International string merchant

String merchant offers 2 different types of string deal:

one costs 5 pounds

one costs 10 pounds

Which should you buy?

Do you feel you have enough info to make a sensible decision? how long is a piece of string?

According to the recruitment consultants that contact me, the answer is yes that is plenty of info, buy the 5 pound one, doesn’t matter how long the piece of string is, nor do any possible quality issues matter. Even if the 10 pound piece of string is 10 times as long as the 5 pound one. (Good developers are at least 10 times (up to 28 time) more effective than the average).

I normally work on a value added basis rather than a day rate, as I prefer to work in close partnership with clients, and this shared risk/reward model supports that better. Every now and then I do day rate stuff.

Anyway an agent phoned me recently, asked my day rate, then said the client would only pay half that, ok I said, I’ll work half as fast, hows that? He couldn’t see the irony. I always works as effectively as I can, I leverage all my training and experience, all my codebase, all my contacts, and all my favorite, proven on-line resources in providing a high quality service for all clients. I believe that is worth something and very much prefer to work with clients who also think that way.

Low price rarely equates to value for money. Especially in software, where the outputs are so intangible.

Anyone else have this sort of issue?

Anyone got any suggestions how to improve the situation ?



6 Responses to “International string merchant”

  1. Marcus Says:

    It’s seems that you’re dealing with agents who like to bother themselves with superfluous details. Most of those I’ve dealt with only need one number – the lowest. They’re in the business of increasing the gap (margin) between the client and the contractor – and when you look at it superficially you can understand the incentive. The initial grievance I have is that they’re not doing what you would expect that they should to be earning their money. Where is the due diligence to show they are selecting a candidate appropriate for the project?

    I have projects where I deal directly with a client as well as sub-contracts through agents. When dealing direct I try (as much as possible) to charge on value. As the work is usually as result of a relationship or a referral it’s usually not too difficult. The fine balance is their walk-away threshold.

    My dealings with agents indicates that project duration, complexity, magnitude, value, ROI etc. are irrelevant. The primary factor is price provided the right acronyms are on your CV.

    On the topic of CV, I’ve had two agents divulge that the software they use to scan your MS Word CV, searches for key phrases which they nominate. The more times a sought phrase appears on your CV, the higher it appears on the results list. I now have every technology related phrase and acronym repeated 10 times in a white, 6 point font down the margin.

    This banter on agents is of course a generalization. In a decade of freelance contracting, have I dealt with agents I’d consider to be reputable and balanced? Of course – one.

    One approach I’ve taken is this – if the offered rate is in the ballpark of what I’d accept, agree in principle dependant upon my discussion with the client. The crucial point is then selling your self to the client who now have more of an interest in your placement. You can now more accurately haggle your rate having more details about the undertaking and the bias of the client. While this is by no means fool proof, I’ve had the client’s support work to my advantage of several occasions.

  2. sam Says:

    I dont like Manhour rates either…I always quote a lumpsum price….

    The last thing I talk to clients about is the price. I inisist on several “Scope Freeze” meetings before quoting a price. Many a times I submit a couple of test versions. of the project…..Only when I am convinced that scope will not be turned around 360 deg and that there would be only “minor” modifications do I indicate a price…

    Of course the disadvantage with this appraoch is the client is kept guessing about the price for a some time….there is also a risk of the client refusing / bargaining on the price quoted…. and I may loose the job or get a low price…but once the price is quoted the client knows its a “fixed” amount to budget which I belive is more comforting than to deal with Man hour rate * “Estimated” man hours + Extra Man hours for every single new requirement/ change in scope + Time sheets etc….


  3. Marcus Says:

    Hi Sam,

    I’ve usually found that the client wants some kind of ball park figure in order to know whether to proceed – will it be in the realm of 5,000 or 50,000? I also bill an hourly rate for developing the business and functional requirements docs which will be the basis of the quote – this includes all meetings, workshops etc. I don’t requote the whole project for change requests but submit an estimate for the change as an isolated item (bit like a codicil).

    Simon: I’ve been looking at some automated auditing tools such as ‘Spreadsheet Professional’ from Spreadsheet Innovations and I believe you’ve rolled your own. A thread on this topic would be of interest. Is this of interest to anyone else?

    Cheers – Marcus

  4. Dennis Wallentin Says:

    Hi guys,

    I need to ask what the agency You mention are and what they do.

    In my part of the world there exist only three scenarios:
    – Direct communication with the customer
    – Communication with both the customer and their “house” IT-parter.
    – Subcontractor discussion with the large IT-corporates.

    The v/a pricing is the best model but it’s very difficult to implement because a) customers are used to get daily/hour rates which b) the IT-business in general also give.

    >A thread on this topic would be of interest. Is this of interest to anyone

    Yes :)

    Kind regards,

  5. Simon Says:

    The agency I am on about are the people who offer jobs here:
    They sit between the client and contractor, primarily as a tax safety net for the client (in the UK).
    Commonly called pimps, but not to their face!

  6. Dennis Wallentin Says:

    Thanks for the info Simon, especially about their nick names ;)

    Kind regards,

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