The Ruby Freelancers Show 054 – Red Flags with Potential or Current Clients with Ashe Dryden
Panel Ashe Dryden (twitter github blog) Eric Davis (twitter github blog) Evan Light (twitter github blog) Jeff Schoolcraft (twitter github blog) Charles Max Wood (twitter github Teach Me To Code Rails Ramp Up) Discussion 00:48 - Ashe Dryden Introduction Indie Developer and Conference Organizer from Madison, Wisconsin 02:39 - Contracts Signing yours vs theirs Having a contract The Ruby Freelancers Show 049 - Contracts with Attorney Jared Richards 09:08 - Working with Down Payments and Deposits 10:35 - Clients asking you to reduce your hourly rate or paying you in something other than money 13:26 - Discovery (DaaS - Discovery as a Service) 19:35 - Referral-based Work 20:58 - Business Hours & Availability Poor Project Management Needy Clients Setting clients up to work in a way that works well for you 26:28 - Clients treating consultants and contractors as employees Points of contact 31:49 - Clients not knowing what they want 33:58 - Signing unreasonable non-compete agreements 37:57 - Timelines and Deliverables Asking clients for what you need to do your work/keep deadlines Setting expectations before work begins 45:05 - Communication Meeting in the middle Has the client worked with a freelancer before? 48:02 - Deal Breakers Expertise Conflicts Emergency Deadlines 55:20 - Managing Non-Payment Non-refundable Deposits One strike, two strike approach Mike Monteiro | F*ck You. Pay Me. (Video, NSFW/language) Freelance Contracts That Anyone Can Understand: Ashe Dryden ashedryden / freelance-contract 58:53 - Client Respect Disappearing Clients Punctuality Meeting Agendas Meetings Picks Arduino (Eric) amperka / ino (Eric) Block Fortress (Evan) Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra Star Trek TNG Shirt | eBay (Evan) Sevabot (Jeff) Google Calendar (Chuck) Amazon S3 (Chuck) graze (Ashe) Gittip (Ashe) DAYTUM (Ashe) Next Week Better Communications with Clients, Prospects, and other Contractors with Jenn Swanson (Communication Diva) Transcript CHUCK: That's true. I have pretty high tolerance for a lot of things. EVAN: Well, you work with Dave Brady, right? [Hosting and bandwidth provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at bluebox.net] CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to Episode 54 of The Ruby Freelancers Show. This week on our panel, we have Eric Davis. ERIC: Hello! CHUCK: Evan Light. EVAN: It's really episode 42.. CHUCK: Jeff Schoolcraft. JEFF: What's up! CHUCK: I'm Charles Max Wood from devchat.tv. We have a special guest this week, Ashe Dryden. ASHE: Hi there! CHUCK: Do you want to introduce yourself really quickly since you haven't been on the show? ASHE: Yeah, that's fine. My name is Ashe Dryden, obviously. I live in Madison, Wisconsin; I'm an indie developer and conference organizer, and generally, community harasser. CHUCK: [laughs] Yes. EVAN: It fits in the one who are troublemaker. [laughter] CHUCK: Yup. We're learning from the best. [Evan laughs] CHUCK: Anyway, this week we're going to be talking about "Red Flags" with potential and current clients. It was interesting the way it came about. I had been fighting with -- I don't want to use the word 'fighting' -- but I had been emailing former client who hadn't paid me for probably like 7 or 8 months. And so there was this whole discussion that we had on Twitter about deposits and things like that, and Ashe mentioned that she has this list -- I don't know if it's a formal list or kind of a mental list -- of red flags that she watches for. So we thought we'd get her on the show to see what red flags she has for current client, some potential clients. I'm sure we all have things to add and experience that we've had with clients that can tell you that some -- EVAN: Oh, no! All my clients have been saints, so I don't know what you're talking about. [silence]
CHUCK: That's true. I have pretty high tolerance for a lot of things. EVAN: Well, you work with Dave Brady, right? [Hosting and bandwidth provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at bluebox.net] CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to Episode 54 of The Ruby Freelancers Show. This week on our panel, we have Eric Davis. ERIC: Hello! CHUCK: Evan Light. EVAN: It's really episode 42.. CHUCK: Jeff Schoolcraft. JEFF: What's up! CHUCK: I'm Charles Max Wood from devchat.tv. We have a special guest this week, Ashe Dryden. ASHE: Hi there! CHUCK: Do you want to introduce yourself really quickly since you haven't been on the show? ASHE: Yeah, that's fine. My name is Ashe Dryden, obviously. I live in Madison, Wisconsin; I'm an indie developer and conference organizer, and generally, community harasser. CHUCK: [laughs] Yes. EVAN: It fits in the one who are troublemaker. [laughter] CHUCK: Yup. We're learning from the best. [Evan laughs] CHUCK: Anyway, this week we're going to be talking about "Red Flags" with potential and current clients. It was interesting the way it came about. I had been fighting with -- I don't want to use the word 'fighting' -- but I had been emailing former client who hadn't paid me for probably like 7 or 8 months. And so there was this whole discussion that we had on Twitter about deposits and things like that, and Ashe mentioned that she has this list -- I don't know if it's a formal list or kind of a mental list -- of red flags that she watches for. So we thought we'd get her on the show to see what red flags she has for current client, some potential clients. I'm sure we all have things to add and experience that we've had with clients that can tell you that some -- EVAN: Oh, no! All my clients have been saints, so I don't know what you're talking about. [silence] EVAN: That was a joke. [laughter] CHUCK: Yeah. Evan doesn't hire clients unless they have halos. EVAN: [laughter] Just to give them a break, now I'm Atheist, too. [laughter] EVAN: So in other words, I never get work. CHUCK: Yeah. But anyway, do you want to kind of -- [Evan laughing] CHUCK: [laughs] Do you want to start us off with one or two of your red flags? ASHE: Sure! So I didn't have a formal list until this past week, because I've been filling it like probably the past 3 or 4 years, and it's something you slowly learn overtime; a lot of it is unfortunately trial and error. The things that you learn are red flags are usually after you have a client and after you've kind of punished by whatever their actions are. So I kind of [inaudible] to pre-contract and post-contract, and I think it's important -- I'm sure that you guys have spoken explicitly before about why it's important to always have a contract. But one of my favorite things is clients that don't want to sign a contract at all, or they put off signing a contract as long as possible. I think I was speaking with Evan about this earlier in the past week, like I have my own contract and if a client asks me to sign their contract instead of mine, I actually charge them more because there's the potential for more problems; I have to work around their specific processes instead of them explicitly knowing in a written form how I work. EVAN: And as of this week by the way, I'm doing the same thing. ASHE: Sweet. EVAN: I love that. I love that idea. CHUCK: As of right now, I'm doing the same thing, too. [laughter] EVAN: See? I love that idea when I heard it. CHUCK: Oh, absolutely! JEFF: I've seen that more and more; I went on to "Thunderbolt Labs" pricing to somebody, and they had that, too. Their price was based on you accepting their contract and there was a preempt to it if you didn't, or if you want them to use yours. EVAN: Yup! CHUCK: Well the thing is, like Ashe said it, you're taking on more risk by going with their contract that's probably slanted more their way; there are some things in there. You know your contract and you know what the terms are, so you know what you're getting there. If you're using theirs, then there may be some language in there that you misunderstand or miss entirely, and then you have issues because of it. [crosstalk] EVAN: Red flags really is all about identifying risks in advance. ASHE: And the other thing is, charging more makes sense because you may want to have a lawyer look over the contract. So that's going to incur costs for you. CHUCK: Yup. And I thought it was interesting that before you even went into that, it was "make sure you have a contract". ASHE: Oh, yeah! I learned that one the hard way, unfortunately, more than once [laughs]. CHUCK: Oh, man! ASHE: Especially if you work with people -- and I tried really hard to not work with friends or companies that friends work at just because it can get tricky because so many people do the 'well don't you trust me', and I'm -- [Chuck laughs] ASHE: I'm too soft-hearted; I'm like "I totally trust you everything will be fine", and I've always gotten burned on that. So now, I say "Contract is required, and that's because it protects you and it protects me. I want us to have a good working relationship and it's a lot easier when we both know explicitly what's that relationship means". [crosstalk] EVAN: I'd say that there's some maybe minor exceptions to it, (like) for example, when