“hey, this is cool, but you gotta pay me more”

Sent by Jonathan Stark on February 8th, 2017

Today in one of my Slack rooms, I got into a thread with a developer friend about how to manage a client who was overstepping their bounds on a fixed price engagement.

It’s a little long but I’m pretty sure you’ll find it useful.

NOTE: For some mysterious reason, my friend asked to be referred to in this message as Justin Timberlake. Regretably, I’m not actually in a chat room with JT 😞

Yours,

—J


Justin Timberlake:

So, I have this project I’m working on (development project), and I did not anticipate the client’s desired frequency and duration of phone calls. Like, we’ll have had three this week with me, client, and two other outside contractors, all running at least 2 hours. Which is fine, but… it’s sucking up all of my focus.

I need to come up with a good way to say “hey, this is cool, but you gotta pay me more”

like yeah, as part of hiring me for development, I’ll give you some advice… but this is becoming too much

Anybody been in that situation/have language they’ve used?

Jonathan Stark:

re long frequent calls: what is the nature of the engagement? i.e., what were you hired to do?

Justin Timberlake:

development

hired b/c I’m the expert

so I don’t mind offering a decent amount of strategic input, but… damn

Jonathan Stark:

that’s two different things :troll:

Justin Timberlake:

yes I realize that

Jonathan Stark:

how are you being paid?

hourly or fixed?

Justin Timberlake:

flat fee

Jonathan Stark:

nod nod

Justin Timberlake:

if it was hourly I’d ¯\(ツ)

Jonathan Stark:

do you feel like you’re adding value in the meetings or is it a waste of time to sit in on them?

Justin Timberlake:

adding value

there’s some “let’s come back to the path, we’re waaaay in the weeds here”

but that’s just the nature of things

Jonathan Stark:

it sounds like a lot of meeting time. what would you say is the cause of that?

Justin Timberlake:

1) lots of things to be figured out 2) lots of indecision/anxiety on the part of the client

he needs reassurance

Jonathan Stark:

re #2 oof

Justin Timberlake:

I mean, that’s ok to some extent; I get it

there’s a feeling of “we have to get this right” b/c it could be huge

but he’s too far on the side of “start with perfect” vs iterate to perfect

Jonathan Stark:

how are you deciding what’s “right?”

Justin Timberlake:

what I know from experience, and inputs from him on what his community is like

I’m not the only party, though

there’s another outside person who is mainly marketing

Jonathan Stark:

so, lots of time spent deciding “how big to make the logo?”

Justin Timberlake:

oh no no

actual real more important things

like “what discussion forum/group platform do we use to best build a real sense of community”

Jonathan Stark:

gotcha

Justin Timberlake:

what content do we launch with, how is it sold, etc.

Real Decisions™

Jonathan Stark:

sounds like the kind of stuff that coulda/shoulda been decided before the dev project. would that have been possible?

Justin Timberlake:

yeah - I thought they had more of this stuff figured out before coming to me :slightlysmilingface:

which, again - fine, but

Jonathan Stark:

(btw, i’m not being critical, just trying to get the context)

Justin Timberlake:

for sure

like, this is great, it’s an opportunity for me to help drive decisions

Jonathan Stark:

only great if you’re getting paid equitably :slightlysmilingface:

Justin Timberlake:

yep

Jonathan Stark:

what is the overall objective for the project?

Justin Timberlake:

help tens/hundreds of thousands of people in [REDACTED]

Jonathan Stark:

is it a pro bono site?

Justin Timberlake:

nope

$18/month

~$100/year launch promo, probably

Jonathan Stark:

mkay, so semantics, but helping those people is not the objective it’s the mission (which is bigger than just this project, probably)

what’s the specific objective for this project?

how will success be measured?

Justin Timberlake:

number of members

Jonathan Stark:

perfect

Justin Timberlake:

(keep it coming - this gets into the part of VBF I struggle with, but let’s go through it)

Jonathan Stark:

is there anything you can do to measure progress toward that goal prior to launching?

Justin Timberlake:

not as planned

Jonathan Stark:

which means youre shooting in the dark and taking a lot of time to aim

Justin Timberlake:

yep, exactly

Jonathan Stark:

k, we’re on the same page

two options:

I much prefer #1

2a is my second fave (i.e., increase your rate)

2b is the worst option (i.e., do as you’re told)

Justin Timberlake:

roger that

yeah, think that makes sense

agree 2b is turrible

Jonathan Stark:

agreeing as a team to some progress metrics would perhaps go a long way toward calming his nerves

Justin Timberlake:

mm, yeah

Jonathan Stark:

Option 1 is a bit of a tough sell since the plane is already in flight, but IMHO it’s the most humane option for the client

keeps him on budget, increases chances of success, and decreases the amount of time wasted in meetings

Justin Timberlake:

yeah, can’t let it continue as-is b/c it’ll end with me table-flipping

thanks for the guidance :pray:

Jonathan Stark:

YW! I should maybe do this for a living :wink:


Thanks for reading! See you tomorrow. 

—J


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