Re: Asking The Billing Rate?

Subject: Re: Asking The Billing Rate?
From: topsidefarm -at- mva -dot- net
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 7 Oct 2005 06:45:58 -0600

> Dan Goldstein wrote:
> >>-----Original Message-----
> >>From: Jason A. Czekalski
> >>Sent: Thursday, October 06, 2005 8:32 AM
> >>To: TECHWR-L
> >>Subject: Re: Asking The Billing Rate?
> >>
> >>... I willingly took the job
> >>at $35/hour, because that was what was pitched to me. And
> >>that's what I gave the customer, $35/hour performance, no
> >>more, no less. I don't play superstar on contract jobs, and I
> >>don't believe in providing what is not being paid for...
> >>
> >As an FTE now and a contractor in the past, I've always given the best
> >that I've got, regardless of what I'm paid. People notice it, and it's
> >good for future business.
> >
> >
> Dan is right. If you accepted the position, it doesn't matter what the pay, you agreed to do the job as described. If you couldn't, then ethically you should not have accepted the position. If the job was beyond your capabilities, and the employer was willing to help you grow, then you just muffed up a wonderful opportunity. It doesn't matter what the employment agency was getting, it was what you accepted to do the work. If I had hired you and you told me that you would only give me $35 an hour worth of effort, I'd be looking for someone else to replace you before lunch was over.

Dan, Al, and John, I love and respect you you guys, but you are missing
the point here.

I was pitched a position as an Intermediate TW. I was to do a style guide,
manual template, manuals and quick start guides for two products, and
possibly some online help. At $35/hour, it was a good deal for both the
customer and me, and I gave 110% performance 100% of the time for these
items. I met and far exceeded the requirements as they were originally
sold to me.

What I didn't contract for (wasn't informed of), but what the customer was
also expecting, was project management, QA, programming, and network
design. In order for me to take a contract providing these (if they were
within my range of skills, which several are not), I would require a lot
more than $35/hour. This is what I meant when I talked about providing
$35/hour performance for $35/hour. My customers always get what they pay
for, plus usually a bit extra, but there are limits. IF i am contracted as
an intermediate TW, I'm going to balk at providing senior TW services
unless the contract is renegotiated (and please don't tell me you would'nt
do the same).

BTW, concerning the "opportunity to grow", this customer wasn't looking
for a trainee. He NEEDED someone with experience and the extra skills
mentioned above, and the agency knew this. This was part of the discussion
he and I had before he terminated the contract with the agency. We both
understood that we had been sold something entirely different. Had I known
the billing rate, or had he known my hourly rate, questions would have
been asked, and red flags would have gone up all over the place.

Now, going back to the original premiss of my post. Failing to provide
information about the billing rate MAY be unethical if the reason for
withholding the information is deception (as in this case). That is why it
is good for you to know the billing rate, and also for the customer to
know your hourly rate (which, as I have found out, agencies often keep
from the customer). If both of you know what is happening on the other
end, you can ask some very important questions that otherwise will get

And before anybody gets the impression that I believe that large
disparities between the billing rate and the hourly rate automatically
mean problems, let me state that nothing could be further from the truth.
There may be very good reasons for the disparity, and as long as both
sides are happy, the disparity is not a problem. The issue being raised
here is whether or not both sides have the right to know all of the
details of the transaction.

Again, drawing on my own experience, I was recently in a situation where
the customer was paying $90+/hour, while I was getting $32/hour. These
facts were known by both of us up front, but we were both happier than
pigs in crap with this arrangement. However, there was (and is, since I
still do occasional work for them) a lot more to this than just the

First, I got to work this job part-time, on my schedule, while still
maintaining my full-time job (the agency's attorney reviewed all the legal
issues first). In addition (and this was the real biggie), the agency was
responsible for me getting a considerable amount of software training. The
customer loved my manufacturing background, and my writing style, but felt
I was weak at certain software tools they use (and they were right). This
was a weakness they were willing to pay to correct.

Now this was and is a Senior TW/Mechanical Designer position, which should
have a much higher hourly rate. However, given the freedom and the
training, I feel that I am being very well compensated, even though the
hourly rate is more in line with that of a Junior TW. In the end, I'm
happy, the customer is happy, and the agency is happy, because we all know
what is going on.

Jason A. Czekalski


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