[consulting] General consultant's vent

Michael Prasuhn mike at mikeyp.net
Thu Aug 6 11:52:23 UTC 2009

On Aug 5, 2009, at 10:38 PM, Domenic Santangelo wrote:
> Why is this so different from what we do? The OP mentioned not  
> billing for time investigating. I've seen it done that way in a  
> bunch of shops, where they just chalk it up to the "cost of sale".  
> Maybe I'm just stupid and nobody else works like this, but I know  
> that I've spent a _lot_ of time estimating something out (sometimes  
> as much as 20% of the estimate!) and not billing for it. That  
> doesn't seem right to me. How do you guys handle the OP's situation  
> from a billing standpoint?

I think it really just depends on the client and the job in question.  
I've worked in both types of situations. One shop where I worked as a  
developer, had a dedicated sales staff, and leads that came in, that  
were qualified, were automatically allowed small bits of time with  
project management, lead engineers or developers along the way. For  
example, when a qualified lead came in, in the initial assessment, the  
sales staff was allowed say 30 minutes of project manager, and 30  
minutes of engineering time (i.e. time that the manager or engineer  
could mark as billed towards sales) just to determine, "can we do  
this," "is this the type of project we would take," and so on. Then  
maybe an hour of time with each in the secondary phase of preparing a  
SWAG and estimate, and some time in a third phase for revisions, and  
double checking, so on.

My take, is that the development shop has to take the hit for part of  
that process, and that the client should take the hit for part of it.  
Where the line between those points lies, is the biggest question.  
Maybe for some companies, they provide all this at no charge to the  
client, but when the client needs estimates, or revisions beyond their  
allowed 'budget' they are charged.

All this to say, I believe it really depends. I seem to gravitate  
towards two types of clients: the large site redesign/implement  
projects, and the small 200-300 line modules for specific needs. The  
small modules can usually be fleshed out or specced out over a 10  
minute phone call and come from repeat clients, so I feel no need to  
bill for estimates. Yet for larger project I often charge anywhere  
from 4-12 hours just to do an assessment and prepare an estimate and  
project plan, from the clients requests, and current site assessment.


Michael Prasuhn
503.512.0822 office
mike at mikeyp.net

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