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I Charged $18k for a Static HTML Page(idiallo.com)

1148 pointsfirefoxd posted a year ago227 Comments
227 Comments:
crispyambulance said a year ago:

My parents had been running their own tailor shop in the 80's, barely making ends meet, pulling in less than $20K a year.

It wasn't for lack of business, father was a master tailor trained in Italy and capable of elite bespoke craftsmanship. They had as much business as they could handle. The problem was that they were charging what they thought the work was worth rather than what their customers were willing to pay.

At some point, during the Reagan years, my mother had an epiphany and jacked up the prices massively, far beyond what my father thought was remotely reasonable. The result? Even more business, more pressure, more return customers. That put me and my brother through an expensive college.

There's something about high rates that makes customers feel more important, it's a status-thing and it also propels them to take you more seriously even if they have you do low-value stuff.

gus_massa said a year ago:

This reminds me one of my favorite comments of patio11 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4477088

>> Frew, who apprenticed with a Savile Row tailor, can — all by himself, and almost all by hand — create a pattern, cut fabric and expertly construct a suit that, for about $4,000, perfectly molds to its owner’s body. In a city filled with very rich people, he quickly had all the orders he could handle.

> You don't have to be Wall Street to figure out the bleedingly obvious solution to being a starving artist who has so much work they have to turn work away. Raise the prices. Then raise the prices. Then when you're done with that, raise the prices.

> At some point you'll be too expensive for the typical businessman, which will make you absolutely crack for a certain type of person common in New York, thus defeating all efforts at being less busy. So it goes. I guess you will have to raise prices.

chaiii said a year ago:

I wonder if it's sustainable though. If you keep raising the prices and people buy what you're selling, and then eventually realize the quality isn't up to par of what they're paying for.

prof1le said a year ago:

There were mentioned studies in the book "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion" that mirrored what your parents experienced.

Long story short, a jeweler was trying to move some turquoise and told an assistant to sell them at half price while she was gone. The assistant accidentally doubled the price, but the stones still sold immediately.

Turns out there's a phenomenon where humans automatically associate price to quality. So getting charged more means we think we're getting better quality, regardless of the actual quality

kevin_thibedeau said a year ago:

Same for brown diamonds.

said a year ago:
[deleted]
Bokanovsky said a year ago:

This is a classic example of a Veblen good [1].

"Veblen goods are types of luxury goods for which the quantity demanded increases as the price increases, an apparent contradiction of the law of demand, resulting in an upward-sloping demand curve. Some goods become more desirable because of their high prices."

The suits are expensive, so they must be good. It's also a status signal to others that you can afford such goods. (Edit minor typo).

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veblen_good

n-exploit said a year ago:

As the Director of Technology at a non-profit organization, how am I supposed to staff software engineering resources when these pricing practices like these are commonplace in the for-profit world? How am I supposed to make an argument to the board that a single technology staff member, let alone a working team, is 5x-10x more valuable than the rest of the workforce? I'm going to admit it - it's hard to see stuff like this and not be extremely frustrated. Tech is already one of the largest cost centers in an enterprise, and it's proving to be nearly impossible to find any tech staff willing to work for, admittedly, crumbs.

x0x0 said a year ago:

Maybe, but not necessarily.

When I price out eg contractors, I know roughly what a senior SE should cost. Where I live, that's $150/hour.

If you come in at $75, I don't assume you're a bargain. I assume there's something wrong with you. Either you're not good, or are just starting out, or whatever the case may be.

In this case, just like I bet the tailor, the point isn't paying more for status. The point is that a service should cost X, so someone going way under cost worries the buyer.

__jal said a year ago:

For anyone interested, I highly recommend _Theory of the Leisure Class_, in which Veblen developed the notion:

http://moglen.law.columbia.edu/LCS/theoryleisureclass.pdf

otakucode said a year ago:

I've a friend who has run his own small IT business for a bit over a decade. When I talk to him and he mentions how much he charges, I always tell him it is far too low. He sees it as being easy for him, so he doesn't think he should charge much. I've tried to explain to him that when the plumber comes over, you're not loading that guy down with quantum physics work... he knows how to unclog your drain or run a new water line. That's easy for him. He charges a high amount because his services are valuable. And I, for one, am happy to pay that plumber the high amount. It saves me having to invest far larger amounts in learning and tooling up to do it myself.

I've worked alongside him a few times on projects that his clients had which required coding work alongside the hardware and sysadmin stuff, and each time I've had to badger him into charging double or more than what he wanted to charge. And of course the customers paid for it, because it was still a good deal and I could show them a conservative estimate that said the system would pay for itself in savings in under 2 years. When freelancing, those are my favorite contracts. Where you can show to the customer up-front that you will be saving them money in the long run. It's always much easier to sell them at that point, and I think the amount its going to save is a pretty good proxy for the value of the work.

fencepost said a year ago:

Steer him to /r/msp or to Karl Palachuk's books.

If his prices are that low he could likely increase by 25% or more and not lose any clients - and even if he did lose some odds are good that they'd be his cheapest and worst ones.

If you double your rates and lose half your customers, congratulations! Now you have the same revenue plus available time to go find more customers fine with the higher rate.

projektfu said a year ago:

Bravo, but the article was about being placed at a typical rate on a 20 hour job that became a 300 hour job. Here's an article about what you're talking about: https://hbr.org/2017/10/why-you-should-charge-clients-more-t...

biztos said a year ago:

I'm not sure this is totally applicable to say a tailor shop, but I do wish more craftspeople would try charging more money for quality work.

For example say I want some shelves built. If my shelf-builder charges $X that's fine, but what if I would happily pay $2X?

On the one hand, I might be personally miffed to know I'm paying 2X instead of the X someone else is paying. On the other hand, I'd probably be the more satisfied customer if I don't know (or have the discipline to ignore) the price gap, because the shelf-builder is probably going to give extra effort in hope of getting more jobs from the 2X clientele.

It would be interesting to explore what would make your 2X client feel good even if they know they are paying double. And would that scale to 4X or 40X clients?

sundvor said a year ago:

There must also be the satisfaction derived from keeping a quality craftsperson in business, in face of the cheap-shot mass manufacture that seems to happen everywhere.

antt said a year ago:

I met a welder who had hourly prices above work samples.

The $300h one looked like a piece of art. The $20h looked like sea gull crap landing randomly around the piece.

stronglikedan said a year ago:

But also, charge accordingly, if you don't have to post your prices (as your parents probably did). A lawyer is likely willing to pay a lot more for the same website than a tailor shop, and I'll gladly take both of their money.

crispyambulance said a year ago:

Yes, "charge accordingly" means different things to different customers.

My parents never advertised their tailor shop, it was all "word-of-mouth" business. After the pricing jack-up, every customer got charged what my mother felt they could pay (with a very loose regard for consistency and some allowance for negotiation).

I used to think that was sketchy. It wasn't until much later that I realized that B2B enterprise sales people do that stuff ALL THE TIME even with their onerous kpi's, forecasting and fiscal quarter expectations!

selflesssieve said a year ago:

The term is price discrimination.

Offering coupons through the mail, online ad codes etc. You are reaching out to different demos using different marketing techniques and offering or not offering discounts accordingly.

bparsons said a year ago:

It is a rule of thumb in any client or contact work that the less you are charging them, the more difficult and demanding the customer will be.

55555 said a year ago:

One day randomly in the 80s IIRC, Rolex tripled their prices, and they haven't lowered them since. The same watch cost three times as much at retail one day than it did the day prior.

Phillipharryt said a year ago:

According to ABlogToWatch, you're completely incorrect.

https://www.ablogtowatch.com/rolex-prices-past-60-years-reve...

