Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




I want to work for free.

Well, not free, but I don't know how to charge for this consulting project.

I have a full-time job, and do just a little web development (programming) on the side.  A friend referred a non-profit to me for a really tiny web project.  At first it looked like a 30-minute project.  Now that we're discussing the requirements, it looks like it would take a bit longer.  Maybe 4 hours.

But based on the requirements, I've realized that it's incredibly similar to a project that I've already done for my full-time job.  I can't just reuse the code from my employer, of course.  But I have a lot of domain knowledge, so I could develop a full-featured application very easily.

My application idea is way more than what they've asked for, but it will be *much* more useful for them in the long run.  It's pretty simple development, so there would be little risk of time-consuming bugs to fix.  It would also be a lot more interesting to develop a nice application, rather than a dinky little page or two, even if it takes a lot more time. 

I know that I should be doing what the *customer* wants me to develop, not what *I* want to develop.  But in this case, I truly do have a lot of domain knowledge.  The customer has limited computer skills (and budget), so he's not really thinking about the big picture.  Finally, it's on my spare time, and I don't need the income too much, so I'd like it to be an interesting project.

Here are some options I've come up with:

1.) Propose a limited application at the standard (high) hourly rate.
    * Pros: Cheap for them.  Limited risk for me and for the client.
    * Cons: Limited productivity gains for the client.  Not as interesting to me.

2.) Propose the full-featured application at the standard (high) hourly rate.
    * Pros: Greater productivity gain for the client.  More interesting for me.  More income for me.
    * Cons: Substantially more expensive, so they're likely to decline.  Moderately increased risk.

3.) Propose the full-featured application at a reduced hourly rate or reduced fixed price.
    * Pros: Greater productivity gain for the client.  Cheap for them.  Interesting for me.
    * Cons: Less income for me.  Moderately increased risk.

Any thoughts?

Ryan
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Do what they want.

If you're asking questions like this, it sounds to me like your allegedly superior solution would be difficult for them to run and certainly to maintain.


Tuesday, March 02, 2004

What sort of useful application can you do in four hours, and why even bother unless they're paying you $100 an hour?

Fred
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

"I know that I should be doing what the *customer* wants me to develop, ..But ...The customer has limited computer skills (and budget), so he's not really thinking about the big picture."

If you, rather then the customer, know what the customer needs, then it's your job to *convince* them that your solution meets thier needs.


If you can't convince them, then you should provide what they asked, not what you THINK they need. No matter how RIGHT you are, they're the ones stuck with the result. It should be thier decision.

The real Entrepreneur
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Be honest with your customer, above all. How about something like this:

"What you've asked for is option #1, for which I would normally charge a client $400. However, what you really want is option #2, which will take longer to implement, but give you much better return on investment. Since you're a non-profit, I'm willing to give you option #2 for the price of option #1"

Or words to that effect. If they still want the minimal solution, then give them what they ask for.

-Mark

Mark Bessey
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Watch out for feature creep. If you're working for nothing, it's easy for them to add features.

Can you show them the app you wrote for your company so they'll see what they're getting?

pdq
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Why not write it on your own time, retain the rights, and sell it to them at something resembling a retail price?  Otherwise, heed the previous two posts.  (=

Sam Livingston-Gray
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Do the 4 hour job pro bono.
Then propose your "phase 2" for a fee.

bella
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Someone above asked "what kind of application can you do in four hours?"  All they asked for is a one-page web form which saves data to a CSV file.  (The development time would be less than 4 hours, but coordinating the deployment with their web server administrator could take four hours alone!)  And they are willing to pay a surprisingly high hourly rate.

Anyway, I think I'm going to go with Mark's idea, i.e. propose both, explain the benefits of the larger solution (benefits, not features), and then let them decide.  I will indeed offer them a discount on the larger application since they're a non-profit.  It won't be as cheap as the smaller application, but it still will be a discount.  Now I've just gotta write up a proposal... just what I like to do during my free time... ;-)

Ryan
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I like bella's idea. You could also offer to do it cheap if they would allow you to use them as a reference/case study.


Wednesday, March 03, 2004

I like Sam's idea.  Is this something you might possibly want to use again later?  For another client?  Or as a shrink-wraped product?  If you retain the rights, and then either give it to this non-profit or sell it to them as a licensee, you can still use it in the future...

Michael Kale
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home