The Ruby Freelancers Show 015 – What to Charge For

by woody2shoes on May 19, 2012

Panel

Discussion

  • Charge for almost everything
  • Sometimes the estimate – if you negotiate that
  • Coding
  • Meetings on the phone
  • Are you adding value?
  • Learning new technologies doesn’t count unless the client specified that technology
  • Try to only do one risky thing at a time
  • Do the risky stuff first
  • You can discount time if it wasn’t well spent
  • Tell your client that you discount time
  • Tell them about time you saved
  • Should we bill for time managing subcontractors?
  • If the task requires a team, then bill for the additional time managing people
  • If the task is delegated to a subcontractor when you would be able to do it all yourself, then don’t bill the client
  • Make sure the client understands the terms of hiring you and having subcontractors
  • Don’t violate client expectations
  • Do you bill for travel time?
  • Look for opportunities to make the client’s life better by coming out and meeting in person
  • Bill for travel time if the travel is obligatory
  • Working on the plane can be a way for billing for travel time
  • Do you bill for invoicing?
  • Don’t bill for the cost of doing business
  • Bill for email when it adds value
  • Bill proportionally for lunch meetings or social interactions
  • Assets vs Services (one-time vs recurring)
  • They should pay for materials
  • Recurring expenses (services) should be paid for by the client
  • Don’t pay for and expense hosting to the client – Make them sign up
  • Bill for research that adds value
  • Bill for time prototyping the app to get things right
  • Services mean
    • Domains
    • SSL Certificates
    • Monitoring
    • Error Reporting
    • Hosting
    • Code Repository Hosting
  • New Relic
  • Missed calls
  • Be understanding!
  • Varies by the relationship
  • Client smells
  • Compensating time when sick
  • Get enough sleep

Picks

 

Book Club

We are reading Get Clients Now by C. J. Hayden and will review it sometime in June.

Transcript

CHUCK: Did I tell you guys that I forgot about my son that was born last year on my taxes?

EVAN: Forgot about your son on your taxes?

CHUCK: I forgot to add him to my taxes, so we got deductions for three kids instead of four.

EVAN: You just lost track of how many kids you have, huh?

CHUCK: Well, I’m so used to having them around, that I just forgot that it was news to my accountant.

[This podcast is sponsored by Harvest. I use them for tracking work and invoicing clients. You can get a 30-day trial at getharvest.com. Use the offer code “RR” after your 30-day trial to get 50% off your first one.]

CHUCK: Hi everyone, and welcome to Episode 15 of the Ruby Freelancers Show. This week on our panel, we have Eric Davis.

ERIC: Hello.

CHUCK: We also have Evan Light.

EVAN: Hi.

CHUCK: And Jeff Schoolcraft.

JEFF: What’s up.

CHUCK: And I’m Charles Max Wood from teachmetocode.com. And this week, we are going to talk about What to Charge For… again.

EVAN: Because Chuck lost it last time.

CHUCK: Yeah, I thought I’d copied it over from my computer to my digital audio recorder, and I didn’t. [Chuckles] So it’s really what it came down to. So my VA never got to post it. So anyway, we are going to get in and talk about it again. The question really is what do you change your clients for. Do you guys have any thoughts on that?

EVAN: Just because we’ve talked about before, yeah. [Chuckles] I turned the knife a few times, because I looked at the show notes and I’m thinking, “Gee, we can just distill almost all that down to whatever you agree with the client that you can charge him for.” In a nutshell, it’s charging for almost everything, except for maybe the initial estimate. And I say “maybe the initial estimate” because it depends on how much efforts are involved in the estimates. And if the estimates involve a lot of effort, tell the client upfront. So in other words, negotiate with the client that you will charge him for the estimate too. But in a nutshell, it’s everything; coding or effort to code, meetings on the phone, because that still takes up your time as time you could be doing other stuff, and the estimation for the project. And then so, I’m remembering now from the other podcast, the non-podcast podcast, we ended up spending a lot of time discussing management effort in terms of the billability of that and travel time. That was where we had a lot of our good discussion.

CHUCK: Yeah, but let’s talk about this for a minute because I think a lot of people kind of miss the boat with the meetings and other things that aren’t coding. They forget to bill those or they don’t think that they can. And I just want to drive home the point that if it’s taking up time that you could be spending, either doing other things or billing that client, if they are taking up your time, then that’s billable time.

EVAN: This is what I’m saying.

ERIC: I agree with your point, but I don’t agree like that. If it’s taking up your time, that could just be because you are not good at managing your time. But the way I see it is if you are doing something that provides value for the client, that’s billable. So that’s kind of my determination. If I’m spending 3 hours screwing around with some bleeding edge library, that’s more of my own time I’m screwing around, not the client’s time.

EVAN: Unless for some reason, they requested it except of you choosing it. If you’ve chose it and you had options that were more efficient. If you didn’t have more options that were more efficient, you didn’t really have a choice.

ERIC: So it’s not just a thing like looking at your own like, “Oh, I’m working on this for a client. But instead, I could be working on something billable for another one.” Like that doesn’t always mean that you should be charging the client. I mean, you could be building relationship for doing other things. But I look at it as a value and because all my stuff is project work, it sets the value for the goals and the intention of the project. And so they are kind of the same, but there’s some kind of edge cases that you might run into of like, “Hmm, I might be able to do something different here.” It’s just I look at the value part more.

CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. And I agree with that. If you are adding value, definitely.

EVAN: I consider that sometimes too. This is something that might be bleepable, but it’s basically a form of a mental masturbation, then it’s probably not adding value, and that time I have avoided billing for in the past.

ERIC: I don’t know if we’ve talked about, but I’ll go over it real quick but whenever I do a project, I try to only do like one risky thing at a time, so maybe like everything is normal, stable stuff, but I might bring like a new library or a technique, something to kind of maybe make the project better or be more efficient, and that way kind of just make sure you are not throwing everything that’s brand new and breaking everything, but it also means that you are just not using all the technologies and learning.

EVAN: Well, that’s a scientific approach to it, really which I think is perfectly reasonable. I try to do that too. This is a little off topic too, when I know about these risky areas upfront, I usually try to stack all the risk early in the project. So I know if things are going to suck, I know early that they are going to suck. So that way I can tell the customer.

ERIC: To tie it in with time, like say I’m going to try a new database. I might say, “This will take seven hours to do.” But I might give them an extra hour or two for free, which are kind of me getting in and kind of learning the basics and all that. So you know, that’s something you can also remember is a technique if you are not sure if you can charge or not. You could try to assume you charge for everything and then come back and remove time later, like yeah, I’m not going to bill them for that hour. I feel like I was wasting time.

JEFF: I don’t remember if we’ve talked about it, but if you removed time, tell your client that you removed time.

