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yyrkoon

What is "our" time worth ?

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@@zeke @@dubnet and everyone really

 

I'd be curious for others input as to how often they actually know 100% of the work they're contracted to do, before they start the job. I often find myself doing a LOT of research on, and off the job. So in essence in some respects I get paid as a troubleshooter. Which I might add I'm usually very good at.

 

Anyway, I suppose I could charge more per hour, but this is partially why I charge only what I charge for an hourly flat rate. But another aspect is that I often "take my work home", or work after hours off the clock just because I want to be informed, and perhaps I find what I'm researching fascinating . . .

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@yyrkoon   That's exactly what I allude to in my comments on a post mortem evaluation.  You have to tally all the time and be brutally objective.  Of course, some off clock time needs to be spent staying current on your craft and managing the back end of the business.  But the off clock time creep on projects can seriously erode your income. 

 

EDIT:  Rereading your post prompts the question....Are you charging the client for the research as well?

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One time, I made an estimate and it ended being way off because I hadn't accounted for the time I would need to create a test jig to properly simulate communications between the target I was designing and the client's existing hardware. That was a whole new chunk of electronics that I had to assemble, program and test. I had to eat a bunch of that time and not charge for it. The customer and I had a lot of long conversations during that project.

 

I have learned from that oversight. It was not intuitively obvious at the beginning but it had to be done. I know better now.

 

To guard against this from happening again, I am developing a pseudo generic dev board + PC software that allows me to simulate  communication between the target system and the rest of the client's system.  

 

 

Do I know everything? Nope. Not even close. So, most times, the work demands you to perform research. I will and do charge for that but I let the client know in advance. I consider it as part of the initial project assessment checklist. I classify this as a combination of due diligence, quality control, professionalism and pride of workmanship.

 

Nobody is perfect but we can be true to our intentions.

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@yyrkoon   That's exactly what I allude to in my comments on a post mortem evaluation.  You have to tally all the time and be brutally objective.  Of course, some off clock time needs to be spent staying current on your craft and managing the back end of the business.  But the off clock time creep on projects can seriously erode your income. 

 

EDIT:  Rereading your post prompts the question....Are you charging the client for the research as well?

@@dubnet

 

Sure, I understood that when I asked how often others have to research on the job, for the job. But no, If I do not at least feel competent at a job, I wont make a bid for a job. That does have me wondering how many people actually will take up such a job, and then learn while doing that job. Which is exactly what I did when I contracted security work. As there was no way I could tell the client 100% that I could fix their system(s), but I was very experienced at doing just that.

 

The problem with building embedded systems is that a potential project can potentially span several "discipline" so there is no way in hell anyone can know *everything*. Here, what I find myself realizing this is more of a game of knowing *if* something is possible, rather than knowing how something is possible. Then it just becomes a game as to whether one can assimilate the needed information fast enough to complete a project in a timely fashion . . .For many smaller projects I'm fairly confident I can compete reasonably well. But for larger projects, deciding whether you can compete or not gets a bit more hazy. At least it does for me.

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One time, I made an estimate and it ended being way off because I hadn't accounted for the time I would need to create a test jig to properly simulate communications between the target I was designing and the client's existing hardware. That was a whole new chunk of electronics that I had to assemble, program and test. I had to eat a bunch of that time and not charge for it. The customer and I had a lot of long conversations during that project.

 

I have learned from that oversight. It was not intuitively obvious at the beginning but it had to be done. I know better now.

 

To guard against this from happening again, I am developing a pseudo generic dev board + PC software that allows me to simulate  communication between the target system and the rest of the client's system.  

 

 

Do I know everything? Nope. Not even close. So, most times, the work demands you to perform research. I will and do charge for that but I let the client know in advance. I consider it as part of the initial project assessment checklist. I classify this as a combination of due diligence, quality control, professionalism and pride of workmanship.

 

Nobody is perfect but we can be true to our intentions.

It sounds like perhaps we're alike in the regard then. Certainly you know stuff I do not, but I'm also sure the opposite is true.

 

One aspect I typically do better than most is knowing Linux very well. This does not mean I know everything, but usually if someone were to ask me *if* a thing were possible, I'd know right away. And then perhaps even offer more than way to achieve said goal. In some cases it's from 30k feet, as I not have personally done exactly what is being discussed. But very seldom have I not been able to do something discussed in this context.

 

A perfect example would be this very simple GPIO / peripheral "library" I'm writing using Nodejs( javascript ) for the beaglebone. Prior to writing the code myself I did not know exactly how to do specific things. but I knew they were possible, and even discussed this with others many times from a high level. So in the context of if this were a job . . . someone would be paying me 50 /hr basically to research, and write code. While only paying me for a fraction of my actual time spent on the project.

 

EDIT:

 

Oh and if someone were paying e to write the library Im writing now. It'd be  done already heh ;) Instead of me writing some code as a proof of concept to myself, and then watching 2-3 hours of game of thrones, or sons of anarchy, or whatever ;)

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It think it's good to practice The Engineering Craft even when it's only for myself.

