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Consultant fees for "getting up to speed"

By limeginger ·
Hi, I hope this is an appropriate posting. This is my first time. I am an independent consultant, working in the areas of IT and organizational management. I have about 7 years of experience as a consultant, and an additional 7 years within a government agency and nonprofit organizations--in both management and IT. My current client focus is nonprofit organizations. I met with a new client today, a CEO of an organization. The project involves either customizing his current or getting him a more appropriate contacts management. *However*, the client today also mentioned he needs help integrating one of his complex projects with Covey software. And decided that should be my priority. I have not worked with this software, though am familiar with the Covey time-management philosophy and "system." I took a look at the Covey software, and it's not complicated. The majority of work I'll do for/with the client is scoping out the project (which is currently completely disorganized), nailing down specific tasks, benchmarks, timelines, outcomes, staffing, delegation, etc. However--I will need to get up to speed on the Covey software once the project requirements are fleshed out. The client, who has not worked with many consultants, suggested that maybe I get up to speed on the Covey software on my own time, since I may use this experience in the future with other clients (highly unlikely). I'm inclined to see the getting up to speed with the software as akin to getting up to speed with the operations of the organization, helping him scope out his project, and defining requirements. What do you-all think? Should playing with the software--with his needs in mind--be charged? at the same rate as usual? at a lower rate? Also, I suggested we might seek out an expert in the COvey software, but he is skeptical that would be a good use of time. Thanks so much for any feedback!!

but suggested that maybe I

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Flat Fee IT

by ITInstructor In reply to Consultant fees for "gett ...

Charge a flat fee for playing with the software.

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No

by house In reply to Consultant fees for "gett ...

I would not charge for learning the software. Perhaps if you were to hide it in your fee without him figuring it out.

Any research that I need to pursue will not be charged to my clients. It is however, a very unusual piece of software. I would simply add it to my roster and knock it up as a good learning experience. Even if you will never use it anywhere else, the fact that you could mention it to future clients doesn't hurt.

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Ahh! the art of negotiation

by jdmercha In reply to No

Training and learing curves should never be specified as part of a contract. But you can build them in as suggested. When you outsource a job you outsorce it to subject matter experts. If they don't have the expertise, then they need to get it.

You have to ask yourself "What am I willing to do to get this contract?" and "What rate do I need to make this contract worthwile to me?"

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Hmmm

by awfernald In reply to Consultant fees for "gett ...

Looking at both ends of the stick...

From the point of the IT Manager: he is helping you by basically forcing you to learn a new software that can buff up your resume, and yes, it is true that you might be able to use it with some other clients at a later date.

From your point of view: you can care less about this software outside of the current project as you don't think that it is a marketable skillset.

He needs it, and wants it cheap (i.e. let's get this consultant to spend his time and money learning it), and you of course want it (for him), but also don't want to invest your time and money in it.

So... Couple of ideas here:

1. Check with Covey software maker, and see what other companies in the area are using this product. This will tell you if there is indeed a minor market out there if you learn the software.

2. Negotiate with the client. Use his money and your time to learn the software. i.e. his company can purchase the training material from Covey, however, you will spend your time (no charge to client) learning the material. You can have the training material ONLY while working for them.

3. If there is a small market in the area, check with the other clients in the area if they have any need for consulting/support.

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Thank you for responses thus far!

by limeginger In reply to Hmmm

Hi all,

I wanted to get back to you and ket you know I really appreciate your feedback and advice. It's extremely interesting to see the range of opinions and "back-upable" perspectives, isn't it? Not having used the Covey software before--and never having worked with a client on using it, which seems to be more a "personal coaching" service--I am not convinced that it'll be a particularly lucrative/useful arrow in my quiver for the future. From a bird's eye view, the software seems OK but it is really an extension of the Covey philosophy, and I would probably advocate the use of another project management/tracking tool if it were up to me if the client weren't so wedded to it. *The crux is this: this issue is a red flag. I see that communication, and expectations, with this client is going to be even more important than usual. I'll let you-all know what happens. Thanks again!

don't see how I will derive benefit

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Billable time at a lower rate,

by dafe2 In reply to Consultant fees for "gett ...

