Maybe that is an unfair title. I think that most of the time, I am not an idiot. But there are a few things that I am repeatedly stupid about and no matter how many identically bad experiences I have, I do the same thing over and over again.

The first thing is having too many things going on at once. It does very bad things to me, but I think it is unavoidable. To stop it, I would need to stop working and learn how to be happy being even more broke than I already am. I am lucky to have help from people and be able to live a good life, but I want to be able to contribute my fair share. Plus, I am a geek and geeking costs money.

The second thing is insanely undercharging for my work. I learn things from one time to the next and try to avoid past mistakes, but it still happens almost every time. I am working on a project now that has easily taken 10x as long as I thought it would, and I was already providing a huge discount. I love the site and I really enjoy working with the client, but I am making about $2/hr. again. It is my own fault too. I was happy to provide the discount. In a short amount of time, the site was created and most of the content entered.

The organization had wanted a lot of features but did not have the budget for them. I provided a list of things that could be done for their budget and all was good.

Right around that same time, I started working on another site for an organization of a similar size and with similar needs. This organization had found a great online solution that would do everything my client wanted for a relatively small monthly fee. I told him about it and we switched the project over to the new system. My job was to design the site, build the template, and add content from the old site.

This is where I become an idiot.

I did not charge extra for this even though the site was practically finished in the original system. Why not? Because I thought that it was my “fault” that we switched systems because I suggested it. I am pretty sure that does not make any sense.

As I look at the itemized estimate that I sent, I realize that I had completely forgotten about it. The estimate was great. Stated exactly what was included and what was not and how much it would cost for things that were not included.

Since the price was so low, template customization was not included beyond the very basics. This was reinforced under the ‘Assumptions’ part of the estimate which states that the design is not custom. Since then, I have customized several templates heavily and built the final one from scratch, including custom images. I also threw in a flash slideshow.

I am very happy with the site and so is my client. There is still more work to be done, but it is near the end. I did not charge him extra for anything. I had told him that I would let him know if something would cost extra. Somehow, it never occurred to me to do this.

I like my client and his organization and knew they were on a budget. There is a part of me that really wants the site to be as good as possible with whatever system we are using, and that part of me took over the job. I could have stayed with the first system and never even mentioned the new one. The site would have been exactly what he contracted for. I also could have suggested converting to the new system as a separate project with a new estimate. I did not do either of those things.

I am confused. At this point, I am sure that the only chance I have of working is to work for myself. I am lucky to love what I do and to be good at it, but how long will I keep working for $2/hr.? All of my clients make way more money than I do and I doubt any would consider working for that price. I don’t know what to do. Everybody I talk to has tons of “Why don’t you just…” solutions. They make it sound so easy, but it is not. If I could just… I would!

Rehab might pay for me to take a 10 week business course with a “tutor” to come with me and translate afterwards. I wonder if that will help. I can barely imagine being in a class for 3 hrs. twice a week plus time with the tutor, but I feel like I have to try if given the opportunity.

K is very busy at work too. We have 4 sets of houseguests coming in the next 4 months. More things, but it will be nice to see everyone. I hope I can get all of my work done by then. Not likely since my folks are coming on Friday. Oy. I better get back to work now.

8 thoughts on “Idiot”

  1. I’m the sister of someone on the spectrum, not on the spectrum myself, but I have the exact same problem with my web construction work. So don’t beat up on yourself! Websites always end up being more work than we expect, we end up knowing our clients pretty well, and if we have a conscience and any empathy, we worry about how much all our time will cost them. It’s notoriously hard to be a hard-headed businessperson in website construction. We should create a professional groups and hammer out some professional rates guidelines to help all of us be more objective about how much time it takes for all the details of building a website. Then we could create some templates for estimates, billing, change orders – all those forms and procedures that f-2-f businesses formalized eons ago. I keep thinking that these kinds of formal structures will help me actually make money at my website construction anyway.

  2. You might consider a private business coach. I have one. It’s a little pricy (usually at least $200/month) but it totally pays for itself if you can swing the first few months.

    You might also consider switching to hourly billing.

  3. You are NOT an idiot. You have many positive qualities that do not translate well into charging what you are worth. That is why you are pushing yourself to take this business class with the ultimate goal of getting funding so you can find a partner who WILL charge what you are worth. The fact that you are doing things way beyond your comfort level to still find a way to work for yourself AND get paid for it makes you officially: “not an idiot.”
    So there.

  4. looking at the email sent to me yesterday effortlessly and in seconds telling me how to set up a customized div around an iframe for a website i’m designing, me being pretty much a print designer who feels stupid that i struggle with basic css…

    this email explaining something that was complicated to me and made it so simple, that email was sent by an “idiot”? not.

    but in the 2 years i’ve known you, the $2/hr problem has been continual. it sucks, cuz you deserve better. kinda interesting, i wish we could combine my hyper organization and being able to completely spell out all aspects of a job with a client, but being possibly too ocd, and your flexibility and ability to accommodate clients’ surprise requests, man, we’d have a winner.

    i totally don’t want to do any “you should”-ness, just posit that perhaps, given the rut you’re in, and have been in, it might be practical to consider drastic changes (consultant, class, charging hourly rather than per project, etc), in order to upset the stasis, get yourself out of the rut.

  5. You are not an idiot at all. Charging money is really, really hard! Asking for the money you deserve is even harder. There are no shoulds about it, but here’s some good thoughts that a supervisor once shared with me:

    “As a therapist, I provide a service which pays for the office and my time. These are things my client values. It does no good to devalue your time or your service because by doing so you may no longer be able to offer these things to your client.”

    This totally applies to your services, as well. It’s a hard thing to internalize, but here’s the deal…if you can start being okay with charging more, you can afford to spend more time with clients that you like, and have to do less to make ends meet (thus also helping your mental health).

    Whew! I make that sound easy, don’t I….now ask me when I last raised my fees for my therapy practice?

  6. Thanks Cindy. It is hard to get a sense about what to charge because there is such a gigantical range of prices for similar things. One person might charge $150 for a basic website and another might charge $1500 for the same thing.

    I think it is illegal to make a rates guideline because it can be construed as price fixing. People are never allowed to talk about it on freelance lists or websites. Good luck with your business and let me know if you ever figure out how to get paid better!

    Thanks for the ideas VAB. Hopefully it will work out with rehab for me to do the business program. I charge hourly for a lot of things, and the extra work on the project was to be billed hourly. Biggest problem with that is keeping track of hours. I find it to be nearly impossible no matter how many different ways I try to do it.

    Thanks sweetie! I love you because you don’t think I am an idiot 😉

    Thanks to you too unruly. Yes, if only we could combine our superpowers. “Wondergeek powers, activate!” “Form of a codemonkey!” “Shape of a content management system!” We’d be hanging out in our mansions trying to decide which mac pro to use next.

    I like the way you think, spins 🙂 You are right. It would be better all around. I also think it would cause my clients to value my time more if they knew that they would be charged for every “just one more thing”. Maybe it would cause me to value my time more too.

  7. I read VAB’s “hourly billing” as “hourly bullying”.

    For what it is worth, you are one of the smartest people on the internet I know and have seen. I couldn’t have started blogging without you.


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