I have a really short one-off contract. Example: when I mentoring people remotely -- I'm often working maybe just one 2-hour session with someone -- I couldn't go through all the paper work having them review and sign the contract; if I haven't done that, then I have to tailor a contract just for mentoring. But the way I see it is, generally, I get to sense the person before I mentor them. And if they're going to short-change me on a single session, it's more unlikely because they don't feel they got the value out of it. If that's the case, then I feel like I didn't do much job or anyway. I've never had that happen, but that doesn't mean it won't at some point. CHUCK: Yeah. EVAN: But for anything that remotely long-term, I'm totally there with you. CHUCK: The other thing is this, on those shorter contracts -- because I've worked a few of them (and) work there for like a week, or I've done some coaching and mentoring -- and with those, I just make them pre-pay. EVAN: Yeah, I've done that, too. I mean it comes down to -- again, we're talking about red flags; we're talking about risks. And everything to consider with risk is “what's the impact of the risk manifest? If the impact is minimal, then maybe it's not really worth doing. CHUCK: Yeah, that's true, too. ASHE: That's interesting that you don't touch, even sign a contract, for short-term things like right now, I have a 5-hour project and I have them sign a contract. Mostly, that's because almost all of my clients end up wanting more work once I complete the first set of requirements that they have; and it's just easier to not continue that relationship without stopping every single time. I don't know, it's just (that) I like the formalization in the relationship; it makes them realize like "This is professional, this is serious; we both have to take it seriously". EVAN: And that's a fair point. With mentoring, a lot of the times, I get a sense of whether I'm talking to someone -- I talk to them a little against over email -- I get some sense of whether it sounds a bit of the kind of person who is going to want you be a recurring student, or really just a one-off "I just need someone to bounce ideas off of". What I'm doing with people who seem like it's probable or even kind of like they're going to come back to me, maybe I'll talk to them about paperwork. But for one-off kinds of things, a very informal, occasional, like 2 hours (or) once a month and I invoice them and they pay me after each one, a contract doesn't feel like important to me that when there's code involved, then either there's a contract or they just pay me right upfront, just as Chuck said. When I have a working contract, that's what I ask for - I ask for payment in advanced. ERIC: You got to be careful with that, though. The payment stuff, yeah that's one side, but there is a downside. Even if it's a one week contract, if you do something and they decided to take it at court and hold you liable for your code, you have a huge downside and it's more than just them stiffing you the payment. So at the very least, you have to have a contract that say as it is, all that -- [crosstalk] EVAN: The indemnity information of my contract is very relevant; now, I'll keep that minor few drifts. And for people listening, we should refer them backwards to 2 or 3 episodes - to the contract episode. Very good point. ASHE: The other thing that Chuck mentioned earlier is, I also take a down payment -- whether a deposit or upfront -- and that doesn't get subtracted from their accounts until the last invoice. Because I've been burned so many times with "Oh, this is the last invoice; it's not like she's going to stop working" (because there's no more work to do), and they'll kind of stiff me on the last invoice. So they have to keep paying all the way through the contract, and then the deposit is subtracted from the very last invoice. CHUCK: Yeah. And I have to say that I was making a mistake of taking the down payment or the deposit or whatever you want to call it, that I was applying it to their first invoice. [crosstalk] And then I got nailed at the end because they never paid me. EVAN: Right. This is something I’ve long talked about, too, because I've heard -- even before I started with freelancing -- I've heard too many horror stories. So as soon as I started, I started by taking down payments. Not only that, it gives you leverage when a client is delinquent on payments. Because one of my first freelancing clients, they felt like I've been a bit half behind, and I was getting ready to walk. The deposit, I think, would have covered that amount, if I had walked; they gave me leverage basically to get their act together. ASHE: That's cool. CHUCK: Yeah, I totally agree. ASHE: A couple of the other pre-contract stuff I have is, them asking you to reduce your hourly rate or them asking you to take payment in something other than money. [laughter] ASHE: That happens. JEFF: Like goats? ASHE: [laughs] I knew you're going to say goats, I knew it! EVAN: Equity! ASHE: Equity is a big one. I've worked with a lot of startups, and I would love to be able to take equity in your startup, but it's not guaranteed money - equity does not buy me groceries [laughs]. As much as I think that your business is pretty darn cool, it's not going to help me on [inaudible]. EVAN: Well, not only that. When you're taking equity -- I feel like I have to ask myself (when they're offering it) "Is this something I would invest my own money? And if I just had money you spared, almost all is the interest now", and that's what they're asking you to do. ASHE: Yeah. CHUCK: Yeah, I agree. And that's where I head it, too. I usually actually say something to the effect of "So, what you're asking me to do is be an investor in your company?" EVAN: Exactly. Exactly! CHUCK: And then it's like "Whoa..". A lot of times it's not even like straight equity like you get so much equity for so much work. It's always like "Well you get it and invest on this schedule and it does this and it does this other thing", and it's like "Look, no! You're not even giving me like straight value in your company if I wanted it for the money or for the time that I'm putting in!" ERIC: And also if they gave you straight equity, then you would become a shareholder, and technically you could tell yourself not to do something. [laughter] CHUCK: There you go! But the other thing is this, if the company goes bust -- because they're not going to give you controlling share, right? So, you can't make the decisions that make it go bust or not, then it's your fault. If they go bust, then you don't get anything. EVAN: Right. And that's most startups -- let's be frank. CHUCK: Yes. ASHE: Oh businesses, too. I mean just pure businesses; people who have been established for a long time. Like I said, anytime that somebody tries to offer me something other than money -- unless it's something that's really cool like if they produce some kind of product that I would want -- I would be willing to trade an hour in lieu of whatever their product is. EVAN: But hey, if they produce groceries... [laughter] EVAN: And they gave you credit that would last indefinitely toward groceries...sure! ASHE: [laughs] Exactly. CHUCK: I really liked the distinction you made there, too, between startups and business there, Ashe, because some startups really aren't business. EVAN: True. ASHE: Yeah. It's an argument I get into a lot with people. [laughter] ERIC: Right. ASHE: Exactly. EVAN: Right. ASHE: So some other things, I've had a lot of clients that try and get me to do work before the contract is signed. Like I have a specific contract setup for Discovery, and the only thing that happens in Discovery is 'Discovery'; I'll have people ask me to attend meetings or talk to the other people around the team. Just to be clear, I do team augmentation and training -- I work with a lot of different people. So there are a lot of people that need to be communicated to, which is totally reasonable, but it has to be on the clock and it has to be under a contract. CHUCK: That's interesting. So, I have a lot of questions about that then. Discovery, do you actually make them pay for the time you put in to figure out whether or not it's a contract that you're going to actually work? ASHE: Yes. Because then I give them a document that they can then take to any other contract or if they choose not to go with me or if I choose not to take the project done, they can take that document and say "Look, we have someone do Discovery so if you need to do Discovery, keep all of these things in mind", it gives them a starting point so, they know exactly how much work has to be done. I'm investing time into whatever their project is, so it caused me time to do. CHUCK: So, what point do you introduce that in? As soon as you talk to them? ASHE: Yeah. I have an initial meeting and talk about the kinds of problems that they're having and what they would see my role as being, and then discuss what Discovery entails; getting access to whatever things I need access to and talking to any team mates that I might have on the project just to kind of feel out how long it's going to take in that