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A Useful Frame of Reference

Last week the members of an organization I’m friendly with looked to me to what you might call “spot check” a project proposal that they had received.  It was a sizable project, so there was to look things over to ensure that it, as scoped out, would predictably leave them happy with the result when the work was all done and the fee was all paid.  I looked for answers to the following concerns:

  • Are there any disconnects between the expectations of the organization and the contractor’s understanding of those expectations?
  • Is there anything missing?
  • Is the scope of the project sufficient to complete what the organization wants?
  • Are there any gotchas, or foreseeable add-ons that will be needed later?
  • Is the time line accurate and realistic?
  • Is the price commensurate with the work, and reasonable against industry norms?

Doing this was a great opportunity: I got to exercise one of my more unique abilities to help out some friends, and I got a rare chance to compare how I roll with others in my trade.

What ideas, lessons, or insights did I take away from that comparison?  Plenty, but for now I’m going to focus on the one that strikes me the most:

I’m super inexpensive and work uncommonly fast.

(A corollary to that, I suppose, is that my sales process is rubbish: if I could pitch on a lot more projects a year I could perhaps get away with selling fewer but far less sweet-of-a-deal jobs for my clients.)

After fully grokking the project as laid out and enjoying a follow up conversation with members of the organization, I was clear I would be delighted to do it for literally half the price and could deliver it several weeks sooner, which made me feel pretty darn effective.  My deepest compliment however was what came back to me from the contractor: the presumption that in order to realize such cheap speed I would be using off-shore resources.

Nope, it’s just little ol’ me and my friends at Playground Creative. :)


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.