When we (Christian Miller of Pariahware and myself) spoke at REAL World 2007 about Xojo (then Real Studio) consulting we had no idea what people wanted. So we took the generic approach of lets-throw-everything-we-can-think-of-and-fit-it-into-45-minute presentation. We were surprised that nearly every seat in the room was filled. We were off to a decent start.
To make a very long story short, we were pretty happy at the response to the presentation. What surprised us even more was the Question and Answer session afterward. There were a lot of really good questions. One of those questions has come up again and again: How do you find Xojo Consulting work? It’s a good question.
In my opinion, the best way to find work is to get the Professional license for Xojo. Yes, at $995 it is expensive but in addition to the Desktop, Web, Database Access and Console you get access to the Pro-only forum which includes access to Xojo consulting leads. As a consultant I find myself using all the Pro features eventually so the price doesn’t concern me. I do realize that not everyone has the same resources that I do.
There is a page on the Xojo website called Find a Consultant where potential clients enter basic details of who they are, how to contact them and a brief synopsis of their project. That information is then posted in the Pro-Only forum. In turn, the developers may contact the person who posted the project.
In my opinion, this is like shooting fish in a barrel. The potential customer already knows (or at least thinks they know) that they want a Xojo developer. So you don’t have to sell them on Xojo or the advantages of one code base for three platforms for desktop, web, and console apps. Isn’t that half the battle?
I’ve been part of the program for a a long time (in all its various incarnations and price points). The quality and quantity of the leads varies considerably but all it takes is one decent sized project to make up your investment. You can find more information about it at https://xojo.com/support/consultants.php.
Most of the clients I’ve obtained from these leads have come back for more work. This doesn’t happen with every client, naturally, but it happens enough to make a note about it. In several cases the original job was a small project so the client could see if we were worthy of the project they REALLY wanted to do. These small projects are good to see if you and the client are compatible (people are people and some just don’t get along).
Other developers have had some luck with finding work on the hire a developer sites like Rent A Coder. Some of these sites require a fee to bid on the listings. I would use caution using these sites to find work as your competing against people from all over the world. Some people can live on $15 an hour (or less). If you can pay your bills and save for your retirement at that rate then go for it. I know I can’t!
Bidding on a fixed bid projects is an art form. I use some basic formulas that call for a certain number of hours for each window/class/control and for really complex windows or classes I break them out separately. Then if you want to get an idea of how much time you’ll spend on a project multiply your estimate by three. That will take care of interruptions and waiting for responses for questions, doing research, and all of the things you have to do on a project that you can’t directly bill for. I know a few developers that use a factor of 5 in doing their estimates.
This might seem a bit excessive but nearly every project I’ve ever worked on (even as an engineer in a previous lifetime) this seems to work reasonably well. This doesn’t mean that the bid is inflated by three, it just means that I’ve accounted for interruptions and other issues that come up that might cause a delay. At any given time I’m usually working on three or four separate projects and each one needs attention on a regular basis.
Track the time you spend on each project. If you can, track the time you spend on each part of the project. After each project, review how long it took to do the entire project and if you can, track how much each portion of the project took. After you’ve done it a few times, you’ll find out what takes more time than you anticipated and what takes less. This is valuable feedback for when you’re first starting out and learning how to do things.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you need to live on what you’ve bid. If your rate is $15 an hour and you live in New York City I doubt you’ll be living comfortably unless you have six roommates in a two bedroom apartment! In the long run, what you earn has to take into account your lifestyle, your location, and your ability to set aside enough for your retirement years.
As a consultant if you can bill 30 hours per week that’s awesome! Most consultants say 20 billable hours per week is good. Use that as your basis for determining what you should charge. You’ll need to allow time for dealing with administrative issues, taxes, writing proposals and looking for more work. Then take into account vacation and sick time (it happens) and what your expenses are and you’ll need some padding because some months will be slower than others.
50 weeks * 20 hours = 1000 hours per year. You determine that you can making a living if you bring in $80,000 per year. That means that you need to charge $80 per hour. $80,000/1000 hours = $80/hour. Don’t forget that you’ll have to pay your own taxes and insurance so take those things into account!
To be honest we charge significantly more than the $80/hour rate. This was just an example of how to do some simple math to come up with a consulting rate. Hopefully your rate leaves you with enough to live on and start saving for retirement.
Where are you finding Xojo work? Have any fun stories of a client saying no to your rate and then coming back a year later after spending far more than your original estimate?
Look for some posts next week about my experiences at XDC!