It's a pretty stable increase, and adjusting for inflation it's actually a fairly low increase for a product that has improved over time.

mywittyname said a year ago:

If you respect yourself, then you'll respect your work.

said a year ago:
[deleted]
m463 said a year ago:

"I don't want some small-time amatuer working on my $5000 power suit!"

RantyDave said a year ago:

That's no amateur, that's an artisan. A craftsman. Your personal tailor.

EGreg said a year ago:

Are there any examples of this but with virtual things? Sites, apps, digital goods? Some status thing?

I can understand when it comes to physical goods.

conanbatt said a year ago:

Its not the same customers.

Welcome to marketing!

antt said a year ago:

If you want to be paid more: ask for more. It is astonishing how few people do.

aequitas said a year ago:

A valuable lesson I learned at a young age from one of my first 'customers' when doing computer repair jobs for friends and neighbours was is that you don't get paid for what you can or do but for the value you add or time (money) you save someone.

Most of the time the problems I had to solve where easy ones. Install printer, update software, remove toolbars, email settings, etc. All 5 minute work jobs, seldom totalling to more than an hour or 2 an evening. Not even worth asking money for in my opinion, because it was so easy en quick for me to do. But my neighbour always insisted I accept his money. Because for him, having to solve these issues himself would cost him multiple evenings. So the money he was giving me, which felt like too much to me, was stil a bargain for him. Also in his words it was easy for me because I had spend years in training to acquire this knowledge, or as others might call it: wasting your time behind that computer playing video games.

wallace_f said a year ago:

That's lucky. When I sas 19, around the height of IE and 'every Windows box with malware,' I tried to start a similar business.

Probably my most wealthy client, with an oversized SUV in the driveway, had a home computer rendered unusable by malware--something I had fixed before. But she ended up asking me to leave. She decided she wanted "real professionals" working on her computer. She told me I didn't know what I was doing, saying 'are you really going to fix it for this much or do you actually need to just start searching the web for what you are doing? (she saw that I had performed a google search...).'

It took me way, way too long in life to learn most of it is just perception and learning how to manage dealing with less-than-ideal people.

pimmen said a year ago:

This attitude to googling is poisonous. I once helped an elderly relative in my teens with his router and I got the same treatment after I googled the answer. Later we watched a court drama the entire family, with the same relative present, and there was a scene where the lawyers crack the books and review the legal paper work. Being the obnoxious teen I was I couldn't help myself from blurting out "Wow, what terrible lawyers, look at them doing research for their cases before they solve the problems. Wow, I figured they could recite every law and ruling ever by heart since they supposedly know what they're doing, now I question why the defendant doesn't just represent himself, I mean everyone can read a book, right? This movie is so unrealistic!"

I got scolded by my parents but at the end of the day: worth it.

fencepost said a year ago:

Goosh.org

"You're not paying me to search Google, you're paying me to know what to search for and how the results apply or don't to your particular situation."

shawnz said a year ago:

Right, you should have charged her more. If you pick a rate that seems reasonable for the amount of work involved then she'll wonder why she couldn't just do it herself. You also need to price in all the learning and experience you needed up to that point, otherwise the client will think you're doing a cheap/half-assed job.

Wistar said a year ago:

The (probably apocryphal) Picasso napkin story:

Picasso is sitting in a Paris cafe when a fan approaches the artist and asks that he make a quick sketch on a paper napkin. Picasso acquiesces, draws his dove and promptly hands it back to his admirer along with an ask for a rather large sum of money. The fan is flummoxed. “How can you ask for so much? It took you only a minute to draw this.” To which Picasso replies, "No, it took me 40 years."

droithomme said a year ago:

> “How can you ask for so much? It took you only a minute to draw this.”

translation: I expected to pay $5 for this napkin drawing, and later sell it for $10,000. Then you asked me $1000 for the drawing. That means you just tried to steal $995 from me. Outrageous! You are a thief, Mr. Picasso!

wgjordan said a year ago:

Likely apocryphal [1], possibly inspired by a true story from 1878 about a court case involving well-known painter James McNeill Whistler [2]:

> "Oh, two days! The labour of two days, then, is that for which you ask two hundred guineas!"

> "No;-I ask it for the knowledge of a lifetime."

[1] https://quoteinvestigator.com/2018/01/14/time-art/

[2] https://quoteinvestigator.com/2018/01/12/lifetime/

twic said a year ago:

> it was easy for me because I had spend years in training to acquire this knowledge

"knowing where to tap":

https://quoteinvestigator.com/2017/03/06/tap/

nostalgk said a year ago:

Not sure I quite understand the mechanics behind it as well, but I've been through a similar training program and it appears to be effective.

ryanbrunner said a year ago:

Entertaining story - although as advice to anyone reading it, running up the clock without proactively notifying people that you're going way beyond your original estimate is a very good way to make getting paid incredibly difficult.

im_new_here said a year ago:

I don't disagree, but it's worth noting that at the end of it all, he billed them for $18k and they decided it was too little.

Aeolun said a year ago:

I mean, if I’m not paying with my money. And I know the guy has just been there waiting for stuff to happen for weeks, I’d happily do the same thing.

brundolf said a year ago:

It was my impression that that's what he did. Of course the whole situation still could've made it difficult to get paid, but I don't think there's anything else he could've done.

Semiapies said a year ago:

Specifically telling them that they had kept him over his initial estimate (and so his estimate was increasing) when he neared or passed that point. He didn't sound terribly proactive about bringing this up while talking to people, either. Lunches with the manager where they didn't talk any business, etc.

megaremote said a year ago:

No, he clearly didn't. He only worked out the costs at the end.

everdev said a year ago:

Just to clarify, he got paid $21k for 7 weeks of time. He just so happened to only deliver a static HTML page, but was on prem as requested during the engagement.

Still, it's a quick way to get a reputation for running up the clock.

collinmanderson said a year ago:

In fact, it's actually only about $50/hr.

jkingsbery said a year ago:

Alternatively (or in addition): sending invoices periodically.

vidarh said a year ago:

I thought no that's the reason why right answer. He could be as much in the right as possible, and but he still took significant risk that they might argue, delay and force him to go to court or negotiate to get them to pay.

Sometimes it might be worth it - maybe the plug would have been pulled sooner if he had invoiced regularly. But it's still a risk.

atoav said a year ago:

Precisely the oposite. People are usually willing to pay far more, if they are to blame for you beeing slow. If they only get the slightest hint of a feeling that you might be kicking the can down the road, they will blame it on you entirely.

This is, why you leave a paper/email trail.

tomcam said a year ago:

According to the article he emailed them daily.

spiderfarmer said a year ago:

Yeah but not to let them know his estimate was off.

said a year ago:
[deleted]
duxup said a year ago:

I know someone working as a contractor for a big company.

1 year contract.

6 months have gone by and they've done ... nothing. Their boss keeps saying "Don't worry we'll get to you, we're just swamped right now, you're good."

They're already talking about extending the contract.

sharkweek said a year ago:

Big companies (rather, people at big companies) WANT to spend money on this kind of stuff for all sorts of reasons.

-A team might have use-it-or-lose-it budget, so they have to spend it on something, and a contractor might be the lucky recipient!

-Tax purposes!

-Spending a lot on a contractor gives them someone to "fire" when they need to explain why something wasn't getting done or something went poorly!

The list goes on!

All that being said, as a consultant myself, I consider those types of projects windfall, as they tend to be the ones that end abruptly. It's kind of a scary feeling getting paid without actual work to do. I have found I 100% prefer the projects where there are clear tasks, goals, and results to report, if for nothing else than my own sanity.