 

Sometimes, it's the compulsion to create something beautiful that motivates me. Othertimes, it's personal pleasure. In the case of my Marquee Clock project, I am working on that clock for the pleasure of seeing my daughter's reaction to it. She's my client.

 

Personal projects are like workouts. They give me a reason to exercise my skills so that I can see how effective I am right now.  I can then explore, experiment and improve how I implement various solutions.

 

Ultimately, practice makes perfect.

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That gets me thinking about fees.

 

If a friend invites me to tackle his problem and I know that I have to climb a learning curve to solve his problem then maybe this would be one of those projects that ought to be done Pro Bono. 

 

If a friend invites me to tackle his problem and I know the solution already then this would be a project that I charge full price for.

 

Thoughts or reactions?

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Depends on the friend... :lol:

 

Joking aside I would probably take a best guess at the work/learning ratio and try and charge accordingly. If the work was two hours and the learning was 8, charge for 2 hours. If the work or learning took longer no change in the charge but if the work takes only an hour refund an hour.  My .02

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That gets me thinking about fees.

 

If a friend invites me to tackle his problem and I know that I have to climb a learning curve to solve his problem then maybe this would be one of those projects that ought to be done Pro Bono. 

 

If a friend invites me to tackle his problem and I know the solution already then this would be a project that I charge full price for.

 

Thoughts or reactions?

In my case, I'm doing work for a third party for whom a friend of mine contracted EE work from, and now they need a bit of software for hardware in their design. Or in other words, he put my idea into their design, because he felt it would be a good idea, and in hopes of making me some money as well.

 

As far as my idea goes, I can say that it is basically an MSP430 turned into a smart watch dog. It's actually more complex than that, but that's the gist. The rest of the hardware, I cant speak about . . .

 

@@zeke and yeah . . .my work entails software only, as well as "idea man" work I suppose too. Anyway, neither of these I do pro-bono for friends, family or clients. And actually I've done a lot of "ideas" in general discussion forums. I'm not sure I've done that much here, but have done it several times on the boeagleboarg.org google groups. In fact I've talked about "my idea" from 30k ft many times on the google groups.

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Depends on the friend... :lol:

 

Joking aside I would probably take a best guess at the work/learning ratio and try and charge accordingly. If the work was two hours and the learning was 8, charge for 2 hours. If the work or learning took longer no change in the charge but if the work takes only an hour refund an hour.  My .02

heh !

 

So as far as charging for "research" . . . I think I'd charge for research, but not time I spend writing proof of concept code for myself. Which is probably the most time consuming for me. Writing code that I can live with. Usually, what that means for me is copying some example code, then morphing it into some semblance of what I want to achieve . . . at which point I'm usually confident enough for write my own code from scratch. Rarely do I  take code that others have written and drop it into a project. Mostly I think because I'm very picky with coding style, and if not done my way I'm not happy. Other times, I feel the code is just crap. Because it's not simple enough, not clear enough, or is just not what I feel is a good idea to do.

 

That not to say I think I'm perfect, but I do have my own preferences. As I'm sure we all do.

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So have you spent more time thinking about what you are going to charge than it is going to take you to write this code? :) Better factor that into how much your real rate turns out to be.

 

Sometimes I wish I had become a plumber.  When someone's toilet or water pipe is broken they don't even ask how much. The just want it fixed and just fix it, now!  I'm not sure if plumber friends ask for free work but I doubt it.  I never have.  But I certainly have friends that think my computer knowledge is just something I should offer for free.

 

I tend to do fixed price bids.  It makes both of us happy. They know what they are going to pay and I don't have to go crazy justifying my time. I usually spend enough time up front to figure out what it is going to take and then I just multiple by my hourly rate and I stop sweating about it,  I always create a list of software deliverables and provide a time table for when they will be delivered. Most times I do different phases to give the customer something they can look at and also so they feel confident about my direction.  I also provide a grace period after the customer receives the code and typically two weeks to accept it or complain.  I build in the cost of any test jigs or code I will have to develop.  If I have to do research I do that on my time to be sure I'm going to be able to deliver.  I just roll that time into my bid.  Before I do any of that I'm pretty confident the customer is going to engage my services before I even bother.

 

As far as residuals. I've done it both ways. Low up front cost and higher percentage for me and also the inverse.  Unfortunately, my luck there has always been hit or miss.  Something I thought would sell a lot didn't and I got screwed and conversely things I thought were really stupid I missed a big payout when they did sell.  The bottom line, get enough money to make you feel happy either way.

 

-rick

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Doctors, lawyers and tech guys seem to have one thing in common. They all wear a shirt that says: Free Advice, Ask Away! :lol:

I've got that covered. You tell them "sure . . ." then you proceed to tell them how to fix their problem, like you were trading a baking recipe, or such. Usually after 5-10 seconds, the other persons eye glaze over, and then you never have to worry about that person asking you for advice again ;)

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