Re: Customer-Induced Delays

Subject: Re: Customer-Induced Delays
From: Robert Plamondon <robert -at- PLAMONDON -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 9 Jun 1997 16:30:56 -0700

A significant part of my income comes directly from my cheerful
willingness to scramble to pick up the ball after the client
has fumbled it. While one can complain that a client should have
excellent planning and execution, the fact is that many clients
simply cannot do their legwork very well, and are willing to
pay good money to people who can deliver the goods regardless.

Of the entire spectrum of disorganized clients, the ones to work
with are those who have a clear idea of what they want, know
quality when they see it, have money (and the authority to spend
it), but are so grossly overworked that they're not on top of things.
What I do is offer a soup-to-nuts package deal: "Give me money,
engineering data, all your presentations and collateral, and an
idea of what you're looking for, and I will deliver something
that is so close that we can print it after one pass of minor

The problem with this approach is that the work is bursty rather
than steady-state, with mad dashes to get three clients' work
done on the same day interspersed with periods of silence. You
MUST charge a high rate if you do this kind of work, since projects
that require that you put documents together in almost no time
at all don't rack up the number of billable hours that plodding
away at an enormous manual does.

Personally, I have gotten away from billing by the hour, and am
now generally giving a per-project bid and asking for one-third
up front before I begin work. The arrival of a check proves that
the person I'm talking to has meaningful spending authority, and
greatly reduces my anxiety about how long the project will slip.
Also, clients generally like fixed dollar amounts, because they
are easier to budget for. All my clients have been reasonable about
recognizing the need to re-quote projects that have changed to
any great extent.

The flaw in this procedure is that you have to estimate projects
pretty well. So far I have been saved by Fate from a couple of
serious blunders (a grossly underbid project was redefined into
a much fancier form by a client, for instance, and I got to re-bid),
but maybe I have things figured out now.

-- Robert

Robert Plamondon, High-Tech Technical Writing, Inc.
36475 Norton Creek Road * Blodgett * Oregon * 97326
robert -at- plamondon -dot- com * (541) 453-5841 * Fax: (541) 453-4139

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