JakeTheAndroid said a year ago:

I remember growing up and going to work with my Dad. There was like a 3 hour period where he had no work for me to do. He told me I'd only get half wages for the day (I was like 12) since the last few hours I did nothing. I felt betrayed. He empathized with me, saying 'It sometimes feels like more work to not have any work to do'. I completely agree.

In my current role, there is no real roadmap or trajectory for what I should be doing or how I should report on it, etc. I have felt at times that I was just collecting a check, and that felt really scary. I expected I would love to have a job where I could kind of just do whatever I wanted on my own time table. But I have learned it's actually very stressful, and at best very boring. Luckily I got a roadmap created and prioritized, so I feel better. But it is an odd experience.

sct202 said a year ago:

One of my bosses was the recipient of one of these during a corporate merger, and I think it did a lot of damage to him. He has been mostly was coasting off of his reputation from before he slacked off for 3+ years in that role. But it doesn't look like he's able to last for more than a year anywhere. I suspect that he was one of those competent-but-lazy types whose skills rusted out to to just lazy.

madeofpalk said a year ago:

Its stories (and personal experience) like this that make me laugh when people try and say that governments are inefficient and lacks accountability.

brundolf said a year ago:

One would think the use-it-or-lose-it problem would've been solved by now. It's so obviously dysfunctional. Is there really no better way to determine budget?

peteradio said a year ago:

Unless you are getting taxed >100% I never understood why you'd want to throw away money for "tax reasons". Can someone please help me understand this, it always comes up and I feel dumb for not understanding.

tomduncalf said a year ago:

I was tempted to ask if you have any tips for finding such jobs ;) but actually the times when I’ve been most unfulfilled in my career have been when I’ve been bored at work. I’d much rather be working like crazy (within certain parameters), keeps things interesting!

That said I do know people who’ve been paid to turn up at an office and just work on their side projects. Could probably handle that!

solotronics said a year ago:

Get going for a few of these simultaneously and you are set.

maxxxxx said a year ago:

Happens all the time. We can hire only at certain times when budgets open, so you go ahead and hire but you have no time to deal with the person. It’s better to have the person sit around until you have time because the alternative is losing the contractor and not being able to hire when you really need someone.

Stupid but very real. I always find it funny that wasting 100k this way is perfectly fine but a 5k raise is almost impossible.

pier25 said a year ago:

> I always find it funny that wasting 100k this way is perfectly fine but a 5k raise is almost impossible.

This is too real.

At my current job they are incapable of even small raises to keep up with inflation or even investing money in making a better product. Although the company has no problem redecorating the office, sending management to a useless international fair where they spend their time in bars getting drunk, or spending exorbitant amounts of money for sending someone to CNN and getting $0 ROI from that.

ghaff said a year ago:

When I was out of the vendor side of the business doing consulting for a number of years, I always had to shake my head a bit when clients wouldn't use paid-for time with us or would apparently never make use of some materials like a whitepaper we did at their request.

But it's exactly like you say. People wouldn't get their act together sufficiently to have a team meet with us on some topic for a day or some marketing campaign would be canceled or changed so they no longer specifically needed what we had created for them. Easier to just forget about the whole thing and move on.

blunte said a year ago:

I've lived this. Myself and a very expensive team of EY kids were waiting eagerly every day for anyone in corp management to throw us any kind of tasks.

On the rare occasion that we were given a task, we would all descend upon one computer like vultures, group-solving the problem typically in 60minutes or less. Then it was back to doing nothing.

Diplomacy (the game) became our primary activity. It was fun, but such a terrible waste of time, talent, and money.

fibers said a year ago:

That's awesome. What group were you in?

JabavuAdams said a year ago:

What are EY kids?

at-fates-hands said a year ago:

I had a similar experience a few years ago.

I quit at a company I was contracting at because they kept dangling the whole, "We're going to convert you to an FTE next." in the meantime, I was working less than 20 hours a week. If you didn't have a project to bill hours to, you didn't get paid, period. I was floating between teams, fixing bugs and doing minor stuff, not being able to bill much of anything. Once I quit I was offered another contract role. I basically told the recruiter, "Listen, if I'm in the office, I'm getting paid for my time, period." Recruiter got it cleared with HR and the hiring manager.

My first day went like this:

Manager: "Ummm yeah, the two major projects we had you slated on, ummmm those got put on hold for the time being. Get your desk and PC setup and we'll have something for you soon."

I literally went 4 months and barely billed any real project work. My last two weeks I had 36 hours of non-billable time. I had two weeks where I actually billed a full weeks worth when a dev took off for his honeymoon and did exactly zero work he was assigned. The funny part is when I quit, the hiring manager told me he would hire me in a minute and to keep in contact.

In the meantime, I was able to learn AngularJS and some other stuff while I was sitting at my desk all day. In a sense, I was very productive when I was there.

duxup said a year ago:

> I was able to learn AngularJS and some other stuff

Yeah that's what I would hope to do too. Lots of time, let's dig in to that stuff there's never time to learn!

biztos said a year ago:

I've seen the same thing, off and on, for over 20 years.

Employee or contractor gets stuck somewhere with nothing much to do... speaks to manager about it repeatedly... gets the "just find something to do, we'll get to you" speech... fails (often despite good-faith effort) to find anything useful to do... and eventually gives up.

Worst case I personally witnessed was a quite talented dev going six months without any actual project, then another couple before quitting.

Another case was a guy who tried to use his abundant free time to learn other skills but mostly ended up playing Myst, which proves this phenomenon is as old as dirt. :-). (He ultimately gave up the Myst Gig and quit, I'm sure to the consternation of his manager who probably lost a head-count over it.)

AchieveLife said a year ago:

That's why I offer a retainer package. Get paid for just being available when needed and work a non-conflicting contract elsewhere.

SketchySeaBeast said a year ago:

Do you keep those packages reasonable? Have you ever found yourself with too many retainers being called in at once?

duxup said a year ago:

Yeah a sort of

"Hey I'm already up to speed on this so if you want to pick it up again quickly ...." proposal probabbly would seem like a good idea to the company for a while at least.

misiti3780 said a year ago:

i worked for lockheed martin 10 years ago (give or take) on a client site. I was W2 (although I wish i was 1099). Anyways, when the government changed from W -> Obama a lot of the DOD contracts were changing because everyone anticipated the Obama was going to cut defense spending (which he did). The project found out that the DOD was not going to be able to re-fund the project, but we had to continue to the end. I ended up forced to "work from home" for about six months until the contract ran out. I legally couldnt get another job, but I went on vacation for a month or two. So I calculate I got paid 1/2 my salary at the time + benefits for doing exactly nothing.

TecoAndJix said a year ago:

I worked for another large defense contractor auditing government IT systems. To do this, you needed a clearance and auditing certification designed by the gov. Well, they would just go ahead and hire people WHILE the clearance process went through (which can take months) and only schedule certain technology certification classes every few months. There were people sitting at home for 4-6 months getting paid in full while they waited for either a class or their clearance to go through. I sadly already had a clearance and "only" had to wait a month for my class.

robocat said a year ago:

Maybe a result of cost-plus?

Anywhere where employee hours are getting charged out, a company can increase profits by increasing headcount.

It also seems to happen more indirectly. A contracting company is often motivated to increase red-tape (such as complex and unnecessary health-and-safety, because everyone agrees safety is good). That has a double win: less competition (side effect of complex requirements) and more hours charged (each hour charged increases profits with little risk).

tomduncalf said a year ago:

Yeah this happens more than you’d expect! Never had it myself but I’ve worked st places where it’s happened to colleagues (usually assigned unimportant BAU work than actually doing nothing but I do know of people who’ve basically had nothing to do!)

duxup said a year ago:

I sort of suspect all these people I've met that I've wondered why they like being a contractor .... are all on that system.

