Independent Consultant: Client Watch my Screen

ouestque
ouestque used Ask the Experts™
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I had a client that wanted to video chat and watch my screen whenever I worked on their 40hr project. Would you let them do that? If not, how would you politely decline?

How about if a client wants you to email them each day when you start/end work on a their 40hr project?

How about when a client wants you to call them and stay on the phone with them whenever you are working on their project?
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Technology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013
Commented:
I'll do just about anything legal... for the right price.  One client wants me to help setup a standing desk for them.  This is NOT typical IT work.  I could decline.  Or I could do it at my standard IT rate.  Or I could offer to do it for 10x my rate.  Or just about anything.

If the client wants that level of oversight, I would suggest you caution the client that that level of oversight borders on being an employee - which is typically more costly for the client (taxes on top of regulations).  

Additionally, it depends on the work.  If this is a programming project, agree.  Then call them at 3AM and tell them you're working on the project because you couldn't sleep or you do your best work at 3am (I often do my best work at 3am).  Charge a rate per hour of "typical" work.  Then include add-ons.  Setup a 1-900 number (if they still exist) that charges $3.00/minute and if the client wants to stay on the phone with you, agree but they have to call you at that number.  (Don't forget to require payment in advance for regular services).  Get creative.

Or, more simply, decline.  If the client starts asking for those things, apologize and say that's not how you work and politely suggest they look for someone else.  (Few people I know of would ever work for a client under those conditions).

Bottom line - if you are an INDEPENDENT Consultant, then you and the client have to come to an agreement on the work and the working conditions.  If you don't like the working conditions, DON'T TAKE THE GIG.  If you think the conditions are extraordinary, odds are, most other people will too and the client will ultimately have to change their demands or pay a lot more than they would have to get their conditions met.

Just do yourself one favor - GET IT IN WRITING.  And make notes every time a client asks for something and modify the agreement you use.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)
Most Valuable Expert 2012
Expert of the Year 2018
Commented:
I essentially agree with Lee, although I have to say I would not accept such a client - no need as there are lots of clients.

Do tell them they must pay for all your time including any watching time.

Then as Lee says, get it in writing.

I have been consulting for 20 years (and Lee maybe even longer but I know a long time).  No need to take any aggravation.
Bill PrewTest your restores, not your backups...
Top Expert 2016
Commented:
As Lee said, it's really a question of what you are willing to do for money, and how much they are willing to pay.  If you are having trouble getting good gigs at the time, then these might be more appealing.  If you have a number of irons in the fire, and YOU find these a bit over the top, then maybe you pass.

Since you ask for opinions, I'd probably pass on #1 and #3.  #2 doesn't seem so bad to me, a daily update of your progress and hours spent isn't that far off the spectrum.  For me the other two smack of distrust or something else that I don't think I would be comfortable with.  I think they could be an indication of situations that would have other factors making it difficult to please the customer and I try to avoid those.

If you are going to decline I don't think you have to be too "polite".  Keep it short, it good be a s simple as you don't have the capacity.  Or you could be a little bit honest and just say that's not the environment that you would be comfortable working in and so you respectfully decline.


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Commented:
Every relationship has a certain amount of trust.  It appears the client has trust issues.  I would not consider working for a client like that unless I was desperate for money.  It is likely there will be other problems if you start your engagement out like that.  It is reasonable to do a simple time sheet with start and stop times and general description of what you worked on.
Dr. KlahnPrincipal Software Engineer
Commented:
Lee is spot on.  Everything has a price; set one such that the client is not willing to pay for the extra features, but will pay for standard service.

Or look at it as an opportunity to rake in some extra cash for very little effort.  Charge more for "special services."  As Robert Heinlein wrote, "We also walk dogs."

If you actually don't want this client at all, though ...

Let him watch your screen but not via a screen sharing program; point an old Logitech 320x240 at the screen from six feet away so all he can see is the back of your head.  Periodically knock the camera over accidentally when you leave the room.  When you come back, wave your hands around madly and comment "Fuchi, que peste!"  Scratch and itch as though you have poison ivy.  Point the camera at a drinking bird toy.  Green-screen it over footage of the 1983 Indy 500.  Don't forget soothing background music.  I recommend the Dead Milkmen (e.g., "Stuart", "Big Lizard in my Backyard") or Karl Jenkins' version of the "Dies Irae".  Sing along so that your client knows that you find it soothing and conducive to work.  "Tuba!  Mirum!  Spargens!  Sonum!  Per ... sepulchra regionum, coget omnes ante thronum!"  Stick the biggest knife you can find into the table from time to time.
Commented:
I get where you guys are coming from, but some of the responses so far .......

There was a time I used to work for this consulting company.  One of the projects I was on was like that - client wanted to shadow me.  (Maybe he didn't initially trust that we could do good work - I don't know)

Sales guy sold a fixed price for a 3 week project, so didn't really matter actually to the client - luckily for me, sales guy's estimate was accurate.

I didn't have any problems with it.  We ended up getting along well.  Used a chat program, or sometimes just Notepad on the screen.  And, he was helpful as well, with information about his specific environment that it would have taken some digging to get.  After a few days, he just kind of dropped out of those sessions - I could tell because after a few times when he didn't immediately respond to a question or comment from me, he said to be sure to email him whenever I had a request/question.  We basically "met up" in the morning, and he would let me do my thing after a short while.  He ended up very happy, and even offered to be a reference.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013
Commented:
Let's be clear - I'm not saying you shouldn't interact with the client.  But questions 1 and 3, as phrased, are overbearing.  Question 2 is reasonable - an email summary of the day's work, I have no problem with that.  I record a summary of work every day for every client I work for - it's helpful in billing and in referencing things where there are issues.  What level of detail you keep is up to you and your agreement with the client, but that one is, to me, quite reasonable.  Some don't care, some want to know.  And I have no problem showing the client what I'm doing and "teaching" them.  I encourage clients to ask questions and watch if interested.  The only exception is if I'm fixing a "system down" situation - I need to focus on the problem to get them running ASAP, Unless they really don't care how long their system is down, then I'm happy to explain what I did after the fact, but during, I need to focus!

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Commented:
Thank you everyone for the experienced feedback!! Your advice is a great help!!
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)
Most Valuable Expert 2012
Expert of the Year 2018

Commented:
You are very welcome and I was happy to help you.

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