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A Classic - Contractor wants to charge for proposal

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Mike Cohen
A Classic - Contractor wants to charge for proposal
on Feb 9, 2008 at 12:14:09 am

Perhaps this post illustrates the inefficiency of e-mail for communication, or perhaps it simply illustrates that business communication is not for everyone.

See if you follow me here.

Generally in business, you ask a contractor for a proposal, and the contractor sends you a proposal, listing their deliverables and their price.

Make sense so far?

Then the proposal is either rejected or accepted. If accepted, the contractor can invoice based upon the agreed upon terms.

Here is my experience this week. I will abbreviate:

1. I saw a proprietary content management website that a colleague is using. I asked where they got it. They gave me the name of the programmer.

2. I talked to the programmer, told him how nice it is. He said he built it in a weekend.

3. A few weeks later, I sent this guy an e-mail, saying I liked his work and would like a quote on a similar system, but to my specs.

4. I sent him a list of features I would like to see.

5. A week later he sends me his estimated price, $1500 - $5000. He says he would use some open source software and some of his own code, and asked for some clarifying questions. This quote was in an e-mail, not a formal document.

6. I sent him some clarification responses, and also asked him the name of the open source software he would use.

Here is where it gets interesting.

7. He sends me the name of the open source software. Open source means it does not cost anything to use, but of course you need someone with good web development skills to make it function.

In the same message, he says:

If I tell you the name of the software, I will be giving you this for free. I did 15 hours of research, at $100 and hour, so that's $1500.

8. I checked out the software, and told him I would talk to the boss and get back to him to see if we will proceed.

9. Today he e-mails me, asking if I will be paying him the $1500 for his research.

HUH?

10. I write back, "I was not aware I would have to pay you for research."

11. He writes back, "Well that's the time I spent to find your solution."

12. My final message to him is:

In business, a proposal is presented. If that proposal is accepted, you can bill me. Any research you put into a proposal is your investment towards future paid work.

Well that's it fellow COW readers. In effect, this guy will not only be getting paid for his research, he will not be getting hire by me ever.

Am I over-reacting?

Opinions appreciated.

Mike


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Rick Dolishny
Re: A Classic - Contractor wants to charge for proposal
on Feb 9, 2008 at 1:27:46 am

Hopefully the contractor has learned to keep his trap shut.

If I told clients a few years ago I used an automated script in Vegas that creates "Ken Burns" moving slide shows for their dad's retirement party and I charged $500 about 20 times over (as only one example), I would not be in business.

Then again, I probably wouldn't ask my contractors what software they use.

Both of you back to your corners - it's a draw. :)

---
Rick Dolishny
Discrete Editors COW Leader
http://www.thecreativeprocess.ca


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John Davidson
Re: A Classic - Contractor wants to charge for proposal
on Feb 9, 2008 at 1:38:52 am

Save your emails. He'll probably threaten to sue. Record all phone calls, too....CYA.

John Davidson____ writer | producer | director____http://www.magicfeather.tv


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Mike Cohen
Re: A Classic - Contractor wants to charge for proposal
on Feb 9, 2008 at 3:19:18 am

it seems to me, maybe he does not do much freelance work, maybe does not understand how to behave in a business environment.

Regardless, any adult should understand that one must be very careful what they say and do.




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walter biscardi
Re: A Classic - Contractor wants to charge for proposal
on Feb 9, 2008 at 3:23:57 am

[Mike Cohen] "Well that's it fellow COW readers. In effect, this guy will not only be getting paid for his research, he will not be getting hire by me ever.

Am I over-reacting?"


Nope, sounds spot on to me. Now I'm going to send you my bill for $100 for the time it took for me to read your post and respond to it. I only accept $20's.



Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Biscardi Creative Media
HD and SD Production for Broadcast and Independent Productions.

STOP STARING AND START GRADING WITH APPLE COLOR
The new Color Training DVD now available from the Creative Cow!

Read my Blog!


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Steve Wargo
Re: A Classic - Contractor wants to charge for proposal
on Feb 9, 2008 at 4:32:35 am

With this guy's thinking, imagine how much $$ we have coming for all of the research that we do for visitors to the COW.

Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona
It's a dry heat!

Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut (not quite PRO) systems
Sony HVR-M25 HDV deck
2-Sony EX-1.


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Mark Suszko
Re: A Classic - Contractor wants to charge for proposal
on Feb 9, 2008 at 5:12:02 am

Meh, as they say its a "push".

The webster is an idiot not to state up front that he charges for consults and how much. You expect a lawyer to charge for every call and discussion, and they'll tell you, up front, if and how they do. Since he didn't inform you what parts of your conversation were "on the clock", and your email trail doesn't have a specific order or agreement on it (does it?) I don't think he's got a case to make you pay, especially since he didn't AFAIK TELL you anything specific that you could use to then do the job without him. So if I call the Chevy dealer to ask about the price for a car with so-and-so package on it, I'm liable to buy it because he spent some time looking up stuff in the catalog? PLEASE! He can't arbitrarily charge you for his "research time" until later, when he bills for the completed work. (AKA "Dealer Prep") Not unless you had another understanding up front.