EVAN: Right. We talked about it on the lost podcast. [Chuckles]

JEFF: I forgot if it was here, or if it were somewhere else. But I mean, that’s positive karma…

EVAN: No, it was something that you mentioned on the lost podcast that I thought was really cool and that’s if you do something good for the client, if you are basically giving them a gift, tell them you gave them a gift.

CHUCK: I kind of liked that idea. Even if you are fiddling around with something new, and then you discount the time because it wasn’t well spent time, you can tell them, “Look, I spent six hours figuring out this database and I only billed you for four.” Even if you legitimately only added four hours of value, you still get the bonus points for giving them the extra two hours.

EVAN: Yeah, I like that.

CHUCK: So, one thing that I’m wondering though with what Eric said about if you are playing with a new technology, you are trying it out, you are figuring out how it works, that kind of thing; if it does go smoothly, so you sit down and you think, “Okay, well I’ll spend a couple of hours figuring out this technology.” Well, an hour later, it went really smoothly and you just got it in, and you didn’t spend a lot of risk or whatever, do you still feel good about billing that entire time?

ERIC: No, so for my example, I said it’s going to take six hours. If it only takes one hour, I bill them for one hour. And I tell them, “Hey, look. I save you five hours. This is actually what we thought, it did save us a bunch of time, and that 5 hours will probably come out later in another features that goes over or we’ll have extra time at the end,” or something.

EVAN: Right. At the end of the day, you bill them for time worked, and less amazing, risky stupidity on your part.

CHUCK: Right. So you can also get points for telling them that you save time by implementing some type of the new technology.

EVAN: Totally. Absolutely.

ERIC: Yeah, and the way I like to do that is you have less time spent, so therefore, you actually finish the project early before their deadline and say, “Hey, look. We are actually done. We have two days left. We can just cut it here and actually keep it under budget, or we can go up to our money budget,  but actually like add some more things we took out or we are actually going to do.” And so, it give them the choice of if they want to keep the extra cash or they want extra features or what. Maybe even launching early, depending on what it is.

CHUCK: Right. I like that. And then I really like the fact that again, you are kind of communicating the wins for them that you’ve brought about one way or the other. So one other thing that I want to get into, and this is something we talked about last time, is time managing sub-contractors. Because I mean, for me, it’s kind of this gray area, where basically, if they came to me and they hired me to just do the work, and I would spend anytime managing sub-contractors. So it can be an extra cost for them. What do you guys think? I mean, is that something I should or shouldn’t be billing for?

EVAN: I think the same thing I thought last time and this comes back to me pretty easily: if they gave you a project that you could never accomplish on your own, then you clearly have to have additional people  to work on it, therefore, it’s on them to pay you for the time where you have to manage those additional people . if the project is small enough that you could be doing it on your own, but you choose to delegate it to someone else, so that way you can make additional money, then it’s your choice and not on them, that you are doing, that you are delegating that work. And I don’t know for sure that I really have a strong feeling either way, but I feel like that’s a gray area in terms of billing for management time there.

JEFF: I don’t see there’s much of a gray area. I mean, certainly in that second case, the first case I’ll have to argue semantics. I mean, if it’s… we’ll get to the first part in a minute, I guess. [Chuckles] the second part, if you took on a contract just to sub it out, you eat all your management time, you eat all your review time. I mean, that’s on you. I mean, if you wouldn’t have to bill that yourself, if you are doing it yourself and you are hiring a sub, then that’s time you are figuring out. If you know how to use sub on or something and you are doing SOAP, and the sub has no idea and he eats through 14 hours where you have to spend the day with him to teach him, that’s your fault – in my opinion.

EVAN: I think from last time, I generally agreed with that. The only caveat that I added is if you come to some understanding with the client beforehand that differs from that, that’s fine because whatever you and the client agree to, it is reasonable. But that said, if you don’t have prior understanding, I agree with you.

JEFF: Well, you are representing yourself too. I mean, if I go out and have a project for $150/hour, and I find two subs for $45/hour and try to bank an extra cc bucks an hour… it’s one thing if you are going to get a sub and manage the sub and make it more cost-effective for the client. So the values overall, you’ll find somebody managed somebody that’s maybe less expensive than you. But if you are passing off a rate that you would bill yourself at, and you are giving it to a sub that’s maybe not as skilled as you are, then I think you are responsible for making up that lack of skill.

EVAN: As I said, I tend to agree, but it also comes down to what you and the client agree on. If you tell the client that, “In managing this project, I’m going to bill for time I spend on actually managing the project,” then that’s part of the agreement. That said, if you find yourself spending a lot of the client’s money doing management, then you could expend the client probably won’t be happy about it. So, it can cut both ways. If client understands it, then you can do it. If you violate the client’s expectation, there’s always going to be problems. If you don’t have any prior expectation, then I completely totally 100% agree with you.

ERIC: What about you, Chuck? Because I know you do subbing.

CHUCK: Generally, I haven’t been billing for managing sub-contractors unless it was something that I discovered with the client ahead of time. So for example, I have my client projects written on the board here, so I have two clients that I subbed almost all of the work on lately to guys that I feel like are on the same level that I am or pretty close. I generally won’t hire a sub-contractor that’s way below where I’m at, even if they offer a really low rate, just because I’m  more interested in providing the value for my clients. So, under those conditions at the same time, I mean I’m usually making not a ton, but a fair amount over the rate that I’m getting billed by my subcontractors. And so, under those conditions, if it’s a project that they were just looking to have one freelancer to work on, then yeah, I won’t bill them for the time managing those guys.

But I have another client, and he’s actually talked to me about, “Okay, we need to ramp up so that we can get this stuff done by this deadline.” And he’s basically said, “You can hire sub-contractors and we’re eventually going to have a team of subcontractors under you, that is going to just build this whole app out and make all these things work.” And so, under those conditions in a nutcase, I’ve just let them know, yeah, so you are paying me to be a project manager and a developer. And so, I am billing him for any time that I spend working with the sub-contractors, as well as the time that I spent coding, and the time I spent meeting with him and all of that other stuff as well. But really, what it comes down to is that way, I know I’ve got that covered. And he understands that that’s what he’s paying for, is he’s paying for me to be kind of an overall architecture expert to manage the project, and to write code for it.

EVAN: I think you kind of said it there, too; if the client is asking you to spend time doing something, if it’s a requirement with the client, then they pay for it. That I think is straight up and down on just about anything. That’s I think straight up and down, on just about anything; whether it’s management or otherwise. The client’s asking you to do it. And the client specifically dictated you will do this, you build it.

CHUCK: But at the same time, I think from here on out, I’m going to do more of a “we”, unless of an “I”. In other words, I’m going to basically say, “My team can handle this for you.” And I can bring in a subcontractor that I’ve worked with before on new contracts, and just basically let them know that the teams are going to be handling it. And you know, just set that expectation upfront that hiring my team means that you  are hiring me as a project manager, and hiring me and possibly other guys to code. And just work that in.

