Independent Consulting: Duplicate On-Call Requests

ouestque
ouestque used Ask the Experts™
on
How would you handle multiple 'On-Call' requests during the same time period?

Example: 3 clients want you to be on call 24 hours on the same day. For simplicity assume the rate is $10 and you don't mind being on call the requested day.

Would you charge all 3 a retainer of $240 = $720?
Would you agree to be on call with the first client and tell the others you can't do it because your on call for someone else?

One thing to worry about is if you agree to be on call with more than one client, 3 clients can call around the same time. How would you handle that or set expectations beforehand?
Comment
Watch Question

Do more with

Expert Office
EXPERT OFFICE® is a registered trademark of EXPERTS EXCHANGE®
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)
Most Valuable Expert 2012
Expert of the Year 2018
Commented:
If you want to be on call 24 hours a day, set up a retainer as you propose above. Do this for each client and do not inform any other client.

I do NOT wish to be on call and have trained clients that I am not on call except in an emergency. My colleague works the same way.  These are good clients.

So if I get called on an emergency, I just charge my regular hourly rate. That seems to work very well.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013
Commented:
Don't know exactly what you do (technically - what you're paid for - programming?  IT Admin? etc) because that can affect things... but in general, the idea of being on call to me is "response time" to an emergency - 1 hour response time? 2 hour?  4 hour?  8 hour?  Next (business) Day? Not sure what kinds of emergencies a programmer would have that would require 24/7 on call... but as an Admin/technician, the important thing is not necessarily that YOU are there, but that you have SOMEONE SKILLED there within that window.  That's why it's important to have a network of associates.  I'm an independent consultant - no employees.  But I know MANY individuals who have their own clients and we cover each other.  When an emergency happens, if we can't make it to our own client, we call one of the others.  Yes, we're competitors, but we respect each other and when we're at another consultant's client, it's another consultant's client. Period.  As a result, we can handle two (or more) emergencies at once even when we might not be able to handle each ourselves.

Being "on call" for any old thing isn't good... you get clients who hire a new person and wait to tell you about them until the day they start and expect you to have them setup two minutes after you call.  I'm with John on this - I'm on call for emergencies at any time... BUT if they aren't emergencies, you may have to wait... sometimes a day or two.  As an independent, I have to prioritize.  That prioritization is done through combination of factors, including the severity of the issue, the rate(s) charges, the amount of work I get from that client -- they all factor in.  Why would I drop everything for a client that I make $5000 per year (at $200 per hour) for when a client I make $25000 per year (at $150 per hour) has an urgent issue...

And yes, I offer better rates to clients that provide me with more/guaranteed work.
Principal Software Engineer
Commented:
Ethically you cannot take multiple retainers for the same time period for "on call" service without telling each potential client that you may also be on call for other clients.

Nor is it good business practice to do so; if an incident occurred and you were unable to come immediately it could end up with a breach of contract suit.  If nothing at all happened, but they discovered that you took multiple retainers which could have resulted in no service in case of a call the least it would do is damage your reputation significantly, probably resulting in your name ending up on the "never contract with this person again" list.

But: If everyone knows what is involved, and if they don't have a problem with you taking their money and handling any possible situation "first come first served", then everything's out in the open, nothing is hidden.  Take the money and gloat over triple pay.
OWASP: Avoiding Hacker Tricks

Learn to build secure applications from the mindset of the hacker and avoid being exploited.

Author

Commented:
Thanks everyone! That makes sense. I think 'emergencies only' is a good philosophy for 'on-call'  most of the time.

For the question above I'm talking about special cases where more than one client needs me there for a period of time (I.e., 3 days) This can happen for a lot of reasons: (I.e., client prepping for a presentation due first thing next morning, the software designed runs a critical process and their employee that maintains it is gone a specific day etc.,)

In my case I want to be prepared for when multiple clients request on call the same day and make an appropriate/fair offer. Would this be an appropriate approach? (Assuming nobody else available to cover)

First Client1 Asks for on call on Thursday and I agree and clarify conditions (1h, 8h etc.,)

Second Client2 asks for on call. I tell them I'm on call for other clients, but can be on call for them as a ' secondary' meaning other clients have priority in case of emergency at same time. (I.e., Pending they pay the retainer also)

Maybe I can charge "Secondary" clients half the retainer of primaries since they are getting a different quality service.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)
Most Valuable Expert 2012
Expert of the Year 2018

Commented:
Your approach seems reasonable if you are going to be on call

Author

Commented:
Thanks everyone!!!

Do more with

Expert Office
Submit tech questions to Ask the Experts™ at any time to receive solutions, advice, and new ideas from leading industry professionals.

Start 7-Day Free Trial