He's doubly an idiot for acting this way, because he doesn't lose his knowledge just by sharing some of it, and conversations like this are what lead to actual customer deals, if not now, usually later. "Bob, what's the name of that guy, you know, that gave us the advice about the dynamically updating RSS feed thing? Yeah, he's good, call him about this new gig, see if he can take it".

If we got charged every time we asked a vendor a few preliminary product research or application questions, we'd have no money to actually buy products or services.

That said, we know it is bad form to ask for them to research a complete package down to the last detail, just to give that info away in open bidding process or use their report as a shopping list to buy each piece somewhere ourselves. It is a delicate balance; the vendor spends a certain amount of effort and expertise to lay the groundwork for what might evolve into a deal. That's his gamble, his investment, and he has to decide how hard to work on the proposal before it's wasted time. That's part of being a salesman, not every pitch gets closed. Most of the time it IS a waste, but it leads to a deal often enough that its worth doing again and again.

It is not fair to lead him on with false promises you're ready to buy, if it's just an inquiry. It wastes both your time and his, and destroys the working relationship. Have the guts to say: "This is for informational purposes only right now, but if we move ahead to a bidding/ buying situation we'll let you know".

A proposal is not a deal, its a description of a deal's elements and asking for the deal. I can "propose" marriage to Jessica Alba but she's not under legal compulsion to take me up on it, even if I researched where to go on the honeymnoon. (Well, the restraining order issue too, but that's not germane to my argument)

This is why its important to establish the boundaries up front when you transact for data, just as you do for a physical purchase.

Back to the webhead: seems like he's trying to bill you for something the previous client already paid for. He already did the "research" part when he built the previous site, if you're asking for a clone of the other site.

His actual expenses would be his time to make the adaptations and customizations, the extra licenses if needed, sure, but it's not like somebody erased his memory of the past year after he completed the prior job

( "Paycheck", starring Uma Thurman and Ben Affleck, actually a pretty good underrated movie for video nerds, you'll enjoy the first 30 minutes in particular)

and he'll have to re-discover all the software tools again...

I don't accept his claims of proprietary trade secrets too much either. Yes, he's not obligated to tell you how he builds the clock, just to tell you what time it is. Unless you're specifically paying him extra to teach you the tricks along the way. But come ON, he admits half the thing is off-the-shelf software, the other half is custom code, but the off the shelf stuff is a state secret? That's dumb. Its the custom code and integration that makes the deal. Like saying I can't tell you what NLE I used to make your video?!?!?

Maybe a closer analogy would be, you created a card flip or spinning video cube effect template in Aftereffects for one project. Took you five hours to build it, but it's saved as a template, and the first client cares not if you re-use it as-is. Another client wants the exact effect, maybe to use in a parody of the first spot, but with his own footage applied. That's probably a one hour job in comparison, to just add the new footage to the old template and hit the render button, but are you really going to bill him for the five hours again, as if you had to re-construct the thing from scratch? Shame on you if you do. Such skills and assets are part of the package when you book me, that's WHY you book me, because I've built up skills and experience and a bag of tricks that gets it done better and faster. Every client gets the benefit of what I've learned on the projects before him.



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Steve Wargo
Re: A Classic - Contractor wants to charge for proposal
on Feb 9, 2008 at 4:28:50 am

What a load of crap. You do not have a verbal agreement of work for hire. If you had hired him to do research, he would have a rightful position.

He is crazy. Break off all communications except to reply in a professional manner asking where you asked him to do research. That would be like asking me to quote on a job and I charge you for calling all of my subs and asking if they're available and then researching which software I would use for your 3-D animations.

Go over ALL of your written communications to see if anything can be construed as a "hire".

Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona
It's a dry heat!

Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut (not quite PRO) systems
Sony HVR-M25 HDV deck
2-Sony EX-1.


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Mike Cohen
Re: A Classic - Contractor wants to charge for proposal
on Feb 9, 2008 at 3:54:40 pm

Very interesting responses everyone. Cheers.



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Mike Cohen
follow-up
on Feb 12, 2008 at 1:08:57 am

Responding to my carefully worded response, stating that I was not informed a fee would be incurred to get the proposal, the guy replied:


"If that is your position, fine. You won't get my help moving forward. Best of luck, an you burned this bridge."


You think?

This can be part of the above thread "watch what you say".






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walter biscardi
Re: follow-up
on Feb 12, 2008 at 1:21:59 am

[Mike Cohen] "This can be part of the above thread "watch what you say"."

Maybe you should send him a link. :-)

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Biscardi Creative Media
HD and SD Production for Broadcast and Independent Productions.

STOP STARING AND START GRADING WITH APPLE COLOR
The new Color Training DVD now available from the Creative Cow!

Read my Blog!


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Steve Wargo
Re: follow-up
on Feb 13, 2008 at 5:43:32 am

Se la ve (or however it's spelled)




Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona
It's a dry heat!

Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut (not quite PRO) systems
Sony HVR-M25 HDV deck
2-Sony EX-1.


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David Roth Weiss
Re: follow-up
on Feb 13, 2008 at 6:20:29 am

[Steve Wargo] "Se la ve (or however it's spelled)"

That would be "c'est la vie."


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