But then the expectation is, “Okay, I’m getting all of Chuck’s expertise as the project manager, and whatever mentorship he has to give to these other developers. And I’m getting top notch coders that he’s hired that can do the work and do it well.” But again, it’s about setting the client expectation and making sure that they understand, “Look, this is how I operate and this is what you are paying for.”

ERIC: this is one thing I wanna say, because I don’t hire many contractors at all, depending on what contracts you are getting, so I do mostly development. If the client needs a designer, sometimes instead of me subcontracting a designer to do design, I’ll tell the client, “Hey, it would be helpful for you to design on this project. I’d recommend these people.” And let the client hire them. So it’s two contractors working under the client, and you just work back and forth with them. And I’ve done that quite a bit. Actually, I find it’s really easy, because the client then handles, “That person costs too much. That person is too little but they are not showing up on time.” All of the different headaches with that and I don’t have to worry about it. So that’s another option you can do, depending on how you feel about managing people, your risk and all that.

EVAN: The flipside of that is it also… in terms of your stress level on a given project, if you  don’t feel that the client is good at managing the people, you might wanna do it yourself just because you’re convinced you’ll do a better job of it. And overall, your stress level will be reduced. Because if you think your client can barely handle managing or you can barely handle managing him and vice versa, and he wants to go hire someone else, it might be worth your time and effort to get that someone else yourself.

CHUCK: I think it depends on all the people involved, including the designer and the client and just how those relationships will work. So one thing that was brought up was travel. So do you bill for travel time?

EVAN: It depends. I’ve done quite a bit of business travel, and I’ve done it admittedly, because I like to do it by degrees. By “degrees”  I mean not always, but often. And it usually starts with my seeing an opportunity to make the client’s life better; if I go out on site and help them on some finite amount of time. So often, what I’ll have is I’ll suggest that I can come out and visit if they think it would be helpful. So I initiated. Because I initiated, I don’t usually feel good about having them pay for my time to travel out there, but I have them pay the expense of the trip and pay for the airfare, hotels, meals or what not, and obviously my hours when I’m working. And when I’m not working, it’s just on my time.

The discussion that Jeff and I had in the lost episode was what about that time spent on the plane? That’s time where you are constrained, you can’t do anything really because you are on a plane. What about that? I still tend to fall back on if the client dictates that I shall come out, then they can pay for all my travel time. If I’m volunteering, if I instigated and said I can come out and visit, then I’m volunteering, they are not requiring it. I feel like there should be compromise there.

CHUCK: That makes sense. So basically you would bill for the time if the travel is obligatory?

EVAN: Yes. I will bill for the travel time if it was obligatory, and if it’s something I instigated, not obligatory but they agree will be beneficial, then I have not in the past billed for that time and I tend to feel better about it that way.

CHUCK: Yeah, I was talking to David Brady, I think it was at Rails Conf and he mentioned that when he was doing the commuting to LA, he would get on a plane (they were paying for his commuter flights back and forth between LA and Salt Lake) and what would happen is he would actually then pay to get upgraded first class, because I guess it wasn’t very much to pay the difference on that particular flight…

EVAN: Sometimes, yeah.

CHUCK: And it was well worth it for him to pay that difference because had get a little bit more room. But then, it was also worth it to him because he would sit on the plane and work on their code while flying.

EVAN: Right. I have done that on a rare occasion. I would use point studio sometimes. Now, I get status updates. On the other hand, I also bought an 11” MacBook Air, and I mentioned MacBook Air specifically because that way, I can actually fit in the economy class and get work done if I have to. And now, this MacBook Air paid for itself, I have profited out of it because I could fit it on a plane in economy or first class and I can still get work done — if I want to. So I have the option then to do the billable work, which I wouldn’t otherwise. But again, that’s entirely my choice there too.

CHUCK: Right. So here’s the question then. If you are traveling and the travel is obligatory, so you would bill for the travel time anyway, and then you wind up working on the plane, do you wind up double billing, or do you wind up working for another client on the plane, do you bill the one client that’s paying you to travel and the other client that you are working for? Because to me, that seems a little bit unethical. Because then, you are effectively taking that time and repurposing it to somebody else.

EVAN: Yeah, I hadn’t thought about that because I haven’t been in the position to do that. I really don’t know for sure. I probably would tend to shun working on a plane if I’m already traveling if they made me to do it. Traveling can be stressful enough anyway, even if you are lucky enough to by flying first class. I just don’t usually like working on a plane that much unless I’m really involved in my work. So it just hasn’t been that much of an issue for me. Lately, I’ve been traveling. I haven’t been coding when I’m traveling.  Haven’t been coding while flying, that is. So I don’t have a good answer for that. I just don’t know.

CHUCK: So one other thing I wanna ask about then is should you be billing for things like the time you spend sending them invoices or doing some of the other “behind the scenes” business stuff that’s related to their project but isn’t exactly part of the project?

ERIC: Yeah. For me, if I send them an invoice, does that actually give them value for their project? Maybe not.

EVAN: It lets them pay you. [Chuckles]

ERIC: Yeah.

EVAN: You are taking value at that point.

CHUCK: Well, you are facilitating the exchange of value is the way I would like to put that.

EVAN: [Chuckles] Fine. But that’s not adding value at that point, really.

ERIC: Yeah, I’d like to see you put that in your invoice and see what they say. [Chuckles]

EVAN: “Facilitating value: 0.25 hours.” [Chuckles] It doesn’t even take that long to write an invoice, usually.

ERIC: So at the bottom of the invoice, “This invoice was generated in 6.5 seconds, for the total cost of $42.29.” [Chuckles]

EVAN: Seriously, if you have subcontractors, I have been there before; you wind up reviewing their time sheets before you send an invoice. But that’s totally on you at that point. If you have subcontractors, you are invoicing for them, you wanna ensure the quality of their invoicing, so that’s cost of doing business there.

ERIC: Another way to think about it is most people, you are hired by the client and the job that you do as a project manager or developer or designer, or these certain types of jobs, when you are sending invoices, you are doing the job of an accountant. Accounting is typically back-office type stuff. If you are looking at contractor time sheets and stuff, that’s accounts payable. So it’s kind of the same thing is like, “Okay, what do I have on as a business owner, as a freelancer right now, and is this something that’s client facing or an internal thing?”

EVAN: I like that.

CHUCK: Right. I’m just trying to find out all the edges and the extremes and so I could see somebody like nickel and dimming for every little minute they spend and things.

EVAN: You’re close to it though, and something I think we might have talked about in previous podcast a little bit. Invoicing, I don’t feel like that should be billable at all, because that’s a back office thing. But emailing, as long as you are having a discussion with the client, because emailing can feel a little close to invoicing because it’s async; it’s not a meeting as such. But if you’re investing time communicating with the clients, then you’re probably adding value. I think it’s worth considering, “Is this a cost of doing business? Is this a back-office related email?” As Eric said, I think again that’s a really good metaphor. I’m going to try and use that. Or is this a value-related discussion for their business? And if it’s the latter, then you should be billing for it.

