Re: Estimating Projects

Subject: Re: Estimating Projects
From: "Elna Tymes" <etymes -at- lts -dot- com>
To: Techwrl-l <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 03 Oct 2000 16:43:56 -0700

Andrew -

> Oh - but isn't FrameMaker an "industry standard!"
> Sure there are industry standards. There are general practices by service
> firms. You do work, you bill for that work. All service organizations work this
> way.

I repeat what I said about no industry standards re: how technical writing
contractors bill for their services. It is *more common* for time-and-materials
contracts, but that is by no means an "industry standard."

> If you can't trust your clients then why should they trust you?

A lot of it has to do with what kind of first-meeting impression both sides come
away with. Which can be almost 100% wrong, by the way. I don't have the kind of
prescience you seem to have - some people who came across as utterly stable and
believable have turned out to be some of the worst backbiting cheats I've ever
encountered. If you have a 100% record in presorting the cheats from the good
guys, I'm sure us "normal" folks would like to know your formula. As for clients
trusting my company, we have a 30-year track record and a long list of highly
satisfied clients we can refer people to. Unfortunately it doesn't work the other
way for new clients - most of the time we have no way of verifying how they treated
their other contractors.

As for writing up a detailed estimate stating what you'll do and what it will cost,
I have yet to write a contract that has covered *all* the wonderful little things
that can screw up a contractual relationship. For example, if I'd written a
contract last February for a dot-com that was doing well, there is no way I could
have predicted the March stock market bath that many dot-coms took, resulting in
their either laying off or terminating a lot of what had appeared to be stable
contracting relationships.

But I too believe in going into negotiations with my eyes wide open, and if
something feels fishy, not taking the contract.

> Sure, suing is tough. But for $20,000 its worth it. Most suits do not go to
> court. If you have a good contract, an open line of communication with the
> client, and a decent paper trail you will be okay.

Andrew, sheesh - do the math!!! Most lawyers who take a little case like this
either want somewhere between $5000 and $10,000 just to take it to court or are
willing to take it on a contingency basis for somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of the
total settlement. If you bid the contract on a time and materials basis, you
obviously have a bottom-line hourly amount you have in mind. That means that IF
YOU WIN, you will get paid some 2-3 years later an amount approximately half of
what the fair market value of the contract was. And that's just plain poor
business practices.

Sure, getting burned occasionally is part of the learning process of being a
contractor. One of the benefits of being on this list is that we can learn from
each others' experiences. To tell someone who disagrees with you "if you can't
take the heat, get out of the kitchen" is disrespectful of their experience and
downright rude. Of course, you've been told that before, I guess. So much for
talking to a closed mind.

Elna Tymes
Los Trancos Systems

Re: Estimating Projects: From: Andrew Plato

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