My time is valuable (Part Deux)

In a great factory one of the huge power machines suddenly balked. In spite of exhortation, language, oil and general tinkering it refused to budge. Production slowed down and the management tore its hair.
At last an expert was called in. He carefully examined the machine for a few minutes, then called for a hammer. Briskly tapping here and there for about ten minutes, he announced that the machine was ready to move. It did.
Two days later the management received a bill for $250—the expert’s fee. The accountant was a righteous man who objected to overcharge. He demanded a detailed statement of the account.
He received this:
To tapping machine with hammer…$1.00
Knowing where to tap ………………$249.00

There are lots of variations on this story.

In a prior post I wrote about being a better developer and learning to be curious. To explore. And trying to solve the problem on your own before asking for help because people’s time is valuable.

And if you’re like me you sell your time to others as part of your consulting work. You also happen to sell your expertise and experience and those definitely are part of the price you build into whatever rates you charge clients.

As a person who makes living selling my time & expertise to others I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for fair compensation when I’m asked for assistance.

I’m more than willing to help out but, since I do make a living consulting, I do expect to be compensated for the time I spend working on a project.

And sometimes I’ll give that advice for free. Or I’ll simply charge a small nominal fee that is NOT the full hourly rate I might normally charge. That’s at my discretion.

But there are those who expect that I should give advice on reasonably substantial projects for free. Not because I want to – but because I should; perhaps because I’m a nice guy and it’s only going to be one time. Really. We promise.

What this kind of request is asking me to do is value my time, possibly several hours of it, at $0 per hour.

I’m like all the rest of you. I have bills to pay just like you do. And given the option of working a few hours on something I might get a “Thank You” for versus something I’ll earn my normal rate for I can tell you which I’ll work on.

Just be aware that I often will help out for no charge but the more time I have to invest in a project to provide that help the less likely it is I will do so free of charge.

But please don’t insist that I do significant amounts of work for free “because you’re a nice guy”. I’m sure there are those who might disagree 🙂

More often than not a small bit of advice isn’t something I’m going to charge someone for. But when that bit of advice starts to turn into many hours, or even days, of effort then I just might ask for some fair compensation for my time. If it’s worth asking me for that advice it might also be worth considering that I get compensated for taking the time to provide that advice.

Late fees

I read a really good article the other day from a writer who was having issues with their clients and trying to collect on invoices that were overdue.

Now, I haven’t had to do this sort of thing in a very long time, but it seemed to me that I have run into the same sort of pushback this author got about charging lates fees.

While they had contracts in hand that said the client would pay within a certain time frame and the client missed those contractual obligations to pay on time the client was still objecting to paying a late fee (despite it apparently even being a legal obligation to do so under NY or NYC law)

I’ve run into that as well way back when I contracted to a number of large corporations. Each had stated terms in the contract to pay net 30 (ie I received the payment by 30 days) but each and every one of them simply ignored the signed contractual terms and in some cases only cut a cheque on the 30th day. Unless they physically handed it to me that day, which they usually didn’t, there was no way the mail got it to me that day. To top it off they claimed that the postmark meant that it was “paid” that day. Which was all well and good but the postmarks were always 1 to 2 days later – so the invoice was still paid late in any event. One went so far as to ignore the contractual terms and simply say “Out terms are always net 90” and with held paying me for 90 days. And then they did much the same and cut the cheque on day 90 and put it in the mail. So I’d get paid 92 days after the invoice was sent, which was 62 days after the contractual terms.

When I first sent in an invoice with “Late fees” for the previous invoice they refused to pay the late fee – again despite the contract actually having terms & conditions explicitly stated for this exact eventuality and a stated late fee. Fortunately for me the group I was working for had a manager that pushed the issue and forced the company to pay the late fee AND revise their cheque processing for a lot of contracted individuals so they were paid on time.

Anyone else have a horror story about not getting paid on time and them getting pushback on charging late fees ?