kind of thing. CHUCK: And do you just charge your normal billable rate for that? ASHE: Yup! EVAN: I think the reason (why) Chuck sounds curious the way you does it because, at least myself, I think Chuck might do the same thing where for large projects at least, I tend to do the Discovery for free, as a little bit of a lost [inaudible] so getting a foot in the door, giving the client additional sense of comfort with me early on. For smaller projects, I tend to do something more like what you do, although I don't have a separate contract for this type; I just build them for it. But in the line between small and large, it's kind of a fuzzy one. So it's a project by project thing, or I figure that out essentially. ERIC: I did the same thing as Ashe. I have a one hour consultation where it's more of a meet and greet, like do I want to work with this person, not actually the project. And then I say "Look, we can either do a Discovery where I figure out what you need, or we can jump right into the project that's kind of a fixed amount of hours a week and do Discovery more agile as we're working on it". Most clients -- because they rushing to get me in -- want to just throw the Discovery in and do bits of it in the first week and a little bit overtime. But actually for a while there, I had an actual separate service that I would say like "Look, if you want to work with me, you need to do this Discovery process. I will give you a document that you can take to any developer that knows what they're doing and they can implement what I'm recommending, of course I would like to implement it, but if you don't want to work with me on implementation, you want to work with someone else, that's your option". EVAN: What I don't -- well, my clients are new startups -- some of them early on have a certain amount of hesitance so I used the Discovery; it would never set away to get the foot in the door. It means, and I completely agree with what you said Ashe, it is an investment on my part; and that's exactly how I see it. For a long-term contract, a little invested upfront can be a really long-term win for me. So, a small investment can be worth it, but it depends on the project. CHUCK: One thing that I think is different from the approach that Ashe is bringing up versus what I typically do is, I'll sit down and I'll figure out what they need, but I don't actually deliver them anything. I don't give them a document that says "So, this is what you want". EVAN: Right. CHUCK: In a lot of cases, I may sit down and I'll plan it out in Tracker or Redmine or something, and then it's there, but there's nothing formal about it that I can say "Okay, here you go. You can take this to another developer and make it happen. This is in my system; I'm happy to in track or transfer the project over to your account or whatever." But in the end, I'm not saying "Here's the product that you can actually take in use even if you don't feel like I'm the person that you want to do the implementation". So outlining the value there and explaining "Even if I'm not the person that implements it, I'm going to give you this value", I think it makes a lot of sense, and it's just part of your sales process as to how you approach that. ERIC: Yeah. I used to do that for free for some clients before I wised up. I spent probably 5, maybe 10 hours specking it out, figuring out what kind of data design we're going to need, what kind of degradations we're going to need, gave it to them and they're like "Oh, that's great! Let's think about it before we sign the contract." Couple of weeks later (I) heard back from them "Oh, we want to do different project. Can we do this one and get this while we're thinking about the other thing?" I ended up blowing I think 20 or 40 hours designing stuff for them... EVAN: Whooh! ERIC: They never became a client. This was like my first year, so I didn't know what I was doing. EVAN: I don't put that kind of time in the Discovery when I'm working even with large clients. To be very clear, I tend to draw a line in the sand at maybe 2-4 hours and that's the end of the Discovery, maybe I'd do more once they signed the contract. ASHE: I also sell that as a service. I also explicitly will say "If you just need somebody who can look at the big picture and plan out what it should look like so your in-house developers can actually put this together, I'm perfectly cool with doing that, too!" CHUCK: Yeah I really like that. How do you have that on your website? I'm going to actually go and -- ASHE: I don't actually. I think I'm in this weird class of freelancers where the vast majority of my work is referral based. It's through word of mouth; it's through people meeting me, and that kind of thing. I don't explicitly have anything on my website just because I'm not always soliciting clients. And I kind of like the word of mouth thing a little bit better because it tend to get better quality clients rather than kind of like the cold call. EVAN: That's how I tend to get a lot of mine, too, but not all. And yes, I concur the word of -- it's like when you're hiring people, too, right? You're usually better hiring people from the network than just people that come in off the street - there's a certain amount of pre-qualification involved essentially. ASHE: Yeah. It's nice to have enough people that will just -- from talking to me at conferences and that kind of thing -- will do say "Oh, do you do that as a contractor? Because we're looking for somebody who does that..." or though remember a conversation that they had with me four months ago about it. I would rather spend the time talking to people about the kind of thing that I do and the projects that I worked on. CHUCK: Yeah. Most of my clients have actually not been referrals. I've picked up one or two from referrals, but I've been really bad about asking for referrals and testimonials and things than I'm getting much better at that. ASHE: Another thing I actually explicitly have stated in my contract (are) my business hours and my availability because I'm one of those people that has a really hard time with the work-life balance. I mean left (with) my own devices, I will work 18-hour days, and I just never stop. So it's nice when I have other things to distract me like I have to be able to feed the cat, so I should probably go home at a certain point - like I have all these other responsibilities. So I explicitly stated in my contract the hours that I have, my availability, the way you can contact me. And a big red flag is people who say "Well, we might need you like right up at the end of the project at 3 in the morning to be able to implement something". My response is generally, "For one thing, your project's probably shouldn't be going like that". Like if you aren't planning out well enough that 3 in the morning, the day before whatever the launch is, fighters are having to be put out, then you need to be better at planning. Maybe you need to push the launch a week, if that's the kind of thing - that makes you on the regular basis. So, it's really important for me to be able to establish those kinds of boundaries right upfront with the client, so they know what to expect from "When they can contact me? When they can expect a response? How frequently I expect them to response me?" that kind of thing. EVAN: Good point. What I've sometimes done, especially that I'm doing stuff augmentation, I'll try to talk to other people on the team because I don't have it in my contract; I cannot tell the client what my rough hours are. But it's sometimes hard to tell from talking just to that one contact you might have, how well they actually manage their project - and a poorly managed project is a giant Red Flag, right? ASHE: Yes. EVAN: A poorly managed project is usually going to have lots of problems in your deadline; lots of crunch time as in they're going to have ridiculous requests. So that's something I try to assess out, too. Let me give you another one that I encountered lately and you tell me what you think. When one client approached me and I actually involved another freelancer, both of us had the impression from talking with this fellow that (I don't know a good way to put it of him to say), he seemed kind of needy. Which is to say that he just kept coming back frequently with little comments, little questions, and it started to make us a little bit uncomfortable. Offline, we talked about it a little and both of us thought "Something doesn't seem right with this guy". He's overly involved like in communication, but I think it has something to do with the frequency. I guess we'll put it another way. Have you ever talked [inaudible] just had to release by some degree, and then later figured out what it was? ASHE: Definitely. I don't know that it's "later figured out what it was", I think it depends on the client. Like I work with a lot of marketing and advertising agencies that aren't necessarily -- they don't work the same way that we do; they work in a very different style. Everything is like do everything -- I mean it's very waterfall, if you're going to give a good analogy like everything is done in a very different way. I've had clients that