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#1 cfoley  Icon User is offline

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Freelancer responsibility for recommending existing solutions

Posted 21 March 2014 - 04:50 AM

There is a recent thread for What Shouldn't Most Programmers Write Themselves?. Something happened to me recently that made me wonder about what my responsibility as a freelancer for recommending existing solutions.

Without wanting to divulge the details, I was asked to write a program to do something. I recommended that either I or the client look for an existing solution as I was sure there would be something that would cover all or most of the spec. They explained that for a number of reasons they still wanted me to write a bespoke version. A couple of weeks later I got an email telling me they had found an application that did almost everything they needed and to bill them for my time so far. As it happens, this quite suits me. It was a small project and I have too much (more important) work at the moment.

However, it got me thinking. Who's responsibility is it to look for existing solutions? Ultimately I think it falls to the client to do their research before spending their money. At the same time, it seems shady to take a job without even suggesting existing solutions.

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Replies To: Freelancer responsibility for recommending existing solutions

#2 Xaos  Icon User is offline

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Re: Freelancer responsibility for recommending existing solutions

Posted 21 March 2014 - 05:33 AM

The customer is paying you to build it, he should know whether or not something like that exist. He figures out mid-way there's something out there cheaper,he pays you for what you have so far, and you take it to the bank. Screw him if he doesn't want to research before he pays someone.

But I'm also a heartless jerk :innocent:
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#3 cfoley  Icon User is offline

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Re: Freelancer responsibility for recommending existing solutions

Posted 21 March 2014 - 05:48 AM

Heartless jerk? I don't think so. Those hours already put in are real hours spent working for something. To not be paid for them is like working all week at work and not being paid because the project was abandoned. The same hours could have been spent working on another client's project or at least spent looking for more work.

However, that's not the question here. My client never questioned that I should be paid and even asked for an invoice. Some food for thought:

Are freelancers responsible for recommending libraries to do part of the project? Is there a grey area between a library and a product that does most of what the project needs.

Does it translate to other trades? Should a bricklayer recommend planting a hedge if that would be more suitable or should he just build a wall (based on a true story where I might rebuild my wall or knock it all down and plant a hedge)
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#4 Xaos  Icon User is offline

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Re: Freelancer responsibility for recommending existing solutions

Posted 21 March 2014 - 05:55 AM

View Postcfoley, on 21 March 2014 - 07:48 AM, said:

Heartless jerk? I don't think so. Those hours already put in are real hours spent working for something. To not be paid for them is like working all week at work and not being paid because the project was abandoned. The same hours could have been spent working on another client's project or at least spent looking for more work.

However, that's not the question here. My client never questioned that I should be paid and even asked for an invoice. Some food for thought:

Are freelancers responsible for recommending libraries to do part of the project? Is there a grey area between a library and a product that does most of what the project needs.

Does it translate to other trades? Should a bricklayer recommend planting a hedge if that would be more suitable or should he just build a wall (based on a true story where I might rebuild my wall or knock it all down and plant a hedge)



Oh no. I just meant that the client has responsibility to figure it out. And I think there's a difference in building your own solution and using someone else's and presenting it as original.

I think a programmer (and the bricklayer) could recommend that there may be something similar out there, but tell the client that they'll have to find it.
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#5 Skydiver  Icon User is offline

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Re: Freelancer responsibility for recommending existing solutions

Posted 21 March 2014 - 06:18 AM

My father works for an engineering consulting firm. Although their client maybe asking for X, they usually present multiple options to the client:
- if they do X with all the bells and whistles
- if they do X on the cheap
- if they do Y instead of X, but still satisfies the reason for doing X
- if they do nothing

As I understand things, their firm absorbs the cost of doing the research to propose Y because they've gained the knowledge and experience of doing the research so that for their next client, they already have information to fallback on. In their case, they know it's not throwaway work. As a freelancer, it may or may not be throwaway work to research the options.
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