavi.com Dao.bg Lubimi.com Ping.bg Pipe.bg Svejo.net Web-bg.com

Project-base, Support and Salary

 

During my couple years of work as a PC techy support guy, administrator, company hired developer and freelancer, I've finally separated three different types of work: project-base, support and salary.

Project-base

This is a popular way of working in USA and Europe. The client has a task to be performed by an expert. Therefore the employer seeks for an appropriate guru to fulfil the one's requirement. Simple as that.

What are the major characteristics of project-base work?

  • fixed requirements
  • usually short-term or medium-term
  • fixed price for the whole project or different phases

Focusing on the broader perspective, a freelancer could be hired for a small website or script, but there are big corporate systems developed for tens of manmonths, too. So borders may vary. But requirements are fixed at the beginning, as for the money, too. No surprises during the development process.

Support

Support staff is hired for a preliminary defined schedule. Let's say every second Monday of the month or for 10 hours for the whole month. This is a capacity being paid at the beginning for doing simple (or important, but not that time wasting) tasks. The client doesn't need a full time expert, but wants a regular technical guy to be available for consultations or small fixes.

Usually, typical support marks:

  • fixed work-time or hours
  • fixed month/hour price

Support work could be tricky if you maintain couple of different support projects. But if business case is clear and hours can be easily predicted, than it is a sweet and not that engaging perspective.

Salary

That's probably the most popular working type in the world. Rules are simple: you have a week amount to fill and... you just have to fill it. Let's say 40h a week, 9am to 6pm working  at the office and that's all. Irregular overtime, constant availability. Tasks may vary - the employee is available at the work time he is contracted for and can be 'squeezed' for different tasks/services.

What's cool with salary work?

  • regular and usually good payment
  • some benefits as transportation taxes covered or cell phone bills
  • work ands at 18 o'clock and then you're all free

And what kind of work do you do?

del.icio.us Digg DZone Facebook Google Google Reader Magnolia reddit SlashDot Technorati ReadMe.ru Dobavi.com Dao.bg Lubimi.com Ping.bg Pipe.bg Svejo.net Web-bg.com