kind of do like that will email you once an hour, on the hour; asking questions, things you didn't think of. And sometimes it's just setting them up to work the way that works best for you. So I'll say "I see that you have lots of questions. Will it help if we sat down for an hour and discuss these things because you seem to have a lot of concerns and I definitely want the quality of those and make sure that we're both on the same page". I really hate email, like I have written tons of blog posts. Once I hate email, I used to run a startup that was explicitly trying to get people away from email because that's how much I hate email. So, talking to clients about "What are the best ways that you can communicate; what are the most effective ways that we can communicate?" and trying to figure out what's behind the way that they do that? I mean I've worked with marketing and advertising agencies where I'll spend the day in their office and they'll do like I've had the like getting email and then they walk up to you and say "Did you get my email?" like five seconds later. [Chuck laughs] ASHE: And that's not the way that I work, I can't handle that. Which is why I prefer my own office, I don't like working in a client's office. I like being in my own little zone. So sometimes it's just a different way that they work. EVAN: Right. That sounds like another red flag right there because it's the kind of what I was referring to is, when you find that despite working with the -- I guess I'll call them leads, they're not clients you convert them -- despite working with the lead, you cannot negotiate out a mutually acceptable communication style. ASHE: Right. EVAN: So that's sort of where we got with this guy. We found that [inaudible] because when we told him we wanted to pass in the project, he turned around the next day and he would send a few cycle rant emails at us including much profanity. It's just completely [inaudible]. CHUCK: Yeah. One other thing that I've seen come up with clients that somewhat related to what we're talking about here is that they seem to think that when they hire a consultant or a contractor, that they're effectively just paying an hourly employee. And -- EVAN: Yeah. Or...sorry, go ahead. CHUCK: But they think "Okay, now I have the right to..." whatever these things are -- you've talked about a lot of them "with the communication, how often, what type, having you in their office, what level of access you have whether or not you take other clients" - all of that stuff. Eric put in meeting week; you have been in a few of those with some of my clients. They honestly think that you're at their back and call and you basically belong to them until the contract is over. ERIC: It's never happened. ASHE: Ever. [laughter] ASHE: Something that's related to that like I tell people that I like to have one decision maker. So I like to have one person that's end of contact. There are so many times where inside this companies, they would prefer to do everything by a committee. And I'm sure that some businesses, that works really well for it and I'm glad that they have that democratic process, but I want the end decision. I want one person to be able to walk up to the podium and say "I hereby declare this", and that is the law of the land. That's all I want. I just want to talk to one person. I've actually worked with companies where that person changes a lot or the person that's in that job gets fired and then somebody else steps in, and then that person gets fired - all of those things are red flags, too, just the way that their internal culture works. I'm generally not super embedded in my clients' cultures, most of the time I'm kind of a bit an arms distance so I don't generally have to deal with that. But when it starts affecting me on a "Who am I contacting about problems, about questions, who am I having meetings with. If I send an email and if it doesn't get answered for a week" then I finally contact the person of the company and they say "Oh, that person got fired. We replaced him with this person" and nobody (is) about to notify me, all of those things add up to like feeling just general uneasiness, I guess. EVAN: So it sounds to me like if there's a red flag to note there, based on what you were saying and what Chuck was saying, it's that moment when you realize the client is treating you like you are part of the cultures. ASHE: Yeah. EVAN: Because I've seen that, too. And at that point you're no longer the valued outsider, you're just another part of the machine and your opinion is no longer evaluated as a consultant, you were just there to churn out work. ASHE: Yeah. And I think that some consultants do work like that; I think that's part of the reason that a lot of these companies work that way. So it's totally understandable. I'm kind of saying upfront like "This is the way that I work; this is the way the things are going to go". If you have any questions or issues, let's work it out, but I'm not going to work in your office or I'm not going to have somebody standing over my shoulder and watching me debug something. It's not the way that I work. I appreciate the best of process you guys have in the past, but that's not the way it's going to continue if you want me as a consultant. EVAN: I mentioned it also. Because, at least with one of my clients, I've seen it happen sort of by slow degrees where I'm brought in as a consultant, and they want me for my advice. And then overtime -- this is so much that maybe a different episode, possibly...not that I'm having an episode, that is -- but that overtime they learned about as much as they can afford to learn because learning sometimes requires slowing down. And so now they just want to get back to banging stuff out so they just want to go to a lower quality faster solution at which point they just want people who help in churn out widgets, and that makes widgets better. ASHE: Yup. Another thing kind of related to that. I had a potential client recently, we're surprised that goes really excited about and really wanting to do and kind of hadn't heard about signing the contract and hadn't heard from them in a month. I ended up having to go into the emergency room for something and I was not having a good time like health-wise. And hadn't heard from them in a while, so I just figured they're just dropped off the edge of the planet, that's fine they found somebody else. And then I eventually got an email like "We haven't heard from you, you never told us that you're going into the hospital" and I was like "We don't have a contract, and it was the emergency room; it's not something that I planned" [laughs]. I don't know, there are some things that in weird situations come up that you're like "Yeah, that's definitely a red flag right there". EVAN: That sounds to me like the whole, the needy [inaudible]. Generally, we don't have a contract, but you're in the hospital and this seem bed! [laughs]. ASHE: Yup, exactly. And no contract to us starts then. I was like "I don't know why it's such a big deal". [crosstalk] EVAN: It's like you went on one date with a person, and then all of a sudden "Oh, boy! You're going out with that person; you're not allowed to do that! [laughter] CHUCK: So one other one that I ran into recently, I went up to a company that's kind of local here -- 'kind of local' meaning it was a 45-minute drive to get there -- and had lunch with them, they got food poisoning, and all that fun stuff! [Evan laughs] ERIC: Your client gave daily poison? That's a red flag, Chuck. [laughter] CHUCK: Yeah, we went to the cafe in the building they work in and donate the fish tacos. Anyway, I was sitting there and I'm talking through lunch with the CEO of the company and then he's like "Well, I want you to talk to the developer as well", that makes sense. He's their expert so he should feel comfortable with me being around and working on their code. But between the two of them, it seem like they were both talking about two completely different projects. EVAN: [laughs] Ho-ho-ho-ho CHUCK: Like the name was kind of the same and the general gist was kind of the same. But like any of the rest of the details, it just wasn't there. And then, they we're sure if they wanted a consultant or if they wanted a full-time employee, and so they've been interviewing both. I mean it's a huge red flag when they have no idea what they want. EVAN: It's called disorganization [laughs]. CHUCK: So I mean, I was planning on being up there all day and working remotely with one of my current clients while he was up there and yeah, I left right after lunch. [laughter] I was like "Well, I know what I need to know; I'm out of here". [Evan laughs] CHUCK: But those people are so hard to work with if you're getting just these conflicting views on things or if they really don't know what you're all supposed to be. Because I can't tell them if I'm the right person; I can't tell them if I'm the person they want to do the job because I have no idea. ASHE: And that's hard if you get into it after like you realized that that's the case after the fact because somebody is always going resent the role that you didn't know you are supposed