Not so long ago, I worked as a contract soldier, jumping from one project to another. With some short-term projects coped for a week. Others lasted a couple of months. They brought enough money to take a vacation. But I preferred short, because there it was possible to set a larger hourly rate. I am not only my own master, but I didn’t have to work too hard to make a living. Even my highest rates were quite reasonable, and I always provided high quality service. That was until I was offered a contract in a large company.
This company contacted me urgently, and the manager said that they needed a man right now. An employee who will provide maximum performance after minimum training
. Good or bad, but that was my motto. I really liked the project. He was small, fast and well paid.
After agreeing on a decent bid, I received an email with instructions. The reasons for urgency became clearer. Their developer left without prior warning and did not tell anyone about the status of the project.
“To complete the project, we need all your time. During the entire term of the contract, you will work exclusively with us to ensure timely results. We are planning to compensate you for the trouble. "
The instructions were simple: read the requirements, then give an estimate of how long it would take to complete the project. It was one of the easiest projects in my career: an HTML page with some animations and a few embedded videos. I spent the evening studying the requirements and pondering the implementation. Over the years I have learned not to write code until I have a guarantee of payment from the client.
I decided that this project will take a whole day. But just in case I called 20 hours with a total of $ 1,500. In the end, this is one HTML page, and I can take so much. They asked me to come to their representative office 40 kilometers away. I have to go there for three days, I will work for them.
The next day I arrived at the office. At the mall, a secret door led to a secret world, where several employees were quietly busy in their cubicles. The administrator gave me a brand new MacBook Pro, which I had to configure from scratch. I prefer to use company computers because they often require contractors to install suspicious software.
The whole day I installed the tools, set up email, ssh-keys and requested invites for different services. In other words, did nothing. That is why I immediately called 20 hours: 8 hours of the estimated time was spent on this fuss.
The next day I was ready to proceed. Armed with a MacBook Pro, I sent an email to the manager that I’m ready to work and am waiting for the above resources. That day I sat in my cubicle under a softly humming lamp and stretched my fingers until the sun went down.
I counted again. I had 4 hours to do the job: quite real for one HTML page. But needless to say, the next day I spent the remaining 4 hours at a corporate dinner, where I ate well and talked to other employees.
When the time was up, I immediately sent the manager another email and informed me that I was present on the spot, but did not receive the resources necessary to do the work. Of course, he ignored this letter.
The following Monday, I drove 40 kilometers and hesitantly entered the office. To my surprise, the branch was visited by the manager himself, who enthusiastically welcomed me. At thirty, he was a pleasant, agreeable guy. I'm confused. He didn’t have that persistent tone that he spoke on the phone when he hired me. We had a friendly conversation in which the work was not mentioned.Later we went down to dinner, where he paid for my food. A good day. There was still no work.
Call me a man of habit, but if you feed and indulge me every day, I get used to it. The process has become a routine. I came to work, spent time on the Internet, read and watched a video. I sent one letter a day to remind you of my presence. Then he went to lunch and hang out with the guys who told interesting stories. In the evening, I got up, smacked, yawned and drove home.
I'm used to it. In fact, I even experienced some disappointment when I finally received a letter referring to the resources needed for work. I went down to the ground and started a project. But after spending a few minutes viewing the zip file, I noticed that it lacks much of what I need. The designer sent several Adobe Illustrator files, and I could not open them on a MacBook.
I responded to the email, explaining the problem, and also outlined several other questions in order to save time. At this point, my 20-hour time has long expired. I already wanted to finish this job. Shortly after clicking the "Send" button, an answer came. There was only one phrase in it: “Add to thread”, with a copy of the letter for Alex. Then Alex himself answered, adding Steve to the thread. Steve replied that the designer is Michelle, and she knows more about it. An automatic answer came from Michelle that she was on vacation and contact her manager for all questions. The manager answered with a question: “Who is Ibrahim?” My manager apologized for not introducing me.
As a contractor, I usually come and leave the company before other employees notice me. But here I had to take a stream of letters with greetings on board. The flow continued for a while, and I had to respond to these terribly pleasant messages. Some wanted to meet me in person. They were a little disappointed when I said I was in California. Jealous of what they said, what a beautiful weather we have.
They kindly ignored my letters. They used CC to reject questions. They used spam to reject everything I asked for. I spent my days as an archaeologist, rummaging through the deep trenches of emails in the hope of finding answers. You can imagine what level of impostor syndrome I experienced each time I remembered that my only task was to create one static HTML page. The 20-hour, hourly-rate project turned into a 7-week adventure, where I enjoyed free lunches, drove 80 kilometers every day, and dug in an email.
Of course, the hangout was postponed several times. When it finally happened, my work and I was not particularly discussed. They all sat in the same room somewhere in New York and talked like a close-knit team. In fact, a couple of words were said about the project:
Man 1 : Hey, is anyone working on this sponsorship page?
Man 2 : Yes, I think she is ready.
Man 1 : Great, I'll add it tonight.
Returning home in the evening, I realized that I had another problem. I worked at this company for 7 weeks, and the initial rate was $ 1500. This is roughly equivalent to $ 11,100 per year or $ 214 per week. Or it turns out only $ 5.35 per hour.
It barely covered the cost of gasoline. So, I billed them for 7 weeks at the initial hourly rate. The total amount was $ 18,000.Of course, I was ashamed, but what else could I do?
As I expected, there was no answer. If there is something in common with all large companies, it is that they are not very eager to pay bills on time. I felt like a fraudster who takes so much for such a simple job, but this is not charity. I drove 80 kilometers every day to do the work. And if the work was not done, then it was not me who was to blame, but their slow answers.
Next week came the answer. A cold letter from the manager, where he broke all my work days into hourly blocks. Then he singled out those where I worked, and every day he marked one hour of the lunch break. In the end, he made some calculations at an agreed rate.
It turned out that I was wrong and incorrectly calculated the total amount. After adjustment, the debt was $ 21,000.
"Please confirm the adjusted hours so that the accounting department can write you a check."
I quickly confirmed this watch.