Working Well with Hourly-Billed Workers

Working with people billed hourly can be tricky. It creates a conflict of interest where the "worker" wants to work longer doing as little as possible, while the "employer" wants to get the most bang for their buck.

At Parallax, I collaborate with a bunch of folks billed hourly (designers, consultants and, the most expensive of them all: lawyers). As the “employer”, I’ve collected tactics to create the best experience on both sides for working well with these folks.

My main goal: high ROI — get the work done, as efficiently as possible.

  1. Be extremely specific about the task.
  2. When I needed a vendor agreement reviewed, I didn't ask our lawyer to go through the whole thing. Instead, I asked for their opinion on four specific areas that were most important to me.

    Same goes for designers - I like to give them really detailed requirements and specific tasks. But I also want to encourage their creativity. So, I usually say something like "The user needs to be able to do X. Here are a few ideas on how we could make that happen...”

  3. Review a template vs. create from scratch.
  4. No need to reinvent the wheel. For example, instead of asking our lawyer to write a brand new employee offer letter, we ask if they can instead review a template we found for them.

    With designers, I sometimes give them examples of design elements I like from other products. That said, I balance this with caution — copy/pasta isn’t always the best tool for innovation.

  5. Set a max amount of time to spend.
    1. I often state or ask 1 of the following when engaging on a new task:

    2. How long do you expect this to take? … Okay, let’s not go beyond that X# of hours.
    3. Do not spend more than X hours/minutes on this task. If you are close to meeting this time limit, let me know and we can make the decision on whether to continue or not.
    4. Please don’t go over X dollars on this project.
    5. Overall, this helps set clear expectations on both ends.

Hope that helps!