At 08:23 PM 3/17/01 -0500, Mike Reagan wrote:
>Don't get me wrong I will do a small jobs for good or new customers. When
>I find myself doing to many small jobs for the same customer and  they did
>not award me  a large design,  I quit  responding  to their next request for

Send 'em my way.... :-)

Seriously, I'm willing to pay referral fees to independent designers, or to 
subcontract work where the designer remains in between us and the client, 
either in all ways (i.e., we do not talk to the client) or where we are 
represented as working for the designer. The latter, of course, is far more 

[...]If I have to meet with a
>customer, go to his site, drink his coffee, eat his donuts, talk to his
>staff, then drive back and put together a proposal, I would rather do it for
>a larger job where it is easier to bury  a 4 hour meeting, my  travel time,
>marketing, and proposal.

Of course. But I strongly discourage face-to-face meetings with clients. 
It's really a waste of time on both sides for printed circuit design. Email 
and fax and attached files are, in my view, greatly superior because there 
is an automatic record of all the communication. It's been years since I've 
had a dispute with a client, "But I told you, .... No, you didn't." With 
written communication, either I was told or I wasn't and it is really easy 
to determine which is the case.

Most of my clients I have never met face to face. Yes, I have some 
long-time clients where we've met, but the meeting was really more social 
than working.

When work has been slow, I've done intensive selling, a lot of 
cold-calling, etc. But the yield from this is rather pitiful, I do it only 
when I'm forced to do it. I like meeting people, to be sure, but there are 
a lot of companies out there who are happy to have you drive an hour to 
meet them with very little intention of giving you the job. Last year I got 
a referral to a company that was supposedly desperate for some immediate 
design work. A bit reluctantly, I agreed to drive to meet them and discuss 
the work. I hit some heavy traffic and arrived late. When I got there, the 
engineer who was conducting the meeting said, rather sheepishly, "There's 
someone here you know." Sitting in the conference room looking over the 
material was Mark Koitmaa, who, it turned out, was regularly used by them. 
I was glad to meet Mark -- it's the only time we've met face to face, 
having passed each other in the night at PCB Design Conference West year 
before last and I don't think he was there last year. But that was the only 
value I got out of the trip, at least so far. Sometimes these contacts turn 
into something later on.

Mostly new clients contact us, from referrals or from my visibility here. 
Perhaps I'm revealing our trade secret. :-)

The changes are
>also factored into the proposal.

For us, a small level of change is accepted without additional charge, if 
the job is fixed price. But we reserve the right to bill for additional 
work made necessary by client error or oversight.

>     I learned something long ago "the
>customer is always right"....that's allot of bull hockey.  Only a few
>customers are always right, the rest are hiring me for my expertise to guide
>them thru what they generally don't have a clue to do and that's the
>confident cocky attitude I have unless someone knows a lot more than me.

Well, my attitude is a bit different. While most of our design is done by 
electronics engineers who frequently have more experience than the client, 
we simply offer advice where it seems appropriate. In the end, the client 
is responsible for the correctness of the work: we guarantee to fix our 
work where we failed to follow client specifications, but that guarantee is 
limited in a very important way: we provide footprints to the client 
sometimes before placement, and then we provide a placement for approval, 
and then we finish off the board. If there is an error in placement, for 
example, or in a footprint assignment, we will try to fix the whole design, 
but the responsibility for checking that work is with the client, not with 
us (unless checking has been included in the quote and it would be 
expensive). It hasn't happened, but if a large design were ruined because 
of a wrong footprint, we either have a record of the client's approval of 
the footprints (and thus of responsibility for the subsequent wasted work) 
or we *really* screwed up by going ahead without approval. Of course, we 
often do go ahead without approval where we are willing to eat the work if 
there is a problem. That doesn't happen much.

Of course, a very important part of our situation is that it's no longer 
only me. I did the single-designer business for many years, too many, 
really. I should have moved on long ago; but I didn't know how to get from 
here to there, or there to here as the case seems to be. Working alone is 
almost inherently feast-and-famine. All the truly independent designers 
reading this know what I mean. Starting a full-blown service bureau with 
employees etc. obviously has possibilities but it also requires heavy 
investment and risk. And headaches. But a peer network, now that's interesting!

Abdulrahman Lomax
P.O. Box 690
El Verano, CA 95433

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