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I think the nature of the work has a fair bit to do with the viability
of telecommuting. I tend to work on specific projects which are almost
entirely in my own "domain" until delivered to the client. I am usually
willing to arrange a lump-sum fee structure, so that the "am I really
working?" question is irrelevant. If the client believes that the end
product is worth what we've both agreed it is worth, then how many hours
I spend on it is no longer a concern. If I don't deliver, I don't get
paid (except a retainer, or specific fees for specific milestones--I
usually link my invoice dates with specific deliverables), so the onus
is on me to get the work done. Is this practicable? I must admit, I have
occasionally screwed up an estimate very badly, and, on one occasion,
ended up making under $5.00/hour when all was said and done. Needless to
say, I traced every mistake in that process, and it hasn't happened
again. On other occasions, I have come out slightly ahead, but never so
much that my work did not represent a reasonable value to the client.
It's a higher risk scenario, but the client's main concerns (value for
money) are met up front, and certainly there is no objection to my
working where/when I see fit (because it's not the client's problem,
only mine). Naturally site visits are still necessary, and in some
cases, a job must still be performed entirely on the client's site, but
only when the project demands it, not for political reasons. If I have
to document a new, custom application which will run on the client's
mainframe, I obviously must spend a fair bit of time on site. If it's a
new piece of Windows software, however, most clients are happy for me to
take away a beta version and play with it on my own machine/time.
One more point. I maintain my own work space as a fairly professional
environment. My home phone is not my business phone. You can phone, fax,
or e-mail me. It is important to give your clients the sense that they
are communicating with a real, operating business, or business
professional, and not some guy in his pyjamas. Unlike the snazzy
television ads for laptops and remote telephone gadgets, I do not think
my clients would be impressed by an image of me "teleworking" on their
project while sitting under a palm tree by the sea shore, or somewhere
part way up Mt. Fuji.