I kinda want to be a contractor now.

bryanrasmussen said a year ago:

I've worked at pretty big companies and the only way I've ever gotten away with not producing any code was because I was going through onboarding hell. At the worst 2 weeks to get onboarded.

pault said a year ago:

Were you an employee? I think the situation being described here is almost always with contractors and freelancers.

yibg said a year ago:

I had a friend working on contract for the local city government. The contract was I believe for 2 years. A year in the project got cancelled but since his contract has already been signed they just kept paying him with no work for him to do. He just went in (because of course he still had to show up for some reason), and played games all day. Now I partially understand why so many government projects go over budget.

netwanderer3 said a year ago:

I know a couple of friends who worked at the major banks. They all started out as contractors. I remember one guy told me during their first year that all they did was browsing Reddit at work. He was a close friend and didn't want me to join their team because he knew I would display the level of work ethic that would make him look bad.

NightlyDev said a year ago:

If that happens then you're definetly charging too little. In a lot of places you can't actually just work for just one client for an extended time as a consultant or freelancer as you then might just as well be an employee.

dv_dt said a year ago:

Sometimes having resources on standby, ready to start really is the fastest way to get through a project (sometimes it is just waste though)...

55555 said a year ago:

Yeah I know a guy who had that waiting gig for 1.5 years before he was finally assigned his first bit of work.

osrec said a year ago:

You should try working in an investment bank as a contractor. You need to find the right team, but a lot of them are massive collections of people doing virtually nothing but getting paid great daily rates. The trick is to look busy and wrap your team/yourself in a perceived sense of enigma and complexity. If you play your cards right, you can end up in a situation where no one will ask questions as long as you fire off an email now and again. You can keep getting paid for doing almost nothing for years.

paganel said a year ago:

The George Costanza way of doing business. The more I grow less young (I’m close to 40 now) the more I realize that the Costanza character is one of the closest approximations of daily life in a society like ours. Dilbert or “The Office” TV series are also very good fits but George Costanza is in a world of his own.

mprev said a year ago:

Ugh, but who wants to do nothing all day? You get one life; why waste your days?

webninja said a year ago:

Having nothing to do but being forced to look busy is a special kind of hell.

osrec said a year ago:

I agree with you, but a lot of people are happy to take the money for doing nothing. Sometimes this is driven by lack of capability - if you're not good at much, not very driven but still want a great income and lifestyle, this sorta hits the sweet spot.

Also a lot of these people lie to themselves about their own importance, in order to have a (false) sense of self worth (but they're okay with it).

sosodev said a year ago:

Are your days any less "wasted" laboring away?

solotronics said a year ago:

I have a theory that in most large companies the 80/20 rule applies. 20% of the engineers do 80% of the work.

ThePadawan said a year ago:

Sure, because the other 80% of engineers have to clean up after the 20%.

imtringued said a year ago:

That doesn't mean the other 80% are useless. They generally work on less important things that are still bringing in more revenue than they cost in salaries.

mrguyorama said a year ago:

It also feels like those same 80% of the engineers doing nothing are taking home 80% of the compensation

linuxftw said a year ago:

This describes >80% of engineering departments at past large firms where I've worked. Ironically, these people are 'architects' and get paid handsomely.

stefek99 said a year ago:

The trouble with bank that I had - most of the websites were firewalled.

I was gardening various projects on GitHub and increasing my StackOverflow reputation.

I wasn't enjoying it.

At some level there is a need for accomplishment.

Poor work ethics become a virus, difficult to concentrate at home later.

IkmoIkmo said a year ago:

I've got similar experiences working for corporate clients, but it was legal work, not tech stuff. It was a bit more complex than the equivalent of a static HTML, but something that anyone with an IQ of > 90 could learn in less than half a year.

There were days when I'd charge clients $15k... for a day's work. This wouldn't have been possible if I worked on-site. But I was essentially completing $15k of contracted work in a single day, which was sold as a fixed-fee in return for a legal report. The type of work that should cost maybe $200 in total.

Corporations get kind of crazy, there's extreme focus on some areas (mainly, those with KPIs and KPI owners attached), and extreme nonchalance on others. They're so big that there's just lots of insane things like this that slip through.

TomVDB said a year ago:

There was a time during the golden dotcom era when my manager scheduled a monthly management meeting across the Atlantic, which required me and 2 colleagues flying all the way over for a meeting that lasted about 4 hours.

Business class plane tickets, 2 nights in a nice hotel, rental car, dinner at very fancy restaurant.

Meanwhile, that same 100k+ employee company wasn't able to set up email fast enough for new employees, so some new hires had to use hotmail(!) for weeks before they were in the system.

pault said a year ago:

> $15k of contracted work in a single day, which was sold as a fixed-fee in return for a legal report. The type of work that should cost maybe $200 in total.

This sounds like a SaaS waiting to happen.

bduerst said a year ago:

These types of gigs are more about who you know rather than the work that gets done. I'm guessing that you didn't just cold interview for this work, right?

mettamage said a year ago:

I'd like to ask a couple of questions about this. My email is in my profile if you'd like to answer them.

rocky1138 said a year ago:

This is how corporate works. They have budgets for things. The money doesn't come out of the pocket of the person who cuts the cheque. You send in an invoice and it gets paid. If it doesn't, the company is insolvent or they are at risk to lawsuits which will cost them more than your paltry $18000. But they don't even think about the lawsuit part. Bill comes in, cheque goes out.

buttcoinslol said a year ago:

At my company, AP matches every invoice against a PO, and project managers/department heads are also responsible for approving invoices to be paid, so there are two chances to catch fake invoices or wrong amounts, etc.

wjnc said a year ago:

Can you give my boss the 101? He has me methodically checking invoices against tenders. I would actually argue the other way. As our consultants rely on our return business, they would quickly solve any problem with the invoice even if not to the letter correct. We have bargaining power and they don't want to bite the hand that feeds them.

derefr said a year ago:

How do they prevent paying random people who decide it'd be funny to send them an invoice?

gk1 said a year ago:

Great illustration of why hourly billing makes no sense, for either side.

In this case, as usual, the amount of hours "spent" on the project has little to do with actual value provided.

From the contractor's side, he's excited about getting 12x the original quote, instead of realizing he's been severely undercharging for his work and could've been earning 10x or more all this time. I wonder if the author will start charging appropriately for the value he's providing, or if he'll consider this a fluke and continue with $75/hour.

Phrased another way... How many times did you complete a project within the estimated time and get paid $1,500, when actually the company would have been glad to pay $18,000?

Last week there was a thread about consulting tips. I couldn't believe how many people were arguing for hourly billing. One person was even proud of billing by the minute! I hope those people see this story and realize what they're leaving on the table.

I have similar stories to this, where work got delayed due to issues on client's end. One time, I spent a month doing nothing while the client was dealing with something, which later turned out to be a big acquisition. If I billed by "hours worked" then I'd get nothing, but because I had a monthly retainer I still got paid.

Edit: I'm not advocating "fixed price." I'm advocating monthly retainers.

noir_lord said a year ago:

One of the first web systems I ever put into production (still in use other than modernization I went 5 years without a bug report which still astounds me) after I jumped from desktop to web I charged £1500 for (it was about 20 hours actual work the rest was spent learning the right way to do things), did the job over 6 weeks.

Client let slip they'd been quoted £11,000 for it and 3mths.

Next job they asked me to do was £5,000 and I said 3mths (it took less than a month and I was working full time).

I learnt that lesson fast, don't charge what it's worth to you, charge what its worth to them.

Or as an ex-boss pithily put it "serious people charge serious money".

dymk said a year ago:

I'm gonna disagree that hourly billing makes no sense for the contractor. He clearly just didn't charge enough per hour; $75/hour is way too low for contract work, and his $21k could have been $56k at $200/hour.

