Ben Henick

Ben's Rules for the Job

Nov 2007

Due diligence is a must.

We both need some positive, shared point of reference from which to start an engagement: positive references, a referral source, or time spent getting acquainted are vital to moving an engagement forward.

I call it how I see it.

If I think that sharing my opinion will result down the line in something that better meets your needs, I will speak up. This will be done with an eye to propriety, but if by mincing my words I’m obscuring my message, I won’t bother to mince words.

I am a generalist.

If you want to run your engagement through a single point of contact, or if you want to reduce billings and timelines by minimizing cross-talk, I’m an excellent choice. If you want one of the best markup technologists on the market, you’re at the right place. If you want a good creative director, I’m your man.

However, if you need truly mindblowing server scripting, database work, or graphic design, I’m going to be tapping sub- or co-contractors for that work.

Web standards or bust.

If it’s critical to our project, if it’s well-supported, and if it’s spelt out in a W3C Recommendation, it’s going to be put to use as spelt out by the W3C. I’ll make exceptions for single-stack intranet implementations, but… I don’t do very many of those. I’ll spare the long discussions about the goodness of standards-friendly development practices for elsewhere.

No single site or account will ever constitute a career for me.

I perform engagements, then move on. I’m always happy to get repeat business, but prefer to leave maintenance to another vendor.

I work to a budget, on a time and materials basis, without exceptions.

Experience has proven to me that flat-rate jobs are too vulnerable to scope creep, which in turn creates resentments all around.

That same experience makes it simple for me to set realistic budgets, ensuring that your own bottom line isn’t clobbered by any surprises.

Invoices are not sent, and work does not start, until the specification and terms are agreed to.

Unless I know exactly what I’m building, when it needs to be built, and exactly why and what I’m getting paid to build it, I won’t write a single line of code or push a single pixel.

Of course, this means that you’ll be getting some free advice that a lot of vendors charge for.

I do not bill client service time.

If dialogue needs to take place with a client, I let that dialogue move forward without caveats. Otherwise the quality of my work might suffer, or clients might feel unhappy on account of feeling constrained from communicating.

My bill rate is set according to the terms of the job and the quality of product I can deliver.

Having ten years of experience means that I can get the job done in fewer billable hours than most of the vendors out there. Worry about my budget, not my bill rate. If you think my bill rate is too high, then ease terms, or increase both scope and budget. I never hesitate to negotiate in good faith.

The better your follow-through, the better mine will be.

Nearly every engagement entails not only deliverables of mine, but deliverables of yours as well. If the promptness with which you produce those deliverables demonstrates that our engagement is a high priority for you, I will respond in kind gladly. The alternative — playing games of Hurry Up And Wait — is not a way for anyone to do business.

Documentation is always a deliverable.

If omitting documentation is your idea of cutting down costs, you need to find a different vendor.

As a rule, I will not finish someone else’s incomplete work.

Prospects who approach me with half-complete projects are usually at risk of going over-deadline, over-budget, or both. Briefings on work already complete are almost universally inadequate, and nearly all such engagements require that I wade through my predecessor’s mistakes (likely the same mistakes that caused the job to come to a halt in the first place). These are not circumstances I will bear happily or cheaply.

I am thoroughly annoyed by clients who neglect the quality of the copy published on their site.

If you’re not making a point of securing dedicated editorial expertise, why are you hiring me?

If you want to postpone an engagement so that you can put it out for bids, promptly tell me so.

I’m confident that my bids are competitive with respect to the quality of my work, so you have nothing to lose by putting a job out for bids. Keep in mind that I am positive evidence to the effect that you get what you pay for.

If instead you put me under the impression that you intend to hire me, only to keep me in the dark and feed me proverbial bull, rest assured that I will never work for you, regardless of how terms are set or bids work out — and will warn off anyone I know whom you might contact.