Re: FWD: Contracting for IT training course development

Subject: Re: FWD: Contracting for IT training course development
From: "Jeanne A. E. DeVoto" <jaed -at- jaedworks -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 4 Oct 2000 02:02:21 -0700

At 5:50 AM -0700 10/3/00, <anonfwd -at- raycomm -dot- com> wrote:
>I am currently negotiating a contract for me to write content for IT
>training courses that will be given in person by instructors. Has anyone
>here done this on a contract basis and if so, what is the basis for
>charging. Flat rate vs hourly rate.

Both have their advantages and drawbacks, and either method might be used,
depending on the situation. Almost anything we do - technical
documentation, marketing docs, general consulting, training development -
might be billed either way depending on circumstances.

Flat rate gives the client a known quantity of money they'll have to pay
out. This is something many clients find reassuring. In addition, if you
find a way to work faster and more efficiently under a flat-rate contract,
the benefit thereof goes into your pocket as a higher effective hourly
rate. However, if a project's scope creeps or if you run into unexpected
problems, you may well end up getting a lower effective hourly rate than
you'd normally settle for.

Hourly rate gives you more predictability of income, but of course it's
more open-ended for the client. If your work is fungible, you can offer to
work in blocks, with each block pre-approved by the client - this offers
the client a bit more control, if that is important to them. (For example,
in doing testing, or writing white papers, or other such jobs that consist
of ongoing work or brief blocks of text, I might ask for authorization for
20 hours at a time, or whatever amount is appropriate.)

I personally prefer to bill hourly if there's any uncertainty at all about
scope. I'll do flat rate for projects that are well-defined, where I can
make a clear estimate of the hours I'll need...but beware of overconfidence
and insufficient information! (A recent project caught me, so I know
whereof I speak: I gave a flat-rate estimate, and found as the project went
on that I hadn't had enough information about scope, and the project was
around three times bigger than I had thought. Also, the product I was
documenting went through many schedule shifts and some feature shifts. This
wouldn't have been so bad with a small project, but this one was not small.
The difference between my estimate and an accurate one was in the multiple
tens of thousands of dollars.) If your estimate is too low, *you* eat the avoid making estimates you'll be held to if the
circumstances don't let you make accurate ones.

All of which is to say that if the project is fairly brief, you know what's
needed, and there is little opportunity for other people's changes of mind
or direction to affect the amount of work you need to do, flat rate may be
appropriate, with deliverables and payments at various milestones.
Otherwise, charging an hourly rate would be a better idea.

Pace Andrew, I won't say that it is unprofessional not to bill until after
completion of a project...but it is unusual, and having a client or
intermediary expect it would cause me to reconsider carefully whether I
wanted to work with a business with such an expectation.

jeanne a. e. devoto ~ jaed -at- jaedworks -dot- com

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