What if the project was billed at a fixed cost, he negotiated $21k, but the project took a year to complete because the company moved so slowly? That'd be a terrible salary. He'd have to quit and somehow bill even with no deliverables. How hairy would a contract covering that be to defend when you sue?

aplummer said a year ago:

Hourly billing is how you protect yourself against a sloppy client like this, especially with unpredictability. I have seen fixed price blow up so much I would never ever do it personally - I would have to add so much it would be astonishing to be worth it.

himynameisdom said a year ago:

GK, I remember your presence on that thread. For those who were not there, it's under comment history. You spoke to the point of people needing your help (and not just anybody), which is kind of ridiculous in this case and the case from last week. You're opining value-driven fixed rate wisdom on a thread about a simple HTML page. If you dictate the pace of a specialty, of course you can charge whatever you want and call it "value-driven." For the other 99% of consultants out there, supply and demand bring pricing to an equilibrium. Retainers need not apply here nor in 90% of first-time client engagements.

Consultants who win the job will always leave money on the table. That's how you get the gig to begin with. Value is relative, and it takes at least two to tango come contract time until cost (what the client sees) and value (what you see) intersect.

Billing hourly brings pricing transparency clients want while protecting you from true under-utilization. If you're not being utilized because of red tape that was unassumed at contract time, a change order is the logical next step to account for scope remaining/additional scope.

S_A_P said a year ago:

I don't find this to be beyond belief, but there are a few things the author should have done differently.

1) Notify when hours were exceeded 2) Get written notification that he was still required to come in to the office while waiting for assets or otherwise at a blocker 3) Ask questions to further cement the requirements 4) pick up a phone?

I think that ethically this was not a great move on this persons part, but we live and learn, and hopefully they did learn from the experience.

Large companies have budgets that usually are "use it or lose it", so the ROI doesnt really matter most of the time. Secondly, large companies are less likely have "gate keeper" folks ensuring that there are not wasting hours when the timescale is less than one month. As costs escalate and budgets get blown, that is when they thin out the contractors.

analogmemory said a year ago:

I mean they were pretty clear they didn't care about the money. Emailing daily to check in on progress is good enough. I've been in a similar situation. The manager isn't really concerned about the money. They just need someone to justify their expenses.

> We need your full undivided attention to complete this project. For the duration of the contract, you will work exclusively with us to deliver result in a timely manner. We plan to compensate you for the trouble.

AceJohnny2 said a year ago:

> I think that ethically this was not a great move on this persons part, but we live and learn, and hopefully they did learn from the experience.

Sounds like the author reluctantly learned the opposite lesson, that ethics are silly and big companies will happily overpay you. He mentions multiple times his qualms about the whole situation.

piptastic said a year ago:

The author basically just had a job for a while. They aren't charging 18K for a web page, they're charging 18K to commute/be there for 7 weeks.

A lot of big companies aren't paying for output, they're paying for butts in seats. Why they do this has been discussed somewhat already in these comments.

biztos said a year ago:

> they're paying for butts in seats

There's also the case, which IMO is the standard case, that the company is trying to pay for output but it's a long and winding road from the butt in the seat to the output to the sale.

Within that, if you're say a dev manager, and it's really hard to get head count allocated, then it can be totally rational to keep an idle butt in a paid-for seat so you don't lose the seat.

Even if the Mr Idlebutt is terrible at his job you have at least some possibility of replacing him later on, when you have a need for some work to be done and probably wouldn't easily get a new seat allocated for it.

Not only is it nearly impossible to establish a direct relationship between any particular butt-in-seat and your budget, in principle it's probably a good thing to operate with a little excess capacity.

Until the dream of the Fully Fungible Knowledge Worker is achieved, which it won't be, this is a lot more rational than the implied waste would lead you to believe. Of course this doesn't factor in morale impact...

titanomachy said a year ago:

Yeah this doesn't seem like such a great deal when you consider that plenty of companies will pay that much, plus full benefits, for a full-time employee. And two months with only one small deliverable isn't that strange at a large company.

rhacker said a year ago:

Sometimes I do kinda wish to get back into consulting because of situations like these. In almost all cases the work is never used, but instead of bailing the company out, it's really just bailing some situation out. It's all internal politics.

Back when I was in my 20s during my walks from the light rail to the office I would have constant thoughts about how idiotic programming and office work is. The ONLY reason it all exists is because people can't trust each other. And that maybe trust isn't really necessary in a society that lessens personal ownership and has more of a share-all-but-do-your-part approach.

It's literally so unfair the way we've segmented people into knowledge zones. Bankers know how easy it is to double money without taking risk. Programmers know how to pretend something will take 3 weeks when it will only take 2 days.

Recently I've learned how easy it is to set up solar. I cry every time I hear someone get trapped in some solar contract when they sell their house. It's literally mind warping how fucked up every aspect of this economy is.

cmcginty said a year ago:

Taking a left turn here, but how is it "easy" to setup solar? At the minimum you'll need a master electrician to sign-off on your install and might be hard to find after-the-fact.

testplzignore said a year ago:

Anyone else think $21k for this much time is too low? That's $156k a year assuming full-time hours which a contractor probably isn't going to get. Plus the guy lives in California. Plus health insurance.

What's a typical rate for this length of contracting work in California?

greggyb said a year ago:

Keep in mind the work being done. He emphasizes its simplicity. This is not a senior role requiring a huge amount of expertise.

Of course, he's probably charging too little in general. Everyone is.

Hamuko said a year ago:

Sounds like a decent pay if he spent as much just sitting on his ass and browsing the Internet as it sounded like.

cosmodisk said a year ago:

I used to live with this guy when we were studying. He got himself a job with the largest DIY retailer in the country.It was an office job with a relatively good salary. Eventually I moved out nad only saw him again after half a year or so. I asked how's the job to whoch he replied thst he quit after 3 month.I asked why..He said he used come to the office every day and ask around if he could help with anything.. Everyone was nice but kept saying no help is required.He got bored after 3 month of doing nothing and quit. He now runs his own business...

notahacker said a year ago:

The early winners of the UK Apprentice were awarded £100k jobs as a prize, which didn't actually entail doing anything, because the only reason they had been created was as a prize for winning a TV competition. One of them sued for 'constructive dismissal' on the basis she felt that not creating any work for her was an attempt to force her to quit. She lost, presumably on the basis that most people given nothing to do on 3x average salary would either find something to do or consider themselves extremely lucky...

koala_man said a year ago:

As a teenager I once got paid a flat rate of $300 for what turned out to be a ten minute job with Excel vlookups.

Funny that my hourly rate peaked at 17.

lixtra said a year ago:

You probably saved the company 1h of work per week for some years. Finding another expert would have taken them half a day of searching. So it made economic sense from their part as well. Did you learn to seek such situations to profit?

qaq said a year ago:

Had a similar story was a subcontractor to a huge digital agency on an advertising related project for F50 company. Was a small webapp (40h of pure dev time) we were actually on a fixed price contract 15k. Had a bunch of meetings with up to 20 people on the call (copyrighter from digital agency present in every single meeting for an app that had a single button with a single word submit). Eventually we had a meeting with actual VP of the F50 who said he forgot to email that he no longer needed the project and to pay everyone. We got our 15k and digital agency got prob to the tune of 500K.

