I’d love this post to spark a conversation because I’m still formulating this opinion.
In building Buink Web Development, I’ve worked with over 15 clients all over the country and close to home. The interesting thing is that I’ve met very few of them face-to-face. This is true of both my clients in San Francisco/LA/Utah as well as my clients right here in Denver. In fact, 3 clients come to mind that operate nearby and whom I’ve never met.
One good example is a client that I worked with last year for about 6 months, I’ll call them GameChanger. They operate probably no more than 20 minutes from my house. They were referred to me by someone I’d met at the grand opening of Confluence, a co-working space in Lafayette. They had an existing code base and I cleaned it up, re-designed the UI, added pages, and added some really complex features. We’d use phone, email, and Jira to communicate and if there was something really complex, we’d use Google Hangout.
I share my experience with GameChanger because we could have met in person if we wanted to, but why? Most of our communication didn’t require a time-consuming meeting. Ninety percent of it could be done via email and Jira, and for the couple times we needed to meet, a quick chat via Google Hangout saved close to an hour of drive time.
Today, face-to-face meetings are an expensive nice-to-have.
Despite the fact that face-to-face meetings are just an expensive nice-to-have, I find myself constantly trying to avoid them (I think it is my obsessive focus on efficiency :)). Many people have it set in their mind that they have to sit across from someone to work with them.
I’ll admit, in-person meetings are more memorable. Their face is more indelibly imprinted on your mind, their mannerisms are more noticeable (or more distracting), the things they carry with them tell part of their story, but I’m not sure that these niceties are necessary. They are, however, costly.
I’m not sure that these niceties are necessary!
I went to a meeting last week to provide technical direction for an IOS app that I hope I get to build. I got a first impression of the company, where and how they work, who works with them, and a little about their background. It was pleasant. I like to meet with people, but it did take two hours of drive time for a two hour meeting. And, unfortunately, I don’t own a self-driving car (trust me, I will!).
Luckily, I did get paid for the time in the meeting, but the client wasn’t planning on paying for drive time. I don’t blame them, who pays for drive time? No one. No one, that is except for the person driving.
I guess I could just raise my hourly rate. That is probably the most common reaction to covering incidental costs, but I’d rather push the clients to realize the true cost of development. They may value in-person meetings more than I do, so I want to happily give them the option rather than avoiding it. 🙂
So, I’ve decided to charge for drive time. I have to admit, that it doesn’t always go over really well, but I think I just need to work on my delivery. Thoughts?
So, I tried the charging for drive time thing and it didn’t work out so well. 🙁
I mentioned it to a couple potential clients and the reactions I got were as expected. “I totally understand where your coming from, but…we’ve always done things like this.” So, I made several exceptions and then just stopped mentioning it all together.
I keep experimenting with ways to get out of face-to-face meetings and a couple weeks ago I lost a potentially lucrative client related to this. I didn’t even mention drive time but I did say, “I’d don’t typically like to meet in person at this stage of the conversation, but because you’re a referral from ZZZZ, I’ll make an exception.” Referrals almost always become clients, so I’m ok bearing the cost.
She responded, “That is honestly one of the strangest responses I’ve ever received. . .Not sure that this will be the right fit.” Ouch.
Frankly, I’m not too hurt by her response because she probably would have expected me to waste a lot of time just to work with her, but it did cause me to pause.
I’ll continue to experiment but I find it interesting how adamant people are about meeting in-person and interesting how they bristle when I ask them to bear the cost.
I think part of the reason is that people don’t often look at the true cost of doing business. They have this nebulous “administration” expense that includes lots of wasted time by sales people, executives, and others.
At Buink, we understand our costs exactly! That is how we can deliver maintainable, intelligent, simple code and a price that competes with the best onshore and overseas teams. That is how I know every person on my team is delivering value that exceeds our competition, even if our competition is in-house talent. This is possibly why I can’t keep up with demand for our services.