ERIC: One thing we didn’t say upfront, a lot of these are opinions and a lot of these are like, “These are flexible things that are going to change.” I mean on the extreme case, if you bill for everything. I mean, you wake up and scratch your ear and think about the client and decide to bill that minute, yeah you might get more money in the short term, but in the long term, you are going to piss off clients and they are going to get rid of you, or you are going to change your policies. And on the other extreme, if you don’t bill for anything, you’re obviously not running a business.

EVAN: Yeah, this goes to what I was saying earlier in the podcast that whatever you are going to negotiate with the client is viable, but even if something you negotiate with the client, they are probably going to realize some of these things like that’s seen above and beyond, that really are above and beyond and they won’t like you for it later.

CHUCK: Right. I really, really wanna see that invoice with “ear scratching” as a line item.

EVAN: [Chuckles] Or “butt scratching” as a line item.

CHUCK: [Chuckles] There you go.

ERIC: I mean, as a practical point, a lot of time when coding is thinking about the problem. And I think about the problem at night; I think about the problem in the shower sometimes. Like, I don’t bill the client for that. But if you really think about and give really hard nose about, “This is the policy,” like, it can get into a really sketchy area.

EVAN: Yeah, that was a good edge case, where we discussed this one again on that lost podcast: if you are sitting down and dedicating time to thinking about the problem for the client, then  that’s one thing; that should be billable. If it’s idle thought about the project that just happens, that’s not intent driven. We think about random stuff throughout the day, you can’t really bill them for your subconscious mind is churning on things as it happens to throw ideas into the main event loop and such. So you shouldn’t be billing them for that. I mean, you could as Eric said, but that just seem silly.

CHUCK: I want a driver for my sub conscious that tells me when I’m working on client stuff and then hook it in to my time tracking.

EVAN: Yeah, I want a heads up display that shows for my subconscious mind.

CHUCK: There you go.

ERIC: If I knew what that thing was doing, I would be scared.

[Laughter]

EVAN: Yeah, to think of some of the dreams I’ve had, I agree with you.

CHUCK: Oh, man. So another thing that comes up that I’ve seen people debate over whether or not they should bill for is for example, I have a client who would fly out from Ohio every so often. Now, granted he was doing that as much to see if grandkids that live out here he was to come see me, he just would come see me because then he could charge to his debit card and write the whole trip off.

EVAN: Sure.

CHUCK: It makes sense to me, right?

EVAN: That’s a valid tax deduction.

CHUCK: Oh, absolutely. It’s like me going to this conference in Hawaii. I’m going to be speaking at Aloha Ruby. I’m taking my wife, but yeah, so we are writing off the hotel, my air fare as much as we can.

EVAN: Once you are going on vacation somewhere, then you go to a Ruby User group, well, I think that whole vacation now becomes deductible at that point.

CHUCK: I did that. I went to Denver with my wife. Anyway, one of our close friends, their daughter was baptized and so we went out there to attend that. And then I wound up having launch with Fernand Galiana. I don’t know if you guys know him.

EVAN: Oh yeah.

CHUCK: Out in Denver. And then I also went to the Boulder Ruby Users group, so yeah we wrote the trip off because I was out there, I was doing work-related stuff. So that paid off there. Anyway, if you are having lunch with your clients, let’s say, do you bill for that time? Do you bill for all the time? I mean, if you are sitting there chatting about stuff related to the project for half the time, and then you are chatting for half the time, do you just bill half the time?

EVAN: Is this a business value-related discussion? Is it bullshitting about the business? Is it basically chitchat or is it real business? And if it’s chitchat, no. If it’s relationship building, no. If it’s adding value to the project, yes.

CHUCK: What if it is kind of intermingle between the two? Do you just kind of give your best guess?

EVAN: That’s what I would do.

ERIC: I’d very rarely go onsite and very rarely travel, so most of the time when I do, I don’t bill for it just because it’s like I don’t do it very often. I did get some value from it. It’s not very much, but yeah, I know some people that will charge for like half of the time there. I will try to like kind of account for it and say well, 20%-30% I was talking to them about their project. I mean, it’s a judgment thing, and that might be something the clients fight especially if they have a lot. That’s the other thing we talked about. If they are mean, it ends up you spending 80% of your time talking to them about the project, that could be kind of an issue too.

EVAN: Yeah. And then I said I would consider doing it that way, then I thought in retrospect, when I have it on site, and I’m having lunch meetings with clients, I think as a general tool, I have tended toward avoiding billing for discussions that occurred over lunch. I think it’s only the lunch discussion or the meal discussions where they are the vast majority is business focused. If there’s only a little with the team discussion, then I’ve usually not billed that time. And so, it’s not a hard and fast thing. It tends to vary, but I tend toward not billing it unless it’s most of the time, and occasionally going the other way.

ERIC: I can see it also being you will bill for what it’s like a working lunch where they bring in catering or something, and you are still at their office going on their whiteboard or whatever wall and saying like, “I can see that…”

EVAN: That’s a meeting, essentially. I have done those and I have billed for those.

CHUCK: So the other thing that comes up is sometimes you wind up paying for things. Usually, I try to get the clients to pay for things, but every once in a while, I wind up paying for them. So things like font or stock images, that kind of stuff, maybe an HTML layout or something. I usually try and get them to buy it, and then send me the hard copies, or hard copies, I guess they are not really hard copies, they are files, but you kind of get the idea there.

EVAN: Lets analyses a little: assets and services, they tend to be related, although services are stickier.

ERIC: So is it a one-time or recurring? Like that’s the big thing.

EVAN: Right. When I said “services”. In fairness yes, you can boil it down to one-time or recurring. I’m totally with you. I always preferred the client, but I think it was me having to deal with it because I have to expense it to them, so there’s that. For materials, I need for their project that are unique to their project, they need to be paying for those. For recurring expenses , I would almost always, always push like hell to get the client to pick those up.

For services especially, (and this is something we talked about on the billing time podcast, I think last time) was like hosting especially. It’s not something I would even bother trying to get into. I wouldn’t wanna pay for their Heroku account or if I was working with the client where they were doing a VPS-based deploy, I wouldn’t try to bill them for hosting and pay for their VPS, because as Jeff pointed out back then, and completely agree, it only takes one trouble call to blow away any profit you would have made off of that. If not then, there’s just the headache that goes with it too.

CHUCK: Yeah, that’s one thing I run into with one of my clients. I actually had his stuff on my VPS and yeah, what happened was he had a few people that he wanted to try out his stuff and I was like, “Okay, that’s fine.” Well then he started adding more and more people to trying out his app on my server, and at the same time, I had my other websites on there that were also gaining traffic and gaining traction. And so eventually it just kind of overloaded the server, and it kind of blew up… it would go down every so often. So eventually, I had to move him off and just said, “Hey, look can you find another place to host this? I would happily help you set it up, make it so you can deploy to that.” And it took a huge headache off of me. And so, yeah, I just tend to not really want to do that anymore, just because it does turn into a headache.