ErikAugust said a year ago:

For those trying to understand the behavior of big companies, Marc Andreessen has The Moby Dick theory: https://pmarchive.com/guide_to_startups_part5.html

Which is: "The behavior of any big company is largely inexplicable when viewed from the outside."

codegeek said a year ago:

The adventures of enterprise/corporate payments. They can be annoying, slow, bureaucratic but boy when the time comes, invoice gets paid. One of our smaller business customers recently got acquired by a large corporate so the next $5000 "small enhancement" project had to go through their procurement who then apologized when we demanded the payment immediately. Why ? Because they thought they had not paid on time even though we literally had sent them the invoice a week ago (our smaller business clients will pay "due upon receipt"). This corporate client apologized profusely but when we finally realized it was not 30 days (they pay net 30), we backed off :). Still got a couple of apologies.

dzhiurgis said a year ago:

I'm in midst of a contract that was supposed to take 2-3 weeks - my mate asked for help, they desperately need good developers.

I think it's 6 months now ($60k++), while past 3 were "we are almost there now". It's all typical crap - trying to squish some crap into JIRA, molesting Slack in some weirdest ways, tester reporting bugs in less than 6 sentences... All I can think of is that I didn't ask for a high enough hourly rate and I want this over ASAP.

davinic said a year ago:

If you've signed a contact for a fixed period, demand that they raise your rate at each renewal. Don't give them the entire benefit of your flexibility without some concession on their end. If they want you month-to-month, your rate changes month-to-month.

oceanghost said a year ago:

I love this article. I had a similar thing once. I worked for this deeply, deeply dysfunctional company (salary). My project ended. I asked my boss for something to do, and he said something to the effect--"we're kicking off a new project at the end of the week until then look into XYZ because we'll be using those technologies."

So for political reasons, this new project was delayed and delayed again. I asked my boss for a project, he said, he'd get back to me. This ends up going on for a year. I stopped asking for new projects because I've done my duty frankly by asking several times, and at this time, I'm just reminding him to fire me.

It might sound like fun to get paid to do nothing, but, it's pretty demoralizing. There's a certain amount of paranoia associated with it as well. Eventually, I started taking long lunch breaks and going to the gym.

This went on for a year, then one day... We started a big new project, and I had something to do again. Very weird year, though.

qnsi said a year ago:

Amazing. It kind of sound unbelievable, but I don’t have that much experience working with big corporations.

This should be read by everyone concerned about, how few people in a startup can beat big corporations

noir_lord said a year ago:

Big corporations are batshit.

One division will be counting paperclips and another dropping $50k on a machine no one needs to do their job.

It entirely comes down to management in each place.

docker_up said a year ago:

During the early days of "intranets", I worked at a very large company akin to a government organization. I thought we could save paper by putting our reports on the intranet instead of printing it out. There was one particularly important report that had needed to be printed every week, and it seemed like a good candidate.

I called the person who needed the report, but they said they didn't need it, and passed me to the person who requested it from them. I called the next person, and they passed me onto another person. I followed this about 5 people deep until I found one person who told me that they didn't need that report at all.

I left that company within 2 months of joining.

peshooo said a year ago:

I don't know how it is in big corporations in America. But working as a consultant in Western Europe, I have been more than once in a situation where I'm starting on a project and I have to wait more than 3-4 months for things like accounts, access/permissions, laptop. Its pretty pathetic at the dailies, to report every day that I'm still waiting for these things.

joshvm said a year ago:

It sounds believable to me. I've had some interactions with big companies and you have to readjust what you think is a reasonable price for something.

I work with hardware and you'd be amazed how much people will spend without batting an eyelid (eg tens of thousands on a single instrument). In some cases they'll even remark at how inexpensive what you've offered is.

For example, the thermal cameras I work with are now consumer available for $5k. A decade ago you'd easily spend an order of magnitude more for the same sort of performance. And companies would happily fork out for it.

Bear in mind this company just lost a developer. The overheads for that member of staff alone, for two months, probably exceed $20k in the US.

thrower123 said a year ago:

$18000 is the kind of petty cash that a lot of departments have lying around in their budgets at the end of a quarter. Especially if the budgeting process is of the use-it-or-lose-it variety, there can be a push to buy things that are unnecessary at the end of quarters or fiscal years.

I've been involved in more than one project where a company bought a largish subscription license for a product, and never got anybody lined up to actually deploy it before the licensing ran out - I assume whoever was in charge of that initiative got laid off or took a new job and it fell through the cracks.

0898 said a year ago:

People think government is wasteful, but in my experience big corporations are an order of magnitude worse.

adamqureshi said a year ago:

We did some agency work Ad agency / sub contract) in NYC. I said to the agency we will deliver HTML/CSS/JS and its $12,500 for the site / pages. They came back with NO our budget is $25k and we will pay that. Im like ok wire be the bread, here is my ACH ( They did) I delivered the HTML/CSS/JS. They came back with but who is gonna do the API work with our back end guy. Seems they could not make a distinction connecting the front end to the back end. I can only do HTML/CSS i can't do the API stuff and i told them in writing very clearly. they had a back end guy we delivered the work to. I got played too many times NOT to get my money upfront and send a bill when I use up the time. They said sorry for the confusion , ok so how much for the api and will cut you a check from accounting. Accounting has no clue what marketing is buying.

LocalPCGuy said a year ago:

In my experience, where the Front End stops and the Back End starts is always a fuzzy line for non-technical clients (even if that have devs on staff). Especially when you're talking to the marketing department and devs work in IT or another similarly separated department. It pays to have the discussion and get it in writing up front (plus, if you CAN do API work, it may provide additional revenue that you didn't necessarily know was available).

ycombonator said a year ago:

This is how your tax payer money is wasted in State & Federal Gov IT agencies. I spent an entire year doing nothing in a Gov agency and in the end I was so bored that I quit. Fannie & Freddie hires tons of non citizen constractors with usually no work. It’s a big carnival.

WaxProlix said a year ago:

It's all big orgs, everywhere. Seen a lot of it even at hip modern BigCorps. Leave your axe and grinder at home :)

shams93 said a year ago:

The larger your company is the more costly it is to do something even as simple as a static html page. That's because everything that goes out to the public has to be subject to a heavy review process. You're not being paid to write an html page you're being paid to shepherd new information to the public. That's why you can never just estimate cost only on how hard you think it would be to do the task you need to get enough information about the customer's process to understand how much work its going to take not just to complete the task but to shepherd it through their review process and the larger the company the more layers of review and process they are likely to have.

tigroferoce said a year ago:

At this point it is mandatory to remind us all the story of the forgotten employee. https://sites.google.com/site/forgottenemployee/

csunbird said a year ago:

Is this real ?

davinic said a year ago:

It's okay to be a value-based consultant or contractor. There is no ethical requirement that your work be priced by the hour. You've potentially spent thousands of hours (25k in my case) honing your skills, and those skills could help your client make a lot of money. If a static site can make a company millions (they can!) then it's not unreasonable, nor unwelcome from the client, to charge a couple hundred thousand dollars, regardless of the time spent!

llamataboot said a year ago:

Ha ha cute! Meanwhile that's about half of what we pay teachers for a full year of work tending to the emotional and intellectual well-being of children.

blunte said a year ago:

Don't hate the player, hate the game. And if you want to compare income, look at C-level executives... don't look at devs who are actually doing work.

himynameisdom said a year ago:

This is misguided anger at best, and trolling at worst. What were you hoping to achieve with this?

fishstick2000 said a year ago:

u mad

jamesb93 said a year ago:

So much waste - I'm not saying he didn't earn his money but how is it possible for a company to run cash positive when it wastes like that?

pornel said a year ago:

Large companies operate on a completely different scale of money. If this was a page for a product that's going to make a million dollars, this expense was still a rounding error.

beager said a year ago:

I've realized that a lot of companies settle into enormous tailwinds, and the mission of the company then becomes "don't screw it up".