to play CHUCK: Yeah! EVAN: Hmm-mmm ERIC: Yup! ASHE: It makes it harder. So -- let's see what else -- Oh! One of my favorite one, I talked about this one last week, I was approached by a national hardware store - very well-known. One of the things that was in their non-compete was you couldn't work on anything that had catalogue data by categories that could be chose at. EVAN: I love those. ASHE: I totally appreciate this project, but that's not something that I can sign because I have so many clients that are like e-commerce websites or informational things where they have tagged information. This isn't something that's new that just been invented; that they invented. And I'm trying to explain to them that it's not reasonable and any consultant that's worth their money will not agree to sign them. They said "Oh well, this is kind of a requirement", and I said "Alright well, good luck in finding someone else!" EVAN: Yeah. Right. [crosstalk] EVAN: I remember, we've talked about that one last week, right? ASHE: Yup! EVAN: I had a client, my most recent one, they gave me the NDA -- and I told you about this one already, Ashe -- they gave me an NDA contract that I would violate the moment I would call them to get refill. So, it was literally impossible to do any work for them. I went back to them and say "Okay, you got to get rid of this line, this line, and this line...And then maybe I can actually work for you". There was a non-compete in there, too, that was basically you can't work on a web app for like a year or something like that. At least in their case, these guys were small and they said "Oh, okay. This [inaudible], we'll fix it". But your story is a little more amusing [laughs]. ASHE: I can't really believe that! JEFF: I was working with the lead, I don't know, 3 months ago or something, and they had the scope of the non-compete - it wasn't that outrageous, but the duration of it was. There was like 20-year non-compete or something. It was really -- CHUCK: Oh my gosh! EVAN: How specific was the scope, though? JEFF: It's fairly specific to their industry, but general enough to be something you'd cross in a year or so. EVAN: Oh I get it. JEFF: Yeah, it was ridiculous. [crosstalk] ERIC: I'd say, I seen a 10-year where it basically so vague that I couldn't work on software for 10 years. [laughter] ASHE: Well if you're going to based for 10 years, that's cool! [crosstalk] CHUCK: I've got non-disclosures that read liked on competes. EVAN: Why don't they just put you through the government security clearance process for that particular project state and say "Here, everything we're going to brief you and it's top secret; you're never allowed to share or use it for the rest of your life". JEFF: Yeah, that'd be easier. ERIC: Yeah. [Evan laughs] CHUCK: But the thing is this, a lot of them, they basically word it so it's like "You can't use or share any of the technology that you used in this project, or any of the techniques you used in this project", and it's like "Look, I had to work!" EVAN: [laughs] Right. ASHE: What's my favorite thing about that is, almost always the clients who say those kinds of things has rely on open source anyway. EVAN: I know! [Chuck laughs] ASHE: So it drives me insane like "Let me get this straight, you want to use what people have out in the community and have been working on for how many years as a collective of ton of people all over the world, but you're unwilling to contribute back to that?" I'm like "Then you don't understand open source and maybe we're not the right cultural fit". ERIC: Yeah. The worst one is, I worked on a Redmine stuff which is GPL Version 2, so it basically tames anything you do. I had a potential lead ask for a non-compete, non-disclose, can't do anything with it; I'm like "This is GPL that we're --" EVAN: GPL! [laughter] EVAN: It's illegally impossible. ERIC: Yeah. I mean that goes back to what we're talking about, like if you've come with your contract, you can have an NDA that works for both sides, that's pretty sane, and can keep your options open in the future. But if it's the client's contract, you got to get your red marker out. EVAN: [whispers] Yeah. ASHE: Yeah. So, another one that I ran into semi-frequently is them not meeting timelines, or like not getting me deliverables at a reasonable rate -- JEFF: Ohh! EVAN: [whispers] Gosh! ASHE: Some things that I'm -- EVAN: Yeah [laughs]. Rogue running here -- [Chuck laughs] ASHE: That happens all the time. EVAN: All the time! ASHE: I actually stopped -- I used to have like a timeline in my contract that explicitly say "March 1st - I will deliver this; March 15th - you will deliver this", but it got to the point where people were not keeping their end of the bargain. And in addition, they would then be upset with the thing that I relied on them to be able to produce; I wouldn't be able to deliver on time. So I just said "Twenty days after you give me this, this is what you will receive", because I could never rely on them to keep their end of the bargain. EVAN: We've all seen -- [laughs] CHUCK: Well, the other problem that you have in those cases is not just that they're angry because it's late, but in a lot of cases, if they're your only client which is in a situation you really want to necessarily be in. If they're your only client, or a major portion of your income at the time, and you're sitting there waiting and not billing hours against their project because you don't have what you need -- EVAN: [inaudible] You're blocked because you're waiting on them. CHUCK: They may as well not be paying you. ASHE: Yeah. EVAN: Yeah. Well, they can't be paying you because you keep in working, right? CHUCK: Exactly. EVAN: I get this -- unfortunately, it's the vast majority of the clients I've worked with that even though we've got a contract, even though I'm not cheap, they seem to think (that) it's okay, and it's even worse because when they're paying, still I have work to do. But if I'm missing information there either some work is going by the way side or something that it'd be that efficiently, so they're wasting money. I'm telling them "Hey, I need this. This is costing you money because you're not giving me XY and Z", and they just [inaudible] their money away. ASHE: And this becomes a real problem, too, like I tend to schedule projects pretty much back to back. I prefer not to work on multiple projects at once just so I can focus all of my attention and energy on one thing at a time. But if they're late in delivering things -- and I've calendared things based on what their hard and festive line is -- then my other clients might be punished because they are incapable of delivering things on time. And that makes me look bad, which I don't like having done. ERIC: It looks like a cascading failure. ASHE: Yeah. CHUCK: I have to ask then, I mean we're talking about red flags, but what do you do in these particular cases? Do you email them every day when you get started "I'm still waiting for X", because you can kind of make a nuisance of yourself? Or -- I don't know. EVAN: I do. I'm willing to make a nuisance of myself because it's them wasting their money, in a lot of my cases, and I don't like wasting their money for one thing. CHUCK: So, do you specifically mention that in the email? EVAN: Yes. CHUCK:"I need this to get this done, and you're going to lose this money, you'll lose this timeline", or whatever. ASHE: Yes -- EVAN: Well, I guess it's the deal carting the approach, right? It's the telling "Why it should matter to them?" You're telling why it should matter to them, and if that's not getting through to them, then the need’s got to be help. ASHE: Yeah. And I try not to put the monetary penalty in there because whenever you bring up money like that, it always put a sour taste in people's mouth. So a lot of the times, they determine I'm of their deadline. If we're going to keep your deadline for X date, then I need to have this thing within the next 48 hours. JEFF: I've heard some people -- it might have been Eric -- that if your client doesn't meet deadline in some response they have to you, and then it could affect your availability to work on their project. So like you're saying, Ashe, you schedule projects back to back; if they're 15 days late or 3 weeks late or whatever it is, then they just fond to the queue and you start working on the other project. Then they just set it up until you're available again because they didn't respect you enough to make the deadline. ERIC: That's how I do it. ASHE: That's awesome. ERIC: My contract specifies what I deliver to them, what we get from the open source rather (than) the community or third party, and also what the client has to give me. If they don't give me what they're supposed to give me, technically, it's almost a breach of contract. So I basically say like "I don't set like I'm working on your project for the next two weeks until it's done; I'm working on your project for the next two weeks. Two weeks plus one day, I'm off of your project; you're going to have to wait until the next cycle" because I tend to time-slice, threw them off for different clients. EVAN: So Eric, is that like a statement