ERIC: That’s kind of what I do; I’ll research what the client should buy like “Hey, I think this is a better value than this one. And this is probably how much you need.” But 99% of the time, I have them buy it. Of if it’s a one-time thing, I might buy it, but I don’t think I’ve done that for a couple of years now. And reoccurring stuff, I don’t do it. I used to kind of like, “Oh yeah, I have some extra capacity on the server,” but like you were talking about, that’s a headache waiting to happen. As soon as I get the client on the server, I wanna get them off of it as soon as possible, just because it’s like 2AM support calls and stuff like that. And so I mean if you don’t get into hosting and you start freelancing and you don’t even get into hosting, that’s probably the best thing to do. Like, don’t look at it as passive revenue or extra money per month because it’s not, unless you are at 100 employees, 1000 of servers scale. And at that point, you are not a freelancer; you are a hosting company.

EVAN: As a general rule based on one thing Eric just said there, generally, if you are researching something that’s going to add value for the client or that may have value for the client, you probably should be billing them for that too. Just wanted to make sure that was out there. Research time counts too.

ERIC: Also prototypes. If you research like, “I don’t know which ones to use,” ask the client, talk to them and ask for like an hour or two to prototype and get a better idea. And most clients will be fine with that because you are saying like, “I’d rather spend two hours figuring out which ones to use now, than 16 hours to use the wrong one and have to throw it away later.”

EVAN: So this is sort of a general point and not specific too the billing time, but I will often present my clients with tradeoffs and suggestions and say, “Well, we can do x or y. I think x will take A amount of time and y will take like B amount of time.” But yes, also you could suggest, “I’m not really sure I could prototype it, which I think might take C amount of time.” And then you are giving them control, and you are communicating to them and clients generally like that.

CHUCK: Right. so I wanna go back to services real quick. Are there other services other than hosting that you guys can think of that you want to make them sign up for?

JEFF: Everything. Anything that you have to go back a year or two later and do yourself. So, SSL Certificates.

EVAN: SSL certificates. [Chuckles]

ERIC: Another good way to look at it is like, you are working for a client right now, you have a great relationship, what happens if three months if something goes wrong and you guys forget. You are going to have to say, “Hey, your domain kind of fall out of renewal nine months are they already blacklisting your emails, so they are never going to see it?” like I said, one time things are fine; reoccurring stuff, you want them to handle it because you might not be client freelancer relationship in the future.

EVAN: Right. I think that’s a brilliant way of putting it because we’re not getting married to our clients. I mean, becoming a full-time employee isn’t a marriage, than working freelance for someone is pretty far from marriage. So you need to be looking at very short-term commitments only in terms of what things you’ll buy or pay for in behalf of the client, and totally not with the long term stuff, because you always run the risk of what happens. Even if you want things to end well, you don’t wanna have to be able to frequently context with or occasionally context with our multiple clients, just to resolve some little thing for them, because that will detract from your work for your current clients for one thing. It makes you less productive. It’s a pain in the ass. And there’s always the, “what if things end badly,” you really just don’t wanna have relationship with them whatsoever.

ERIC: There are a few services that I’ve set up for clients, where I don’t make them pay for it, I don’t charge them for it. And most of the time, it’s Pingdom or Nagios, it’s kind of like monitoring stuff. And the reason I do that is I set them up… it’s for the client benefit in the end, but it’s really for me to know if stuff is going wrong. And you know, they might get on there, but most of the time, I’m the one who gets on alert. I’m like, server goes down or server is starting to slow down. And so, I can actually be responsive and so it looks better on me, that I’m actually being proactive about things. And so, those kind of services, I don’t typically charge for. If the client directly ask for it, then I’ll say, “Yeah, you can sign up. I’ll set it up for you,” type thing.

CHUCK: Right. but the tradeoff is that as soon as they are no longer your client, then you are not going to be monitoring or paying attention to it anymore.

ERIC: Or it’s like the service just isn’t providing value anymore, I just delete it. I don’t want to tell clients I deleted it. It’s just yeah, it didn’t work out kind of idea.

CHUCK: Yeah, I have to say that I’m still getting emails form New Relic every week about one of my clients.

EVAN: [Chuckles] Yeah, I get that too.

CHUCK: And I actually email them and I said, “Hey, do you want these reports? Because it’s the free account, so it’s not hurting me at all,” but I’m like, “You might be interested in this stuff. Because I mean, I’m not working on this right now, and so obviously I’m not super engaged with it, but you might wanna know what New Relic is saying.” So I need to change the email on that account.

ERIC: New Relic is actually pretty neat. I have my main account, and then what I do is each client makes their own and then they add my main account to theirs. And by doing that, I can actually control, say like I don’t want notifications or I don’t want this, and so I’ve actually been able to go in… I’ve had like  20 every week of like how your app performance was, and I was able to turn it off. And so it’s only my current clients and my own servers. So that’s for New Relic; like have them sign up or sign up for them an account. And then I think it’s like sharing or linking it or whatever. And that way, you can still get the information but you don’t have to worry about notifications with the billing when you guys part ways or anything.

EVAN: It’s trickier I think when you are using Heroku. I think. Because Heroku I think they give you one contact you can email that they can email, and that’s it.

JEFF: I think it depends on how you are using it on Heroku. If you are using free ad then they have something behind the scene based on the app ID or something that it creates automatically inside New Relic. But I think you can overwrite the config. It’s been a while, but I think you can override the config.

CHUCK: Yeah, I think you can override the config on just about everything on Heroku if you really want to.

EVAN: Well, New Relic is especially confusing, because it seems like they changed their offerings on almost annual basis, [chuckles] so I keep forgetting which settings you can change when, because I’ve been using it off and on for years.

CHUCK: Yeah, I really like some of those. And the free service is not as much of a big deal, because I mean, if you are getting those reports, you can just turn it off if the client relationship goes away. So one other thing that we talked about last time that I want to bring up is if you are waiting for them to call you and they missed the call, do you bill them for time that they essentially wasted?

EVAN: Jeff, if you please.

JEFF: Yeah, I do.

EVAN: [Chuckles]

CHUCK: Do you have a rule of thumb for that? Do you just wait around for a certain amount of time? Do you email them during that time and say, “Hey, you are ten minutes late. Are you coming?” How do you usually deal with that and how much do you bill them for that?

JEFF: I don’t know if I have a hard and fast rule. I would say probably 15 minutes. I might give them 5 minutes or 10 minutes to show up. They are getting billed for 15 minutes or whatever. The loss of time to sit around and wait for the phone call and figure out what to do next basically because they are not showing up. But I mean it’s just one of my huge pet peeves is just lack of respect from the client to not show for an appointment that whoever scheduled. But certainly, they scheduled it, and I’m dropping everything to be there and they have better be there too.