A big mistake (IMO), is giving away anything when your a consultant, other than an odd pen here and there.:-)

In any case, negotiate a lower rate with your client. No VALUABLE client really expects you to work for nothing (He's testing), on the other hand, you where honest enough to tell him/her you where not familiar with the tool and would need a bit of time to get familiar with it - If he agrees to retain you anyway, be fair an reduce your rate. Allways bill for your time & NEVER 'pad' your invoices. Your reputation & integrity are more important than your month end.

Even Covey says time=money.

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No, no, no

by amcol In reply to Consultant fees for "gett ...

I've been engaging consultants for many years, so here's the perspective from the other side of the table.

When I hire a consultant I expect him/her to have the skills needed to do the job. I would never take on a consultant who couldn't demonstrate expertise with the required tool set, so why you're being considered for this job (and why you're considering doing it) are beyond me.

In addition I would never, NEVER allow a consultant to learn a new skill on my nickel. If I knew you were charging me for your own learning curve you'd never work for me again. And, contrary to popular belief, we managers aren't as dumb as we appear...believe me when I tell you we know when you're building hidden costs into your estimates.

Covey software isn't exactly a mainstream skill but there are consultants who know it. That's who'd get my business.

My advice...take a pass on this contract.

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I agree

by TomSal In reply to No, no, no

I'd have to agree. I think if a consultant doesn't have full confidence in his skills to handle a project at current -- then he/she should pass. If he/she feels that a lot of contracts of a particular product are being passed by because of not having the skills to support that product -- its training time...and on the consultant's dime.

I'd be upset just as relkinjb@mcc.gov stated if I found out I was paying a consultant's training expenses for the contract I hired him to do.

Strike that....I'd be friggin' pissed.

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but but but

by dafe2 In reply to No, no, no

I understand exactly what your saying & nobody should be padding anything. I also agree with it but there are exeptions:

Let's say you trust me. You've done your homework but simply prefer to have me do the work for whatever reason. I've given you alternatives but your intent on using product ABC & I tell you flat out there's a learning curve. For whatever reason I want to do the job & maintain the relashionship.

Let's asume you prefer to give me the job because you don't want the grief of bringing in a 'new' consultant. That has it's pains too right?

I find it hard to believe you'd (not) work towards a reasonable fee, if only to show good faith from both sides. Business owners expect to pay for services. I expect you do too.

You have to agree that sometimes it's easier just to deal with someone you already have a relashionship with so:

Would you not agree that this guy should be paid something, if only to show good faith from both sides of the table?

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Thanks (and clarification)

by limeginger In reply to but but but

Thanks all for your comments, and support. To restate the situation: I'm not underskilled, hoodwinking the client, or desperate for work. This client and I are still discussing the potential projects/needs. He brought me in to work on a contacts management system for him. As we spoke, it came out that he also needs a good project management or tracking system *and* needs help with scoping out the project (a major donors initiative for his very small organization). My expertise is both nonprofit management *and* IT. I have masters degrees in both and 7 years of experience. The contacts he needs "managed" are those who will be contacted to become donors. I said I could present him with a range of options of project systems that would also integrate contacts management functionality. That's when he said, "Oh yeah! I went to a training about Steven Covey's '7 Habits of Successful People' and I bought some software that I haven't looked at. I want to use that!" I told a bit about other options, but he's in a Covey mindset. That's when I told him I am not familiar with that software, and could help him find another consultant who's familiar with it, or would need to get up to speed with it myself before saying how or whether it would meet all his requirements. Although he told me he would rather work with me, and not add another consultant to the mix, I did some quick trolling around and inquiring locally of other IT consultants, and none of them service this software. Those who mention Covey are personal coaches, and that's not what he needs. I can competently scope out his major donor program with him and his staff, and can integrate his needs with *some* software. As mentioned, he suggested, rather subtly that maybe I could get up to speed with the software on my own time, and start charging when I'm ready to start working with it. I do not and will not pad my invoices. As any consultant knows, you end up eating time anyway--because you can't charge for time standing in the shower or walking down the street you spend working out the problems in your head (i.e., thinking and problem solving before you get to the programming, which, for me, is a significant amount of what I do). Hope that clarifies things.

Speaking of clarifying things, I'm not a guy ;->
>Would you not agree that this guy should be paid something

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