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Old 01-31-2009, 06:11 PM
DanClark's Avatar
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Location: Bellevue, WA, USA
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Default Re: Hit bottom

Originally Posted by rnt80 View Post
I appreciate all the advice. I am certainly learning my way through this. I've never had any business training and my experience with doing this for $ has been limited to the last 2 years.
I have typically only used flat rate bids when I've worked on something. I will probably change that depending on the job. Some more thoughts on how you do that when bidding on a job would be great.
Eiji, you mentioned having something in paper before you start. This is the only job I've done when I didn't have a contract/drawing. I should've known better, my wife even asked if I had a contract with this guy before I went for the install....I should've listened to her.

You do NOT learn this stuff in school. I have an undergraduate degree in finance and accounting, and 1/2 an MBA. All that "fine" education included a couple of classes in contract law too. Trust me... They do NOT teach you how to handle customers!

My valuable lessons came the same way as yours - the hard way, out in the field getting knocked around. About four years ago (having experienced lots of tough lessons), I had one project manager try to hustle me with, "Dan, the contractor you replaced only charged us for 40 hours/week and gave us 4-5 hours a week free." I told him, "I'm not an employee. I don't get benefits, sick leave, vacation time, and a whole lot more. But I get paid for every hour I work."

He still tried to hustle me a bit more until I told him, "I like you, your project, and your company, but... If the contract we agreed on isn't satisfactory, let's just cancel it and I'll move on. No hard feelings." He shut up immediately and never hassled me again.

I did learn one thing from my contract law classes - a contract is only useful when things go WRONG. What I learned the hard way is that things almost ALWAYS go wrong!

To me, having a contract sets up good boundaries between you and your customer. It sends a clear message to the customer that you are a pro and NOT a hired hand. I.e., that your time, skills and knowledge are valuable, and that the customer needs to respect that.

Having a contract also gives you a lot of negotiating power. If (when) things go wrong or change, you can CHOOSE to give something away for free or to charge for it. Without a contract, the customer thinks it's his choice. With a contract, it's now your choice and the customer knows it up front.

In my opinion, a contract should be simple and straight forward. Not a lot of legalese (or "gobbledygook" as Wonderwino puts it). I also like Eco's list a lot. It establishes the working condition boundaries nicely.


"You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’" George Bernard Shaw

Last edited by DanClark; 01-31-2009 at 06:23 PM.
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