The Cost of a Project

I just got back from the supermarket. While leaving with my groceries, I overheard the following conversation:

Come on, you even teach while sitting – that’s such a lack of motivation!

I do what I got paid to do.

So, if you were earning X extra every month, you would be more excited?


The Human Motivation

motivation is a key

There are various psychological research studies out there on human motivation, the bounders one would like to reach, the progressive lust for more and so forth, but it was an honest and valid response.

Normally I would argue because it’s a lousy job in a way that it’s been executed poorly. If you don’t pay enough attention to details and put enough effort in your job, then you’re an ineffective resource and should not be paid at all – go and find another job that is satisfying or do your job fine if that’s the current limit of your skills and capabilities.

The Real World

The real life is actually a bit different. You have bills to pay, rent, you have to buy groceries and so forth. But even if you try to keep it to the bare minimum, the environment is setting a bottom line for the least you can pay to survive, that is – lowest rentals, cheapest food markets, more affordable phone tax plans.

It’s based on the market standards and it generally means that maintaining the lowest prices every business is able to survive and develop further. Logically, business owners who can deal with that increase prices and still have clients, and the whole magic of the economy is built on the top of that strategy.

The IT Industry (And Other Higher Leagues)

Some sectors are different than others when you talk about project costs. More often than not, a job requires a lower skill set or there is a high availability of people who are willing to take a place. Therefore salaries are kept to some standard (more or less) and there is not so much room for progress (even though people can climb up the ladder if they are skillful and work hard).

Some industries – with open jobs for IT people, accountants, lawyers, doctors, managers – are a bit different. Each job requires a significant set of skills, including soft skills. Experience is valuable, so is the insight, the quality of work, covering edge cases, predicting future actions, preventing competitors’ attacks, saving lives, building empires.

Therefore, people have a price – and the higher the interest from a company/organization for an employee, the better the chances for a better offer (salary, company benefits, longer holidays, you name it).

Projects and Cars

It is quite similar when you require a project to be built. A given specification could be implemented in millions of ways.

When I need to get my car repaired, I ask people. I ask for references and recommendations. I had several horrible stories with people who ruin my car and charge me so that I need to get another set of fixes applied and buy even more parts to cover for the previous “expert”. So I finally found a few experts who are able to do magic tricks with my car.

Now I don’t ask them for the price. I get my car there, take it back in a few days and just pay what I’m told to pay. I value their service and I’m not going to bargain or explain how the nearest shop is selling cheaper parts.

The Cost of a WordPress Project

I had many clients who had approached me for a project to be built with a specification already done. And I’ve had a number of surprised and excited responses after I ask them a few questions being like: “Ah, I never thought about that before” or “Oh, right, that should be there too!” or “Yes, that might indeed be a problem…”. The first-time clients of that list were approaching other consultants too but after the conversation, they just wanted to stick with me.

The reason they want to stick with me is that I ask all sorts of questions related to the project that I could think of. I’ve spent years with clients and had tons of issues popping up in the middle of the project or just before we deliver. And I’ve taken notes during the process and I ask all the questions I need answers to upfront to avoid similar situations.

That is experience. And whenever a client asks: “Hey, that all sounds great, but isn’t that number too high?” I can follow up with the pointer to the conversation itself and all the edge cases, prevention mechanisms and additional value that I’m going to include by default. And I’m not really interested in working for rates that I don’t feel comfortable with – I would rather just reject a proposal than doing a work I consider wrong at first.

The Project Management Triangle

Another variable in that industry is my most favorite Project Management Triangle. The Web is a place when in theory people could build anything for free. In practice, IT experts can evaluate what is the best tool for the job and what would take the least time, cost less, and get all advantage for a specific use case.

But either way, motivation is a key and money isn’t everything. Many WordPress experts build sites, plugins or scripts for free – because they are happy with that and would like to release them to the public. Someone should still pay bills though so they have already calculated what do they need to earn and bill their clients accordingly.

Nevertheless, the project rate or project cost isn’t static. as the PM triangle explains (and shows) there is a triple constant for the project quality. And there are three variables in it: Scope, Schedule, and Cost.

Scope, Schedule, and Cost

Each and every project depends on these three variables. And a client shouldn’t ever try to keep the three of them as low as possible. It has been proven too many times that it doesn’t work and the end product would not be built the right way.

The more the requirements, features, edge cases and fancy additions (Scope), the higher the time needed and the price. The shorter the timeline (Schedule), the larger the team, the more intensive (or even overtime) work and testing, extra time for management and integration. The lower the budget (project cost), the least interest and time from the consultant to actually work on the product.

When I outsource services, I always discuss the three aspects separately with the teams. I dedicate higher budgets where the scope is broad or the timeline could lead to pressure. I always avoid rushing things because it’s rarely helpful.

The Bottom Line

project proposal quote

Whenever you need a project, keep in mind these two things:

  1. Hiring an inexperienced or “ghost” expert (with no references and feedback) could be way cheaper, but it’s a risk for your project. You have no idea what’s the expertise and if you’re getting the project at the end.
  2. Hiring a proven expert is often expensive because they know what they do. They might even ask you embarrassing questions or some internal business policy details to implement the project in the best way.

If you don’t want to spend a decent budget on a project, you should either wait until you can delegate enough to build a proper project or start small in terms of project cost, or wait longer. Don’t try to break the PM triangle – no one ever did.

Here’s the blog, 5 Business Process Issues Project Managers Must Learn to Handle for more project management tips you must know.

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