of work that you give them in addition to the contract? ERIC: Yeah. Statement of work will outline all of that stuff and it basically say "I'm working for you, for example, one week a month, we can pick the week outside the statement of work. But once it's picked, and confirmed, and emailed which is official, that's it. Come Saturday morning, I'm off your project". It works for some clients because sometimes they do have 'fire' set outside of their control, so those fire takes first priority and a bump-stuff off the end of the week. But for clients that just sit on deadlines they don't get me stuff, they learn really quickly to get stuff ready for me when I start. ASHE: Yeah. I actually have a section in my contract that "these are all the things that I'm going to need so you can prepare". In some projects, I can say I need all of these things before I start; once I have these things, I will give you a start date. So, I guess it depends on the size of the project and the kind of project it is. But if I can, I prefer to have everything upfront in one length. ERIC: One of my better clients, I worked basically a week every month for them long-term, and at the end of the week, we plan out "Okay, Eric, what do you need for next month so we have an entire month to get it ready for you?" Basically, they were great because I would come in basically Monday and be like "Okay, everything's here; I start working on it. I get everything done", and then next Friday like "Okay, now we're going to look out again". That was a great relationship because they were able to do all the planning and they get planning around if they had problems or whatever, but they still got all of the stuff I needed or if they had questions on things like it was all resolved before I actually had this really heavy dev time. EVAN: To try to synthesize a little bit from this, what I'm really hearing isn't so much red flags -- and I like this; I think I want to try emulate this -- is that you guys are trying to be very clear about setting the expectations on the client before work begins and while work is ongoing. So that way, there is less churn and less waste. ASHE: Yeah. JEFF: Yup! ERIC: I have a list here of like red flags, but it's actually at positive phrases, so it's like my ideal client. Last item is "Plans enough ahead in order to keep momentum on the project". EVAN: More like it's displaying Chuck for being negative by saying "it's all that required". [laughter] ERIC: I like to spin. CHUCK: I do want to point out, though, that a lot of this comes down to communication. EVAN: Yeah! CHUCK: I know we've been going back and forth, and talking around, didn't talking about it, but some clients, if you can communicate well what you need and communicate well about how they can communicate with you -- because they don't understand what it takes to do what you do that's why they hired you -- but if you can communicate well as to how they can facilitate you in your helping them, then you're in a good place. ERIC: Exactly. CHUCK: I think that's the solution to a lot of this. We're actually going to have a friend of mine Jen Swanson on the show next weekend; she's going to talk to us a lot about communication. But yeah, it came to mind that that's what we're dealing with here. And the clients that are really have the red flags or the ones that can't or won't adapt to be able to accommodate you -- to a certain degree, you have to adapt to accommodate them, too -- but... EVAN: Right. It's a meeting in the middle. One thing I was going to mention is a red flag, too - [inaudible]. If they're not willing to meet you in the middle, if it becomes the "You're going to deal with us on our terms", then it's not a partnership kind of relationship; it's very much a master-servant kind of relationship. And I don't think any of us really buy into that sort of approach at the consulting -- maybe I'm wrong. But I like to be with "as a partnership". When I don't have a partnership style of communication with my client, they don't tend to seem my client very well. CHUCK: If we wanted the master-slave deal, we don't have fulltime jobs. [laughs] EVAN: Po-rom-pom! ASHE: I don't know, some employers do get this right. I've worked fulltime for places that we're really more partners than they were like the top-down like "This is what I decree and this is what shall be kind of thing". So I don't want to give all fulltime employers a bad wrap; and there are definitely clients that I've contracted for that are really good at this. Sometimes, it's just that they've never had to work this way before. So they're learning something new, too. CHUCK: I agree. I've worked for those people, too. ASHE: Yeah. I look at it like I'm helping them be better for the consultant that comes after me, right? So that's one more consultant that's going to have a great client, and somebody else has done it for me before me, so I appreciate that. ERIC: Yeah. There's one red flag I kind of have; it's more of yellow flag is: Has this person work with a freelancer? And also, have they work with a remote developer before? Because if they haven't, there's a lot of education, upfront, expectation set versus if you work with a company, that has all remote workers and hires contractors all the time - they know how stuff works. CHUCK: That is true. So are there any other red flags? We started from the red flags as were qualifying leads, and things like that. Are there red flags that stat pushing you toward wanting to leave a project? Or, things that you just don't tolerate and you're like "Bye!" [crosstalk] ERIC: I got a big pro-out, that I think everyone will get less. EVAN: This could be a whole episode, Chuck. Come on! [laughter] CHUCK: I know! ERIC: Once again, this is my positive spin, but basically the client understands that they're the expert with the business, and they understand that I'm the expert with the software. EVAN: Yes! ASHE: Yes. EVAN: And that they understand that you can't build the software unless they're available to provide their expertise. ERIC: Yeah. It's a mutual thing. I've had some people have never coded in their life trying to dictate how the code should be structured. I'm like "If you want to write the code, I'll give you a text editor". I mean that's micro-management at skill you wouldn't believe. EVAN: The classic one is, "So we just need XY and Z, dig them on the feature. That's only going to take you like two hours, right?" CHUCK: Yeah, there's a script that does that, right? [laughter] ASHE: And I think that falls back on education especially when you're talking to somebody who's not themselves a developer, it's very hard for them to understand like what we do is very black box - you go away and you come back with something that works and does exactly what I wanted it to do. So if they don't see the amount of work that goes into the amount of planning that has to go into something like that, it's easy for them to dismiss the amount of time it takes. EVAN: Well, I'm willing to give the clients benefit of the doubt a lot where the leads been after the [inaudible] all the time. There are some individuals who I worked with or for who they're just not going to get it because even though they don't understand, they're too (I'll just be blunt) too arrogant to accept they don't understand. ASHE: Sure. I think one of my other big rifts likes to either moving up the deadline or suddenly everything becomes an emergency. [Evan laughs] ASHE: If it's not your project that's the emergency, it's something else that they have to take developers that around your project off of. So then your project becomes an emergency because you don't have enough people actually working on something to actually hit [laughs] to actually hit the number of hours that you expected to be able to use on a project. CHUCK: Yeah. EVAN: Well that's an easy red flag, you didn't have to prioritize. CHUCK: Yeah I was going to say that. I mean when everything becomes an emergency because you're not going to hit the deadline or they moved the deadline but there's also the issue of "Well, we want you to take care of the top priorities. Well what are they? Well here are all 15 of them", and it's like "Okay". And any one of them is a fulltime job priority, right? And so, there's just no way! ASHE: I think it's interesting, too, especially for a lot of clients that are working on projects that dont' necessarily have a hard deadline or was just something that was pulled out of a board meeting with this set of time you'd accept by October 1st. Them, not necessarily understanding the amount of work that's going to go into it or being flexible on a deadline that is not "We have an investor meeting lined up three days later, I want to make sure that this is up and working". Being flexible on both sides I guess is important, that's what I'm trying to say. EVAN: Sure! I mean, there's agile and then there's the spin and there's scope creep. That's the term that I use; and that was one of my first contracting clients. But I seen this all the time in the government space where it's "We want this but, oh and by the way, we want this, oh and by the way, we want this", and so your