Career Advice Tuesday – “Should I Work For Less”

October 12, 2010

Dear Infosecleaders:

I am an information security consultant and for the past few years I have been working on a 1099 basis, performing consulting work in the area of identity and access management with my clients.   Let me give you my situation.

In 2008 I contracted to a client to perform work for a client at a rate of X (Like to keep the numbers confidential).  The contract was completed on time, the client was more than satisfied, and I was given a letter of recommendation by the project manager.

Recently, the same client called me up and asked me if I would like to perform additional work for them.  The work is quite similar, but it also requires me to use some updated skills that I have picked up over the last few years.  I spoke with the project manager about the scope of the work, the time, and the particulars.  When it came to discussing the rate, I told him that the previous rate, X, was acceptable and I would honor it.  It appeared that everything was agreed upon when I received a call from procurement, telling me that the rates were now X- 20%, and if I wanted the work, I would have to accept it.

I am really torn.  I would like to accept the contract, because I could use the work, it is a good project, and I liked my past experience.  However, I have a real issue in performing the somewhat more advanced work at a significantly reduced rate.   I have spent a good amount of time and resources developing my expertise, and I think that at least, I should be able to maintain my rate (if not increase it).

Any advice would be appreciated.

Seeking Fair Value

Dear Seeking Fair Value:

The decision to either accept this work is a personal one and in the end one that you will need to feel comfortable with.  When you are negotiating rate, you will always be effected by factors that include, your level of skill, your client’s budget, availability to perform the task, the urgency of the client’s need, and the price point of others to perform a similar task (the market).

In your situation, before agreeing to a lesser rate, you should think about the advantages that you have in this circumstance – first you are a known commodity, therefore there is less risk in engaging you.  Second, you have a previous business agreement that can be referenced and which can serve as your baseline.  Third, you can point out that they are requiring you to access new skills that you have recently added (you could argue that this would entitle you to a premium).

All of these things are important, but the most important advantage that you have is the past relationship with the project manager whom will ultimately be the beneficiary of your services.  What I would do in your situation would be to speak to the project manager and explain the situation and see if you can garner their support in helping you negotiate your rate.   When you do this, you should make it clear that you want to do the work, but the new rates make it very hard to commit.

If you can have the project manager make your case for a higher rate to procurement, you should accomplish two things  – first you will be able to make a more convincing argument because the project manager should be able to convey the business impact and your skill value better than doing it yourself.  The second advantage is that you will create a middle person in the negotiation, and in the end, the project manager should be able to get back to you with the best possible fee rate, after their discussions.  You should keep in mind – if you wind up with a rate that is either X or X-5% or X-10%, it is still an improvement from X-20%, and this way you can make an informed decision about what you plan to do.

Again, in the end you will make the decision based upon your desire to do the work, your need for money, and your pride.

Best thing I can tell you is do not let your pride get in the way of making a solid business decision.  In all businesses, you should take the good with the bad, and although you may eat a little crap, you will at least not go hungry.

Hope this helps,

Lee and Mike

Posted by lee | Filed Under Advice, Career Advice Tuesday, Compensation 


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