EVAN: Damn it, Jeff is in such a good mood today. There was so much vitriol in his discussion of his pet peeves. I love it when he talks about his pet peeves.

ERIC: Here’s the pet peeve I have: if you call someone and don’t leave a voicemail, you can just assume you did not call that person. Like pissed off if people call me… I’ve had someone who called me three times in a row and wouldn’t leave a voicemail. And I was on the other line. I couldn’t actually pick up and I’m just like, that’s irritating. And I’ve actually had a couple of people call me and I turned them down as clients because of that habit.

CHUCK: Oh, wow. Well, we should have an episode “Client Pet Peeves”.

EVAN: I like that one. [Chuckles] We should have an episode Client Pet Peeves. That should be the next one. That’s a good one.

ERIC: “Leave the toilet seat up.”

CHUCK: [Chuckles]

EVAN: I’m pretty much with Jeff I think on I’ll wait up to 15 minutes except on a rare occasion where I wait longer. It’s not exactly a rule of thumb, but generally speaking, yes I bill them for the time that I’m waiting, that’s because if we agreed on that time, there’s an expectation that we’ll both be available to  discuss something at a particular time, then I expect them to be there because I allocated the time for it too. The point is I allocated the time, so I’m not doing something else I could be doing, therefore I should be billing them for it.

ERIC: I have a policy about it. I almost always call the client like on the dot possibly according to whatever the time is. Time might be off, but I call them on the dot, leave them a voicemail, I’ll wait 5 maybe 10 minutes, and then I’ll email them and say, “Hey, I just called you, left you a few voicemail about the meeting. We’re talking about this. Give me a callback.” And I leave my phone number in that too just in case. Then I’ll bill them for 15 minutes, because that’s like my increment. If they don’t call back, then I’ll move on to the next thing.

EVAN: And you reschedule a meeting and they call back later?

ERIC: Yeah, or we reschedule or something. The only exceptions when I don’t bill is if it’s like an emergency. Like I had one client where his child was like really sick, and he was like on call throughout the night type of idea, so he missed the meeting and I’m like that’s fine; we have a long-term relationship. We’re good. I’m just not going to bill him for it. I can understand.

And I think the other time I don’t was technical problems. So I have a client in Switzerland, it’s hard for them to call me, the time difference is a whole bunch of things. Most of the time, if he misses the meeting I won’t bill them because it’s probably something weird going on and we’ll meet up later. But once again, that’s a couple of year relationship we had there, and so that’s the big thing. It’s like when you guys have the trust built up, you can kind of be ok with things.

EVAN: Yes.

CHUCK: I just wanna underscore that point too is be understanding because you’re ultimately maintaining your relationship, and if you can maintain a good relationship, then you maintain a good client relationship and that just helps your business overall.

EVAN: I’m totally with Eric on  this. That’s also a good barometer is what’s the overall nature of the relationship? Is this a fairly solid relationship? Is this a new client? There’s a huge difference. If I have a new client who’s routinely late to meetings like more than 15 minutes to me, and this could be part of the client peeves; to me that’s a client smell.

JEFF: That’s a “no longer client”.

EVAN: So Jeff would fire that client right away.

JEFF: I don’t fire them right away, but went through this a few times on twitter. I mean, it happened a couple of times to me, what do you call a client who is 15 minutes late for an appointment again? And five or six replies says: “not a client” or something. I agree, life happens. It’s little things. If you are going to screw with me on little things, like shown up on time for an appointment, then you are going to screw me on big things.

EVAN: Right. And that’s kind of where I was going. I said it’s a client smell.

JEFF: Oh, then continue.

EVAN: On the rare occasion, because every person has their own unique flaws (except for Eric; he’s flawless) but every person’s got their own unique flaws. It’s possible, although I’m not sure I’ve had this. It’s possible you have a client who will be late for meetings, but never got their way as a good client. I don’t think it’s very likely, but I have to think back and see if I’ve had that before. I think maybe I have. There are some clients who are good clients, but they just aren’t with it in a few ways and either you can put up with it or you can’t, but it’s a smell. It’s an indication that you very well may be something wrong. And that’s where I’m going with that. I don’t decide necessarily that just because the client is routinely late in the meetings that they are going to be a terrible client. But it makes me very suspicious if it’s a new relationship. If it’s a longstanding relationship and the client is late a few times, no big thing.

ERIC: Well, it’s like a bank account. I mean, over time, the clients builds up trust and they might build up trust in the communications account. And if they are late, you withdraw some money from that. and overtime, you are going to figure out like okay, “This guy is really good in communication. I can cut him some slack.”

EVAN: That’s a 7 Habits almost metaphor. It’s a relationship account; I don’t think it’s just a communication account. Because the communication could be kind of poor, but if relationship is really solid, then that might not matter as much. Because I mean if the relationship is solid both ways, then clearly you are finding value more than just money in maintaining the relationship, so you must be getting work done for that client or you are probably getting work done, assuming you are getting work done  like most of you do, but you’re still getting work done for that client despite whatever problems are occurring in the communication, so then that’s not necessarily a big deal. But if that balance is already low, and then they are withdrawing from it by being late to meetings or the balance never had the chance to grow, and they have already like showing up late for the meetings, then you end up in the red with bad credit. And I’ve had a few clients like that lately and they did not last as clients. Do you still have a headache?

CHUCK: No, it’s pretty much gone. I took some medicine for it.

EVAN: You found the cure?

CHUCK: [Chuckles] No. But I have to say that those tension headaches typically wipe me out for the rest of the day, so I’m probably going to be dragging for the rest of the day, but that’s life.

EVAN: Well, just go to sleep.

ERIC: That’s actually a good point is we’ll make it quick. But if you are sick and billing for time, when I’m sick and not feeling 100% like that’s one of those cases where I… a bunch of times. I might work 8 hours for a project but I’m only going to bill them for three or four – depending on how I feel about it. So it’s kind of like a partial half ass type thing.

EVAN: I would actually say it depends. I’ve told clients that I try not to work and I don’t wanna work when I’m not optimal. And if I know I’m not going to be optimal, usually I’ll stop working. If the client tells me they want me working whether I’m optimal or not, it’s on them. But I make it very clear to them: “I’m only working this amount of time and only this amount of time because I feel like when what I’m delivering you degrades after this time and I don’t wanna do that.” If they really want that extra time anyway, I bill them for that time because they’ve gone into  it understanding full well. I make it very clear to them.

ERIC: I almost always try to take time off when I don’t feel good. I limit the amount of time I work in a day so I don’t get dead tired at the end of it, but sometimes there’s external deadlines and stuff you have to deal with, or someone is waiting on something. So let’s just mention it. One technique you can do is make the client say, “Yeah, we want you to work on this.” The other one is you work on it, let them know your re not as efficient and don’t bill for all the time, and tell them you are not billing for all the time too so they know, like we talked about earlier.