delivery date each going to push back and back for their back. Yeah, talking about money at that point might put a sour taste in their mouth, but at some point you have to say to them "Hey guys, this extra feature it's going to cause you more money. This extra feature, it's going to cause you more money. Oh, and it's going to take more time, too", because otherwise they might get it in their crazy heads because I've seen these occasionally when they think all these extra features will be free and will occur in the same schedule. ASHE: I really like setting them up to have a continuing contract. I'll be like "Yes, that's a great idea; we should definitely do that in the second iteration. EVAN: Right! ASHE: So that guarantees that I have another contract right after the one that I'm completing. And it gives them the ability to dream big and think of the things that their application should be doing for their customers without telling them no. CHUCK: The other thing that I really really like -- EVAN: Right! And -- I'm sorry I'd love to tell them 'yes', but sometimes the client, at least one, couldn't get into their heads, but shipping MVP and then let's add more feature [laughs] no matter how I try. There's always that in state; I seem to get a bunch of them. CHUCK: Yeah. And I like using some of the tools like Tracker. I go for this because you basically say "Okay, you can put anything you want above this release. Anything you want in this release, go ahead and put it in that release", and then you'll explain "The velocity is a measure of how fast we've been moving, and so if we continue to move at the pace we've been going, then you will get the deadline wherever that little blue bar falls". And so then, they start looking at it and they go "Holy crap! We need it before 2 months!" And so then I start moving stuff below the line, and they immediately start to understand "Okay, to get this release, I want this". And then you'd start talking to them "Well, this other stuff is important, right?" "Yes, it's important." "Well then, we'll create another release down here", and that's more or less what Ashe said "This is the next iteration, the next release, the next section of the contract". And then they understand "Okay, so I can have the minimum stuff that I need in 3 weeks; and I can have everything I need in 2 months". EVAN: That's one of my favorite things about Tracker - once it gets the little bit of the rhythm, it just forces the team and yes, your client to prioritize; that they have to make tradeoffs. ERIC: One thing I did with one client that worked good was I didn't have (to) put stuff in bucket, so you have a list of things, like it literally was an allies and stuff. I was like "put stuff in here that shows the hours -- you know how much hours I'm giving you in your budget" like they could not cram in more things because it would have that little things since I crammed in more, it bumps things off automatically. He figured it out like "Okay so I'm going to have them take care of this fire and we're going to jump to this new feature and I'm just going to have to suck it up that other stuffs going to get pushed out of this bucket. EVAN: I don't understand why can't they fit 5 pounds, [inaudible] 10 pounds. I'm going to have to [inaudible] the 5 pound back. I had to edit my words there so -- [laughter] ERIC: Evan had it off by one error just now. [laughter] EVAN: I was off by one error because I had to bring to expression substitution on one word. ERIC: And now you have 1.5 [inaudible][laughter] EVAN: Nice! Please intro... CHUCK: So I have to ask, beyond the "getting the deposit" or the down payment or whatever, how do you manage non-payment? ASHE: Oh, that's a good question. In my contract, I have my invoice set up that I bill every other Friday. So if you think of it like a regular 9-5 job, you probably get paid every other Friday, and that's the same way that I have (in) my business setup. If somebody is late to pay -- my invoice term is 7 days -- if somebody's late to pay, the first time, it's okay as long as they tell me why and that kind of thing. The second time, work is stopped. I still have that deposit, so if you decide to not pay me at all, I'm pretty good and that deposit is non-refundable so you may actually be losing money by not continuing business with me, and that kind of thing. So I set it up in such a way that there are all these walls that are between me and potentially losing money. We have to pay on a regular basis, if that doesn't get paid and it slips once, that's okay; the second time, work stops until I get paid; the third time, we have to sever the contract. I'm happy to give you recommendations for other people, but it's very important to me and it should be important to you that we keep on a schedule, very tight schedule that includes payment on time. EVAN: So then I hear right, you said that -- is the deposit completely un-refundable? I heard that you do, like what I do that the deposit is used toward the last invoice, but the last over amount, is that refundable? ASHE: If they pay way over through the contract, it's definitely refundable. EVAN: Okay. ASHE: On monthly, if they stopped at some point in time, it becomes non-refundable. CHUCK: So if they default on a $3000 invoice and you have a $5000 deposit that they lost 2 grand. ASHE and EVAN: Yup! CHUCK: Fair enough. The thing is its "Look, you gave your word. In fact you did more than that - you signed a contract that said you're going to pay". EVAN: Right! CHUCK: So it's a working penalty, and I think that's fair. EVAN: Yeah! I like that. I think I'll introduce that one strike, two strike approach. I like that. ASHE: I think it's easier for people to understand and seeing the payment terms upfront, and the penalties for not paying upfront. It lets people know like "Oh, we tend not to ever pay on time", and payments generally go out like 90 days, that won't work with me. EVAN: Yes. ASHE: So if you see that in my contract, you automatically know that this relationship probably is not for you. So that's the kind of stuff that I try to weed out/violate the first parts in my contract. I was telling Evan this last week, all my contracts are in plain English. They're like a page and a half long, very easy to read, so there is no way that anything could be misunderstood. CHUCK: Is there any way we could get copies of those? EVAN: I was just about to ask because that'd be a stretch. ASHE: Yes, you can definitely get a copy. EVAN: Rock on! Thank you! CHUCK: So now I'm really going to ask for a stretch. Is there any way that we can put links to them in the show notes? ASHE: Yeah! I don't have mine online right now, but I would be happy to throw them out in a Google doc or whatever. EVAN: No, you got better than that, you have to put it up on your website. At least that way, it links to you and you get a little more value out of it that way. ASHE: Sure. I would be happy to [laughs] CHUCK: Yeah, just put them in PDF or Word or Pages or whatever format you have -- EVAN: After that discussion, but this one, I really want to read that. CHUCK: Yup. [Ashe laughs] CHUCK: Alright, we're reaching the end of our time. Are there any other red flags that we didn't talk about that we ought to? JEFF: The sort of the obvious one. I don't know if anybody mentioned it and it might be too obvious to mention, but “lack of communication" or client just disappearing for some period of time, whatever that period of time, is always a horrible sign. EVAN: Yeah. CHUCK: Yeah. EVAN: To think that it comes down to the whole episode that maybe we did and we could do again on "Why to fire clients". JEFF: Yeah, and I was going to bring up "Respect" again. And still to me, I'm nitpicky about punctuality and stuff, but if you have schedule a meeting or phone call with me and you're late, then that's raising a red flag. ASHE: [laughs] I hate to keep referencing in previous conversation I have with Evan, but this is what I talked to Evan about last week. In addition to hating email, I also hate meetings. They tend to be longer than they need to be unproductive; people show up late, the meeting goes for long. So I actually had in my contract that meeting start on time or before time, and they end on time or before time; you get charged for a meeting whether or not you actually show up. EVAN: Yes! I don't stipulate the long-term part, though. I don't like it when they're late, but if they're late it's still on their dime. ASHE: Well that means that I have to re-schedule; I could've been doing something else. Sometimes I have to drive to err not drive, but sometimes I have to go to another location to be able to attend the meeting. So it takes a lot more than just the hour that they're paying for for me to basically be punished for them being late or not attending a meeting. Punctuality is important to me. EVAN: Granted. You start, sure, you work a little bit differently and that I don't tend to have a backlog of people scheduled that I tend to work more than one client that time. So there's not necessarily a bigger impact to me if there's a little bit of slippage, but willing your schedule is a little more