I've worked my entire career in startups and venture-backed companies. I cannot fathom the level of sloth, but I'm sure when I'm older I'll crave it.

irrational said a year ago:

I work for a Fortune 100 company, and I've been asking myself this exact question nearly every day for the past 18+ years. The amount of money that is wasted is astonishing. $18,000 for a static html page is so little that it's almost laughable. We think it's crazy, because we have a clue what it actually takes to build the web page. But, the people who pay the bills are not technical and have no clue, so they would happily pay $180,000!

mbreedlove said a year ago:

If they can capture $1mm revenue from the website, then the $21k they paid for it is a great investment.

rocky1138 said a year ago:

RIM would like to know your location

setr said a year ago:

It’s really easy: you just make bigger margins

Software particularly has stupidly big margins (and stupidly big overhead) when you’re talking companies the size of oracle and microsoft

IronWolve said a year ago:

Back in the 90's, I got a buddy hired at my work, and typically all co-workers come through a contracting agency. Work hired him as a direct contractor without the agency BUT at agency rates. He did his 90 day contractor probation period and then hired directly.

After he left the company years later, he told us the story of the 175 hourly rate they gave him for 3 months, instead of 25 for a junior admin.

Good times.

mcv said a year ago:

The moment you do the work on-site with the client, with their resources, their equipment, on their laptop that you first need to configure and install, with their environment and everything, dealing with their bureaucracy, work time goes way up.

Had you done this from home on your own machine after they quickly mailed you the necessary resources, you'd have been done within those 20 hours, but frankly, large corporations don't really care. $18,000 is still pocket money for them, and they apparently prefer if you do everything their way instead of your own.

You didn't just deliver a static html page, you delivered a static html page as part of their process.

Let them pay. You earned it. They wasted your time, you didn't waste theirs. It's not the most fulfilling way of working, but it pays the bills.

I do almost entirely projects for large clients like that, and it's not unusual that just getting started takes a week. I used to get frustrated about that, but it's their choice, and now I just go along with it.

It does underscore how unbelievably inefficient large companies really are.

sxp62000 said a year ago:

Ha! Imagine how much a Deloitte-like company would've charged them for making that html page.

moron4hire said a year ago:

10x just to come up with the PowerPoints saying they could do it for another 50x. Then still fuck it up.

jbob2000 said a year ago:

Pfft that's nothing. We just had a contractor charge us $50k to setup a simple HTTP proxy. I looked at the code; it's a .NET starter app with our endpoints in it that route to other endpoints. $50k and it probably took them 2 hours, which was probably mostly just packages downloading.

BonesJustice said a year ago:

Indeed, $50k for a few hours of work is a lot better (for the contractor) than the $21k for 280 hours chronicled in the original post.

Hell, considering probably he spent most of his time sitting around, bored out of his mind, and had to commute 50 miles each day, I would have passed on the contract.

vokep said a year ago:

Reading stuff like this makes me wonder if I'm not missing out, having a salaried job. :/

holler said a year ago:

did you pay it? that's crazy!

dcl said a year ago:

I had worked for a big bank doing financial modelling, reporting, random ad-hoc stuff for about 3.5 years before getting fairly bored. I quit and went to work for a small AI/ML* consulting firm whose biggest client turned out to be the same bank I used to work for.

Before I left, I gave my boss an opportunity to beat the new salary that was offered to me. He said he couldn't.

My annual pay was ~170k at the bank, but now they pay $2500 a DAY for me to be there, and, as a consultant, I work FAR less hard and far fewer hours (albeit in a completely different division). I've been here for 10 months now and it seems like it will continue indefinitely...

This article has strongly reminded me to start doing my own thing and charge even more.

*In reality, all I do is data engineering/munging because their data models and systems are so poor.

bitcoinmoney said a year ago:

2500$/day before tax that’s nice. Teach me your ways master... 1. Are you phd from a top school or boot camp grad?

2. Phd related to AI?

tmaly said a year ago:

Icing on the cake would have been if he had made a little extra effort and got additional contracts from the same company

atemerev said a year ago:

Some static HTML pages (e.g. ICO landings when it was still a thing) could well be worth $18k and more.

readbeard said a year ago:

Indeed! Consider a simple brochure-style marketing page, which is often a good use case for static HTML. Such a page should be centered around content, and that content (photography, illustration, copy, animation, etc.) may need to be specially built for the page and may be expensive to produce. Everything has to fit together flawlessly, telling a compelling story while staying on-brand. Performance needs to be great. And if the page is generating much revenue, it is easy to justify spending even more money in optimizations if they are likely to improve conversion rates.

I realize this has nothing to do with the ridiculous situation described in the article, but I do think it's worth pointing out that $18k is not at all an inherently ridiculous amount of money to charge for a static HTML page. In some cases, it may not be nearly enough.

grecy said a year ago:

I worked for a large company who wanted their public website re done to be "mobile friendly" (in 2015).

It's Drupal, with a custom theme. Everything that was actually "tricky" was de-scoped, so it wound up being something my university buddies and I would have charged $5k for back in the day, probably would have charged $30k these days.

That project cost well over $1mil. For a Drupal site with a custom "Mobile friendly" theme.

JakeTheAndroid said a year ago:

When I worked for a non-profit they paid like a quarter million dollars for a Drupal site with some slight modifications that never even got completed. I had to trudge through months of debugging and solving problems, and ultimately I couldn't be bothered with Drupal Core so we brought in some contractors to solve the biggest issues while I worked on rebuilding the whole stack. Drupal knowledge seems to pay well, they were able to charge us $150 an hour at their non-profit discount.

b123400 said a year ago:

Years ago a company similarly contacted me for some "emergency" tasks. I flied all the way to Japan and realise they haven't got the tasks ready, more than half of the time I wasn't doing anything. I honestly (stupidly?) charged them with my actual working hours, they seems surprised. A lesson learnt and the next time it'll be a different story.

davinic said a year ago:

After the hours in the initial estimate were used, I would have renegotiated and charged a nonrefundable retainer in order to be on call to deliver the project as soon as the assets were ready. This retainer would be my normal rate, and the hours would not carry over to another billing period. I would not be driving to their office every day.

mixmastamyk said a year ago:

Would love to see the finely-crafted, artisanal HTML and heirloom CSS.

mixmastamyk said a year ago:

^ organic Javascript, ;)

Insanity said a year ago:

I read the title, expecting it to be kind of a 'scam', or at least that they overcharged and got away with it. Turns out he did spent that time at the company where they hired him and it only seems fair to me. Even though they probably just wasted too much of his time - and their money.

Causality1 said a year ago:

Federal government is the only place I've worked that had a reasonable work/pay ratio. Every private company has either been eye-bleeding amounts of work and weekly hours for unsatisfying compensation or doing almost nothing and then getting a check that made me feel guilty.

9nGQluzmnq3M said a year ago:

Randomly enough, the writer of this previously achieved HN fame when he was unstoppably fired by a machine:

https://idiallo.com/blog/when-a-machine-fired-me

said a year ago:
[deleted]
aplummer said a year ago:

I'm shocked at how much this person undercharged, for a contract like this to a large company $1K P/D AUD time and materials is not even particularly high. A consulting firm would be 2.5-3.5 so it's a bargain.

DaveInTucson said a year ago:

* Your time is worth something, even if your employer isn't making the best use of it

* I'm surprised he waited 7 weeks before submitting a bill (especially given the hurry up and wait circumstances).

jondubois said a year ago:

That's the problem with corporations; it's not the manager's own money, they don't know where it comes from, who the shareholders are, what the real goal of the company is, what high quality work looks like, etc... So if you're friends with the right people, you can get whatever amount you want and nobody cares.