EVAN: I’ve got another fun one that I think all three of you guys don’t do and I usually do: it’s let yourself get enough sleep, damn it! Get your 8 hours of sleep every night for goodness sake. Then you tend to feel better and work more efficiently and not get sick as often. Okay, I’m done ranting about that now.

CHUCK: I think you make a valid point though if you are not taking care of yourself, you are not exercising or eating right or sleeping enough or whatever it is, you are not your best, you are not on top of your game. You really do wind up paying for it one way or the other. Alright, well lets go ahead and get into the picks. Eric, what are your picks?

ERIC: I like playing like simulation games and stuff like that and I’m always complaining that I wish there is a game where you pretend you are running a business and you kind of do stuff in the business, like marketing thing, brand new products, that sort of idea. And I went searching on the google and found it’s an iPhone game but there’s also an android version. It’s called Game Dev Story.

EVAN: I knew you were going to call that one!!

ERIC: Basically, you own a video game company and you can do PC games, and you basically start off with small stuff and you make games, you  get it reviewed and advertised.

EVAN: That game is portable crack. Beware.

ERIC: I know.

EVAN: I have been up late in the night playing that game. [Chuckles]

ERIC: Yeah, I was about to explain you were talking about sleep earlier. I was up to I think 1:30 last night playing it.

EVAN: Oh, is that all? [Chuckles]

ERIC: But the thing is, if you look at it, the graphics don’t look that great. It actually looks like 8 or 16-bit game, but the game play in it is amazing. You will be playing it for hours. On the iPhone, there’s a light version you can play for I think it’s like two years of game time, and that’s enough to pretty much figure out the basics of the game. So that’s my pick, game dev story. I’ll get the iTunes link, and then there’s an Android version too.

ERIC: That’s a fantastic pic. Good game.

CHUCK: Is that all you got, Eric?

ERIC: Yeah, I try and keep it to one right now.

CHUCK: Okay.

EVAN: [Chuckles] Oh, he’s trying to keep it to one.

CHUCK: Evan, what are your picks?

EVAN: Alright, I almost forgot what my pick was and I went to my chair and I remembered. So lately, I’ve been pretty hooked on Ze Frank’s A Show. This sounds all entertainmenty, but this is actually a little bit more than that. The first episode for me is I found inspiring as a business person. I don’t dare I say entrepreneur. His way of channeling angst into humor and at the same time to me, I find them motivating and inspiring. The first episode is entirely all about that, where he’s venting about his fears and concerns about whether he can actually start and continue running a show again. And it’s great. There is a poster that someone made of his rants during an episode. I just went and bought that poster. Just go watch the first episode. You might not like it (Eric doesn’t), I love it. It’s terrific stuff. I’ll have it in the show notes. I’ll link to it.

CHUCK: Alright, I think it’s also in iTunes as a podcast.

EVAN: Oh yeah, probably.

CHUCK: Is that every for you, Evan?

EVAN: Yeah, I only had one this week. I had another one. I forgot it right before we started talking, and it never came back.

CHUCK: Alright, Jeff what are your picks?

JEFF: Alright, I’m going to do picks from the last time, just because they are still valid picks plus a new one. So there’s the… has an iPad 3 Retina display screen lock screen, basically PSD you can edit, put your name and contact info on, so if you lose your iPhone or in this case, iPad 3, and the person that finds it is not crook, they can contact you and get it back to you.

The second one is Chronomate. It’s a Mac app that hooks into fresh books and handles time tracking, plus it default billing. So, if you do 10-15 minute increments then when you log your time, it will automatically round up if you want to do that. It’s fairly cool. I hate web interfaces for most of that stuff because that’s not always up.

Third one is equilibrium the movie. We talked about it last time.

EVAN: Yeah. [Chuckles]

JEFF: Because Evan was on Avengers…

EVAN: Yeah, I didn’t mention that pick, but from the lost episode, yeah the Avengers Movie.

JEFF: So Equilibrium is mine. The last one from the last week. So this week, falling along the same game development train that everybody else is on, this book Shawn Inman, he wrote I think they are PHP apps get them into server stats whatever, and but then he got into game development and he kept a diary of it, and so the book is called Lift Off, it’s an iOS game and sort of create his story of creating it. And so I bought it and I haven’t had the chance to read it yet but…

EVAN: Is it a book or is it a game?

JEFF: He wrote a game and kept the diary of making the game, so it was like a behind the scenes for the game. The book is called Lift Off, the game is called The Last Rockets.

EVAN: Got it. I guess I have to read that.

JEFF: Yeah, I’m voyeuristic about people’s process and all of that, so it fits very nicely.

EVAN: The reason I’ve been talking about game dev is I’m finally jumping into, I guess I would say a hobbyist for now just because  I haven’t started writing anything, I’m learning a lot, but I’m reading three different books on different aspects of game development at the same time at the moment.

ERIC: And what are those books called?

EVAN: I guess fine. I guess I can throw those on the picks too. So I’m reading a wiki book Blender 3D, which is an open source, I guess I should probably link to Blender too, an open source 3D modeling animation tool, it’s called Blender From Noobs to Pro. And it’s a wiki book so it’s entirely free and it’s pretty solid.

I am reading a book on Unity 3D, which is a multiplatform game engine. I’ve been looking into Unity not specifically because it’s multi-platform, but because of its popularity, because of its renowned accessibility and feature richness. And I’ve also read that it’s really good at supporting mods, which is for those people who aren’t necessarily gamers, modifications to the game by users for example, so people can extend the game.

And also, I guess this isn’t a book. I actually been going through the tutorials in the Pixel Maker website, because I don’t have Photoshop, I do have Pixel Maker and I started to realize how many incredible things it can do that I had no clue about in all the time I’ve had Pixel Maker. Because I need a 2D tool in order to draw textures and 3D tool for modeling. I need an engine so I’m not writing my own, the engine provides physics and 3D rendering, and hooks for AI and to manipulate or place objects, other stuff I don’t know. I almost said a word I’m not supposed to on the podcast. So far I’m learning a lot and my head hurts.

JEFF: You have some weird sensor triggers.

CHUCK: [Chuckles]

JEFF: You can have lunch when you are bullshitting with the clients, but you…

EVAN: [Laughs]

JEFF: But you can’t say shit now.

EVAN: That’s funny. [Chuckles] You are right, I didn’t say that. I did say that earlier, didn’t it? I caught myself saying, “Shit,” when I’m talking about this stuff. Yes, I have weird triggers in general. How about that? Okay, so then I guess I went for one pick, to so I’ve lost track on how many of these. I guess three.

CHUCK: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7?

EVAN: Alright, I’ll jot them all down in the chat while your are knocking off your, Chuck.

