June 13, 2017

Twenty cents per keystroke

Consider this imaginary dialogue:

Alice: “So, Charlie tells me you can do what we need. What’s your rate?”

Bob: “Twenty cents per keystroke.”

Alice: “Twenty cents?! That’s double the going rate!”

Bob: “Sure, but I don’t hit the delete key as much most people.”

Alice: “Wait... you charge for pressing the delete key?”

Bob: “Sure. It’s a keystroke just like the rest, right?”

Alice: “I guess, but... you’re using it to remove stuff you typed. I feel like it shouldn’t count.”

Bob: “I don’t charge by character. Nobody does. Everyone charges by the keystroke.”

Alice: “Right. I just never thought about the delete key.”

Bob: “Most people don’t. That’s why I mentioned it 😉”

Alice: “Okay... what about the option/alt keys?”

Bob: “I’m glad you asked! I only charge ten cents for modifier keys. I don’t think it’s fair to charge full rate for mods.”

Alice: “Okay. I guess that’s good. So... how many keystrokes do you think it’ll take?”

Bob: “Tough to say but I can get an estimate to you in a few days.”


This sounds insane, doesn’t it?

It’s nuts, yeah?

Utterly bonkers, amirite?

The penny drops:

Well guess what...

it’s NOT ONE BIT CRAZIER than charging by the hour. Or the keystroke, or the pixel, or the line, or the word, or the feature, or the page, or the screen, or the view, or the revision.

These measures are all focused on the work done, instead of what really matters:

The value created.

Bob could execute a million keystrokes. Heck, ten million. Screw it... a BILLION!

But if Bob’s keystrokes don’t improve Alice’s life in some way - tangible or intangible - it is worthless to her!

Moral of the story:

Doing lots of work does not equate to delivering lots of value.

(Translation: just because something takes a lot of work doesn’t mean you can charge a lot of money for it)

Perhaps this makes intuitive sense to you. I find that the inverse is a lot less intuitive to most folks:

You can deliver a lot of value with a small amount of labor.

(Translation: you can charge a lot of money for stuff that doesn’t require a lot of work)

This is not a cheat or a life hack or a scam.

This is where mutual profit come from. It is how wealth is created.

At scale, this is how quality of life is improved across an entire society.

Do this:

Focus on outcomes, not the work it takes to deliver the outcomes.