clockwork. If they're late for a meeting, say they're an hour late (that's ridiculous!), but if they're an hour late, that's an hour possibly work that you end up robbing into your next client. CHUCK: Yeah. For me, I tend to (when the meeting's supposed to start) I start my time. EVAN: Yeah! This is what I'm saying. It's always on their time. If they're late, I'm billing them as soon as the meeting is supposed to start. CHUCK: Yup. If I have work that I can do on their project, then I'll just do that until they show up. But if I don't, then they're paying me to sit on my hands until they show up, or until I gave up on them showing up. EVAN: Guaranteed. ERIC: I'd say I'll wait 15 minutes and if they don't show up, then I do something else and reschedule or figure out what they're doing. CHUCK: Yup. EVAN: Yup! ASHE: Oh! Agendas for meetings; I also require agendas for meetings at least 24 hours in advanced so I can prepare if they have questions so I don't have to say "I don't know the answer to that, but I'll get back to you later". That way, we can get as much string in the meeting as possible. CHUCK: That's so wouldn't work for my current client. [laughter] CHUCK: I want an agenda, "Huh..?" EVAN: Yeah. Right. [crosstalk][laughter] JEFF: That's so the worst. I was just in a like an estimation of sprint planning meeting, if you want to call it that. But they're sending this sprint because I want to do more than confirm those sprints in terms of prioritizing. They've been lengthening the sprint, but if you're going through the tracker (and it's Bugzilla, which sucks by the way!) -- [laughter] CHUCK: I'm laughing because I've been there, sorry. Go ahead. JEFF: We're going through that tracker and they're looking, reading down all these bugs so like "Oh, I think that one's been fixed. Oh, I think that one's been fixed". It's like "Why couldn't you sort this out before you called me and start at this project? Now, you're wasting everybody's time". Oh, it's annoying. But yeah, I love agendas and hate meetings. CHUCK: Yeah. I think we're all there. JEFF: Deaf! Mostly. [laughter] CHUCK: I found that there are few things that having been an employee and then a freelancer, it's one of those things where I liked a lot of the freedom that I get and I liked that I don't have to deal with some of the things that come with being tethered to that company, like having to go to the meetings and you get the 5 minutes of relevant content out of the 2 hours you spent in there. Where with your clients, you just explain to them "Look, I really want to provide you the most value I can, so if you need my input, I want to be around. But if you don't, then I would rather you make the decision and just let me know. That way, I can give you the most value for your money as possible". In a lot of cases, you can take control of things that way. Anyway, we're pretty much out of time. So we'll go ahead and get into the picks. Eric, what are your picks? ERIC: I got on Arduino a couple of weeks back and been kind of hacking around on that, mostly to do something different/have a hobby. So my first pick is actually an "Arduino". If you haven't played with it or used some before, they're pretty neat little things. Yes, it just lights up LEDs and just little electrical stuff, but it's so much different and I actually don't know Cs on learning kind of your version of C at the same time. So that's my first pick. My second pick is, since I'm on Linux and I have my Linux configured really oddly, it's like I don't know anyone else that has it like this, the Arduino GUI which is written in Java actually doesn't work like you open the menu and the menu appears on the other monitor; basically I couldn't work on my desktop. So I actually found a project that is called "Ino", that basically let you do all of these stuff in the GUI like compiling, attaching a serial console, all that stuff; and it basically do it from the command line and I can now hook it into the standard rakefile (I'm thinking of using like Watchr or Guard). I actually have a continuous push to the Arduino off from that tool chain. So, those are my two picks; very technical, but just kind of me playing around with electronics stuff. CHUCK: Alright. Evan, what are your picks? EVAN: Let's see...I guess you got me started on non-practical picks last week, so I think I'll resume. My first is a game called "Block Fortress". It's a combination (of) power defense, blasting game, a little mind craft, a little [inaudible]. It's $2, and I can't stop playing this stupid game; that's pretty rare for an iOS game. So, 2 bucks, I highly recommend it. The other one is a bit of nostalgia for those people who watched Star Trek: The Next Generation especially when they'd be at first aired. There's a T-shirt that I found online, someone introduced me to it over Twitter, I finally went and bought it, and there's a picture Darmok placard or it's really more like an artistic blundering of Jones Card holding electric guitar (and) around it it says "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra September 1991", like it's a rock concert - I just love that shirt. I've even worn it out here in Biesy, no I'm not going to stopped at acronym, and I had someone actually stopped and comment on it out here in the middle of nowhere where you wouldn't think anyone would even know what science fiction is. CHUCK: Nice. EVAN: Cool! It costs like $15 and if you're trecky, it's awesome. CHUCK: Alright. Jeff, what are your picks? JEFF: I've just got one this week, it's "Sevabot" which is a skypod written in Python. It's sort of an answer to all the cookies I get to use (at) Campfire and Hipchat, and have like git-commits and Jenkins-build Masatu show up on chat. But for a company that refuses to not use Skype, that's my pick. CHUCK: [laughs] So, it's basically hue bot for Skype? JEFF: Yeah, but really really basic version of hue bot. CHUCK: Okay. I'll go ahead and go next. My first pick is "Google Calendar", it's the way that I manage all of the calendars for all of the shows. It's nice because I can just share it with everybody else, they can see it, and they can do what they need to do with it. My second pick, is Amazon S3. I've been doing this Ruby on Rails course and S3 has been by far the easiest way for me to share the videos from the course with the students from the course. I just put it up there, make it public, and then let them download it; give them the links. I've been really really happy with it. I'm really looking forward to learning more about how all that works. And, we'll let Ashe, give us some picks. ASHE: Cool. So my first one is, "Graze", graze.com. It's a neat little service that will send you basically snacks once a week or once every two weeks, depending on -- and it's a bunch of different kinds of snacks and they are generally pretty healthy. I got my first box last week and they were super delicious. My second one is "Gittip", which is a really neat kind of like micro-payment system for you to be able to support people that worked on open source or other things that benefit to community on a weekly basis. For instance, you could give somebody .25 cents a week or all the way up to $24 a week for whatever contributions that they make that you might benefit from. So it's kind of a way to fund the work that they're doing, (or) they would otherwise be unpaid. And then my third one is "DAYTUM", which is a neat little web app that lets you track data for anything, basically. So if you want to be able to track the frequency with which you eat pizza every week, you could keep track of that. Or, like I'm using it right now, every single time I read something that makes me angry on the internet, I do 10 sit ups and 10 pushups, so it keeps me track -- EVAN: You must be really fit! [crosstalk][laughter] ASHE: And it's funny (because) I've stopped there for the past couple of weeks, but I'm picking it up. But I keep running, wag of all the things that makes me upset because I read a lot of horrible things on the internet. So I'm hoping working in one of two ways, either one it keeps me from finding those things that make me upset, or two just not to loathe off. [Evan laughs] EVAN: So either you're going to live in a bubble or you're going to be incredibly fit. ASHE: I'm going to be so ripped. [laughter] CHUCK: How long have you been doing this? ASHE: I would say about a month -- CHUCK: She is so rift, then. ASHE: I don't remember what eventually pushed me over the edge, but -- I mean it's a lot of stress. There are a lot of not great things that happen in the world every day, that happen in our community every day, and I was tired of just being angry about it all the time. So this is something to be like "Maybe you should stop being angry all the time; and if you are angry, maybe do something about it". CHUCK: Alright. Well, it looks like that's all of us. Thanks for coming, Ashe, really appreciate your input on all of the stuff. ASHE: Thanks for having me! CHUCK: Alright. We'll wrap the show up; we'll catch you all next week. We're going to be talking to Jen Swanson next week about Communication. ERIC: Take care! EVAN: Byyee! ASHE: Seeya! JEFF: Later!