CHUCK: Alright, I’m going to pick the same ones I had last time for Ruby Rogues, we’re actually reading working with Unix processes by Jesse Storimer. It’s actually a short book, and basically goes into the Unix process management kernel stuff, the different commands that you can use there like fork and stuff like that, how that all works. And then it also discusses the interfaces for Ruby gives you to those different processes, those different commands.

And then the other one that I’ve been reading lately is Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiosaki. And it’s kind of an interesting book. I like kind of the story format that was there at the beginning. I’m not sure I completely 100% agree with everything he says, but it at least makes you think hard about what he’s saying and what the important things are for you to know about; what are assets and what are liabilities and how you should build wealth and things like that. So it’s really interesting.

I’ve actually been reading it with a group of guys from the podcast mastermind. And incidentally, if you are interested in podcasting, and you are interested in joining a group of people who talk about this stuff, the podcast mastermind is taking applications right now for people who want to join. It is a paid membership group, but anyway if you go over to the podcastmastermind.com, you can get details about that. And I guess that will be my other pick, though I’m pretty sure I picked it before, but anyway.

JEFF: You never picked it on the show.

CHUCK: I haven’t?

JEFF: No, I would have remembered it. I was going to ask you about it before.

CHUCK: Yeah, the podcast mastermind is actually been really terrific. I’ve also been toying with the idea of starting a freelancers mastermind, because as nice as it is to be part of the podcast mastermind and I’d stay a member of that too just because I get a lot of value out of it and a lot of feedback from the guys in my mastermind group. There’s only one other guy there that’s actually like self-employed and in that kind of solopreneur  setup, and so well, besides cliff who actually runs the group. He facilitates the mastermind meetings and stuff. He doesn’t participate as an actual member of the group, but he does give feedback on stuff, so he doesn’t do the hot seat sessions and stuff, if you’re familiar with how a lot of the mastermind groups run.

Anyway, I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback on my podcasting marketing and things like that, but it would be nice to have a group of freelancers that I could talk to about some of the other challenges that we run into that they understand that these guys probably don’t, but still, even just having the mastermind at the level that it’s at, has been really, really helpful for me. So, the podcast mastermind, if you are interested in talking to other podcasters about that stuff. And we go in to all kinds of stuff, so it’s all about personal success, and so whatever that means; it includes success in your business, success in your job, success in life, success in whatever. But the thing that we all have in common is podcasting. And I have to tell you, the guys that are in my group are top notch. They are awesome. And I really, really enjoy talking to them. It’s just fun.

EVAN: So where is your podcast about podcasting?

CHUCK: [Chuckles]

EVAN: Don’t you need to get another podcast, Chuck?

CHUCK: I have been tempted. I’ve also been tempted to pick up another podcast on iPhone development or something, but I need to learn a little bit more about it.

EVAN: Where’s our podcast on science fiction, damn it. That’s what I wanna know.

CHUCK: We should start one.

EVAN: We talked about it off and on for longer than we talked in this podcast.

CHUCK: I know. We have been talking about it off and on. I’m seriously considering putting it together. I just need to free up a little bit of time for it.

EVAN: [Chuckles]

CHUCK: And then that’s been my major hang up, to be honest. I think we’ll get there.

EVAN: I’m laughing because I’m really quickly filling up my spare time with game development, so I understand.

CHUCK: Yeah. A game development podcast would be cool too.

EVAN: Yeah, I have to have a clue first. [Chuckles]

CHUCK: I have a few other friends though that do game development on kind of a larger scale. I have one friend that’s been developing flash games for like ten years or something.

EVAN: That would be cool. I am willing to be the total noobs on the podcast, if that was a possibility. I might learn something.

CHUCK: I would be more total noob, but we could probably get him or maybe find some other folks that do game development for zynga or something and see if they can sign…

EVAN: You really wanna bring the unholy monster to do it?

CHUCK: I don’t know. I mean, just throwing around ideas. And I don’t even know if their guys will be interested at all.

EVAN: They are probably too busy getting cut out of from the profit of the company.

CHUCK: [Chuckles] Yeah, or Blizzard or somebody like that.

EVAN: Or Activision. Those are happy people.

CHUCK: Yeah, but whatever the case, I think it will be really interesting to talk about some of the challenges with game development.

EVAN: Yeah, I think that would be cool. I’d love to do that.

CHUCK: I think it would be probably more fun and kind of a different flavor than the language-specific stuff.

EVAN: Oh yeah, totally.

CHUCK: Anyway that’s something to think about. I might actually do that, regardless whether I have time to do it. [Chuckles]

ERIC: Make the podcast five minutes and start.

CHUCK: There we go.

EVAN: Wow. That will be hard.

CHUCK: Yeah, so those are my picks and we’ll have links to all that in the show notes. But yeah, thanks for your input guys. I think this show went really well, and I’m excited for that.

We are doing a book club. I just wanna point that out. We haven’t set a date for it yet. Tentatively scheduled for some time in June, which is when we will finish the book and be able to talk about it. And we’re reading Get Clients Now by CJ Hayden.

EVAN: Please don’t take this as an encouragement as a reason to lose podcast in the future. [Chuckles]

CHUCK: What do you mean?

EVAN: You said this discussion went really well, so I said, “Please don’t take this as encouragement to lose podcast in the future.”

CHUCK: Oh, definitely not. [Chuckles] Yeah, it’s not worth it to do that. Anyway, I’ll have a link to the show notes to where you can get the book. So yeah, that’s it. That’s all I got.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Flaviu Simihaian May 22, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Great episode!

Had a question: Would you bill at different rates for meetings/phone calls/managing subcontractors than you do for development? If so, what are the relative rates for such services?

Thanks and keep up the good work.

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Eric Davis June 1, 2012 at 9:14 am

Flaviu Simihaian:

I don’t but I know some places do (called activity rates). The way I see it, my customer is getting all of my knowledge each hour so my rate shouldn’t change. I’m also really upfront about my skills and limitations so they know I can produce better results per hour with Rails development than graphic design.

I don’t hire enough subcontractors to have much of an opinion about billing their time. Jeff, Evan, and Chuck have more experience there.

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John McCaffrey June 7, 2012 at 8:30 am

Really good show!

I think its important to think about the long-term relationship and keep a reasonable balance of what you charge for. Eric mentioned how he might not charge for extra effort required to learn a new library/gem (that goes beyond what you considered reasonable).

In general I think its ok to value your time and charge if the client is ‘wasting’ it via a missed meeting, or similar delays that they cause, but to be reasonable about it, and give them a break sometimes.
It dawned on me once when I committed some code that made the app fail, and 15 people couldn’t complete their task. If we took the “I charge when you waste my time and prevent me from doing other work” as a two-way street, you could imagine getting an invoice for any time you release a bug or regression that blocks users. (downtime * number of users * hourly rate = OUCH!)

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