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Re: Catch-22 Software Cost

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On Dec 10, 2004, at 10:32 AM, Jordan Truesdell, PE wrote:

and ties into your response to the class-warfare email
You wouldn't expect anything different, would you? ;->

are we providing a product-based service (an engineering design) or are we simply providing outsourced engineering manpower to our clients?
That's tied up in the matter of responsible charge. If I'm carrying out my work autonomously, it's engineering services as defined by law, and it goes out on my letterhead. If I'm working closely supervised at the direction of another, I do generally what I'm assigned with my supervisor resolving any differences between my judgment and his own. In that case the nature of the work is outsourced engineering and he signs the work on his letterhead. I'm not certain how this is relevant, but that's how I do it. Often the distinction is made according to whose letterhead is used.

In a small shop, especially, the hourly rate gets complicated. With no administrative personnel to lick stamps and copy transmittals, no drafting staff to take a napkin-sketch and get most of the lines into CAD, and no junior engineers to do the simple calculations and layouts, how do you bill?
If I act autonomously I prefer fixed billing or based on an agreed upon scope of work. If the client doesn't know exactly what he needs or if it's a small job I'll bill hourly against an agreed-on maximum. I have a deathly fear of open-ended jobs or jobs where the client doesn't know what he wants. It's a situation where frustrated expectations and a certain amount of hard feelings is practically guaranteed, unless my client and I go far enough back so we can read each other's minds.

If I spend admin time on a job, it means I don't feel bad when I round the final bill up to the next half-hour, or don't subtract a minute on the phone with a telemarketer from my time.
Absolutely. I save a great deal of effort writing my own reports and making the odd hand sketch or the equivalent with Canvas and answering my own phone. I'm kind of anal anyway and I'm certain I save time without having to explain what's needed to the person who's going to do it or setting up office procedures. Being a professional man, as opposed to an economic man limits my income but it also limits my stress. Fortunately I'm not faced with many jobs that might involve falling into smoke boxes or broken steam lines.

I try and do most of my jobs fixed price, and almost all of my jobs over two or three days effort are fixed. Some of my work really is like outsourcing though, and I probably had thirty jobs this year that I billed less than three hours on, but it's great advertising in a small town when every contractor knows who you are.
Very much like my practice. For the most part, the only smaller jobs I do are forensic work--inspections and meetings and the like. I do the odd contract job from time-to-time, but it feels too much like working captive, and sometimes leads to feelings of overwhelming dread. The moments of wild comedy, like the earnest HR person telling me I needed to get a drug test or scheduling my company-mandated orientation the day before my assignment ended, are amusing in a Kafka-esque sort of way, but nothing I welcome.

Christopher Wright P.E. |"They couldn't hit an elephant at
chrisw(--nospam--at)    | this distance" (last words of Gen.
...................................| John Sedgwick, Spotsylvania 1864)

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