The company is like a giant communal wallet. It sucks money out of lord-knows-where and dispenses it back to you. You just have to physically sit at your desk and waste time for 8 hours a day.

anonytrary said a year ago:

This sounds like an awful experience. You were brought in to write a single, trivial HTML page and thought the job would take you about 2 days, give or take (which, it would have). Then, it ended up taking 7 weeks because the company's communication was incredibly poor. The error here is so large, I'd be pretty upset. At least they paid you for your two months of service, though. How are companies this inefficient? They completely wasted about $20k for no reason.

brundolf said a year ago:

The traditional wisdom is that as a technical employee, you don't want to work for a non-technical company. Sounds like as a contractor it's the opposite.

otakucode said a year ago:

Companies don't seem to realize that the bad practices they engage in are actively harmful to themselves financially. Maintaining that office that doesn't produce as much value as it destroys in expense. Not investing in IT infrastructure (whether real or virtual). Not actively working on making communication efficient and valuable. These things don't just get on peoples nerves, they cost money.

craftoman said a year ago:

Look at Apple. People are buying their over priced products years now. If you compared them equally based on the actual hardware and leave their software out, you'll clearly see that market is offering you the same products at half price. If Apple release a laptop at 5K$ with a 4K screen and a (hypothetical) screen keyboard or something fancy, people will go crazy and start buying it.

Moru said a year ago:

At a company a few years ago, we paid about $25k for a website layout delivered in .psd, a coloursheet as a .pdf and a recommendation on a typeface. The boss was not happy and the defence was sort of "It was very hard work to select just the right colors and font, we have used many hours!" (Not exact words but something in that direction)

So yeah, they beat you :-)

tamersalama said a year ago:

Tangentially: I liked listening to the article, with the background soothing music, in the author's voice.

geophertz said a year ago:

If only we could change the speed.

mygo said a year ago:

I like the story, as my experiences resonate with it, but I dislike the title. The pay was fair for the time spent -- especially since it was exclusive and included travel. He effectively became a full-time employee during that time span. No benefits, and his profits will be taxed by the IRS.

zitterbewegung said a year ago:

I charged $500 for a single static HTML page in the early 2010s. I figured out free hosting using Google App Engine. Also I was on a Skype call the whole time and it had to be done by the end of the day with the client . I don’t think the author did anything wrong .

Insanity said a year ago:

the money is good, but the working condition seems to be bad :D I'd hate having to work with soemone constantly 'peering over my shoulder' even if just virtually.

endtime said a year ago:

I've had a couple experiences getting paid to do nothing for a couple months, one during a summer research project in undergrad and one at a big tech company. I found it far more stressful and less valuable than if I'd had actual work to do.

mensetmanusman said a year ago:

Why has no one mentioned the American Dream: https://sites.google.com/site/forgottenemployee/

morenoh149 said a year ago:

This isn’t that crazy of a story. The static page part is the hook but he was on site for a month. I’ve been on projects clearing 40k in 2 months for onsite work. Doesn’t matter if it’s static or api work.

jmkni said a year ago:

Cool article, one thing:

> The designer had sent me some Adobe Illustrator files, and I couldn't open it on the MacBook.

Can't you just change the file extension to pdf to open an Adobe Illustrator file?

fullhelp said a year ago:

Reading the article and the comments here makes me consider raising the price of a self-hosted help desk software I recently released. Or at least, adding a new premium price package.

eljimmy said a year ago:

Title should read “I charged $18,000 for many hours of my time”

justaguyhere said a year ago:

Cool story.

Now, how can I find such jobs/companies, minus the commute? :P

martin-adams said a year ago:

This might be one of those cases where they want to keep spending money so they get a budget renewal for the next quarter.

smashah said a year ago:

Wow. I listened to the post and felt like I was in the developer equivalent of the twilight zone. Love it!

potta_coffee said a year ago:

Man I thought I was doing good at $1k.

jhallenworld said a year ago:

But is this really want to do with your time, even if you are getting paid?

kissgyorgy said a year ago:

Sounds like real-life to me unfortunately :D

amatecha said a year ago:

Saving you a click: He charged $75/hr for a job that included a ton of waiting around and idling on-location at the client's office. :)

ausbah said a year ago:

who says that businesses are any guarantee to be any more than large government bureaucracies?

whiddershins said a year ago:

I would have billed incrementally.

_davebennett said a year ago:

Legit the definition of corporate

eej71 said a year ago:

Sell value not cost.

jnaddef said a year ago:

Spoilers : he did not actually get paid $18,000

dymk said a year ago:

... he got paid $21,000

aqibgatoo said a year ago:

lmao

said a year ago:
[deleted]
monicageller018 said a year ago:

This is an impressive story! It's unbelievable to read about how some big companies function. The funniest part is that he didn't get paid $18,000 like the title says - but $21,000!

sureaboutthis said a year ago:

I charge $30,000 and did absolutely nothing.

I was hired by a publishing company to take their 1990s web site into the modern age, a couple of years ago. I reported directly to the owner of this small but well known company in their industry. On day one, he sat with me for 10 minutes and outlined what he wanted done and then promptly left for a publishing conference for two weeks. He gave me nothing to access the web server or any of the source.

So, I spent two weeks putting together a few potential designs and showed them around to influential persons inside the company. They loved it! But when the CEO returned, he immediately pushed back against the hamburger icon for a menu selection among other things he thought his customers would find difficult to use.

I said I would work on that, made some changes I thought he would like, but when it came time to present them, he was gone again on another sales meeting out of town for a few days.

When he came back, he asked me to work with his graphic designer to create some animations for an iPad program they sold. I had never done that but quickly learned. He then went to France. He called me twice to ask about the progress and some additions he wanted but, when he returned, he was too busy to meet with me about that project.

I continued to ask for access to the server but never received a response.

Then, he presented me with an iPad app they had some company in India develop. He said it had some minor issues but he wanted me to work on it. It was written in ObjectiveC but I knew nothing about it and had never developed anything for Apple products before. He gave me access to his Lynda account but he needed the app fixed in two weeks. I told him it was impossible.

So, he hired a college kid who was fluent in all that. He gave the kid two months to solve the problem but he hit a road block and last I heard it past the three month mark trying to get that to work.

For me, since he didn't have time to work with me on the company web site, he said his mother had an event coming up for a charity she ran and she needed a web site right away. I knew nothing of the charity or the event. I had no pictures, no text, no idea what she would want beyond a general outline the CEO gave me but he wanted the whole thing up and running...in two weeks.

I said I can't do that. So he fired me.

I had accomplished absolute nothing. I asked him why he thought I could write iPad apps. He said it was because I said in the interview I once wrote an app for the iPhone. I said, no, I wrote a little test program--a "Hello World"--using Cordova but that was it.

billybrown said a year ago:

LMAO should have went https://freepage.io and did it for .... well free

spsrich2 said a year ago:

He's lucky to have got paid at all. But his experience is totally normal for how large companies operate.

the_cat_kittles said a year ago:

this kind of the reason i got out of contract software, or really software as a career. its gross like this. the rewards are so capricious and generally outsized. all i could think about was just "this is wrong". my own opinion of course.

Nanocurrency said a year ago:

Got it, so I need to start working as a contractor for various big corporations.

justanegg said a year ago:

you didn't "get away with" anything. you charge for your time. what they do with your time is on them.

ErotemeObelus said a year ago:

Predatory.

sctb said a year ago:

Could you please post thoughtfully and informatively? This is a conversation website not a drive-by snark site.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

jbverschoor said a year ago:

He didn't charge 18K. He got lucky while he did not keep his promise of his quote.

He kept his mouth shut, even though he knew he needed to have a difficult talk about assets and time reserved etc. Instead of that, he waited for weeks before he nervousy crafted an invoice full of mistakes because he was probably editting and re-editing because he knew he was doing something wrong, but had a conflicted mind because he felt entitled to get paid a daily rate instead of fixed price like he agreed. He then sent the email safely from home miles away.