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The Free Day

I stood in the office of my clients having just wrapped up a successful quick visit, and gave a strategic, pensive pause.

“So… you guys get a free day.” I said plainly, as though what I meant was perfectly clear and well established.

It wasn’t of course, and immediately aroused the earnest curiosity that I was aiming for.  “What’s that mean?” asked one of my clients, as if right on cue.

“A free day.  Meaning I’ll come into the office at 9am prompt, laptop in hand, and be at your disposal to bang out whatever new features, tweaks, enhancements, or anything else you’d like to add to your system.  My super powers are yours to wield for a full day, no charge.  I totally dig working with you guys, and this is my way of saying thanks for the opportunity.”

(As an aside, let me point out that our working relationship had thus far been 100% based on me assigning dollar amounts to chunks of work (projects, features, enhancements, etc).  Hourly availability was never on the table, as I don’t really believe in that model for the kind of work that I do.  So to have me in the office to perform whatever work I could in a solid 8 hour day was quite the novelty, and a rather valuable one at that.)

“It’s a chance for you to get whatever enhancements or tweaks made to have you really love the system without worrying about the cost.” I went on to explain.  “Having me in house will enable me to quickly identify how you’re using things and what’ll make them even better for you.”  Eyes lit up at the prospect, they were just about to go live with the system for the first time, and having me after a few days of really using things was in their estimation perfect and fortuitous timing.  We picked a day during the following week.

“It’s good form to buy me lunch, during that day.” I said with a smile as I walked out, “Keeps me at my desk working on stuff for longer.  Oh, and for best results I also recommend having a spare monitor available… I can get more done when rockin’ the dual screen.”

The day itself was a hit.  My second monitor as well a USB keyboard (“in case you prefer it to your laptop keyboard) were there and waiting in my conference room setup when I arrived, and the whiteboard was loaded up with a huge list of check box-adorned to-dos.  A spirit of “yay, John’s in the house!” was palpably in the air.  I was well taken care of and lunch ordered in was delicious.

I say this all not to boast, but to point out how the human element can massively work in everyone’s favor in programming.  I’m human, so the excitement that I’m in the house pumps me up, which gives me massive focus and determination to have a rockin’ day, which creates superb results.  Programming at its purpose-filled, invigorated best.

And when 5pm rolled around, what was the net result of this 8-hour generosity?  My client loves their system even more, have gotten massive value out of the programming I did, and appreciates the heck out of me for it.  I walk on air as I leave the office after having the sensation of being a hero for a day, I’m better related to what my clients are trying to accomplish which henceforth makes me a better consultant to them, I’ve got a bunch more billable work to perform to wrap up and extend upon various bits that got done, and I got free lunch.

A day in the life of a programmer well spent.


This is Programmer for Hire, a series of essays and explorations on the art of being a great programmer doing on-demand custom software development.

  1. September 27th, 2013 at 05:26 | #1

    Your attitude rocks! No wonder you are racing fast to be one among the best. Kudos.

  1. July 21st, 2011 at 13:58 | #1
  2. June 1st, 2012 at 08:06 | #2