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serenityNOW's avatar

As an independent consultant/freelancer, do I have to "train" someone on the work I'm doing?

Asked by serenityNOW (3397 points ) May 7th, 2014

I’m an odd impasse regarding a company I’m freelancing at. I do some custom webpages for them. Things are not going well. I expect them to have me train someone to do the pages I create. I’m simply not willing to do that. Why? Well, first of all, distilling years of design to a “newbie” will be very difficult. In addition, I just feel like it’s just simply beyond the scope of what I do. I liken it to having a plumber work on your pipes, and then before he leaves, you have him teach you his many years worth of experience. Obviously, that simply wouldn’t happen. So, as freelancer, how do I explain this? Can it result in some form of litigation? I know I can expect to be kicked on the curb for this, but I feel this is just not the role I was hired to do. Looking forward to any and all advice!

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13 Answers

janbb's avatar

I think it is very valid to tell them it is not in the scope of what you do but, as you say, it does likely mean that your work for them will end. Do you have other clients that will take up the slack?

zenvelo's avatar

As an independent, you need to put that into your contract: “Any subsequent training will be carried out at $XX per hour.”

But really, you think it’s just fine to install something, then walk away with the directions?

johnpowell's avatar

Kinda sounds like they want you to train your replacement that will work for less. They want to locally outsource you. Either way you go you will probably not be working there in the near future. So it is kinda up to you figure out how important the income and how easily it would be to replace the income. If we are talking feed the kids money I would put up with the crap while finding a new job.

You owe them nothing. I’m a bit of a dick and will refactor before my departure using this guide.

whitenoise's avatar

I don’t think they can force you to train anyone, but I think you should.

Just make sure you get properly paid for it.

Either way you may lose them as a customer, but if you do the training, you will make money and leave a happy customer. One that will give you good referrals etc. One that may hire you again, in the future. When they find out that they cannot – as you said yourself – replace years of experience with a simple training.

serenityNOW's avatar

@janbb – Nope, no others to pick up the slack, and @johnpowell, it is feed the kids money. I can almost afford to leave, but not right now. @zenvelo – Yeah, unfortunately I have no contract with them. I know it’s stupid to not work with a contract, but holy hell, I kind of screwed myself on that one. Also you said is it “just fine to install something, then walk away with the directions”. That’s why I put “ethics” as a tag. I honestly don’t know…

Judi's avatar

I am not real tec savy but if I hired someone to create a website, I would expect to also have the information to not necessarily change the format but at least to edit the information. If it’s so complicated that I can’t easily do that then I would feel like I had bought something worthless.

serenityNOW's avatar

@whitenoise – Thank you. I guess I’ve just been frustrated with them. They pile on way more than I was hired to do, yet expect results in the same time frame. It’s bordering on unfair, and I’ve nearly reached my breaking point!

whitenoise's avatar

@serenityNOW

Seems training a guy/gal and moving on may be your best choice. Likely you will then in the future have someone working there that has a better understanding of what you do and of your added value. You may end up with a better customer than they’ve been so far.

serenityNOW's avatar

@Judi – Fair enough… didn’t think of it that way. I appreciate the response of a non-tech savvy individual; on a scale of 1–10, I’d guess they’re about a 3. Anything they can’t figure out, they outsource to a guy in India via Odesk. In fact, their guy could “reverse-engineer” what I’ve worked on in about 20 minutes, so it’s not like I’m literally walking away. However, it’s a point-well-taken and not something I thought of.

funkdaddy's avatar

It sounds like you think they’re taking advantage of you by asking for more work. I doubt they’re trying to, they’re just running a business and you’ve agreed to work with them. The basics of that working relationship say they don’t understand what you’re doing, so that shouldn’t really be viewed as a negative.

You’re in control of what you do and what rate you do it for. You’re in control of what ethics you want to represent for yourself and your business. That’s the whole gist of freelancing.

If you haven’t agreed to train someone, and you don’t want to offer that service, then be clear with them and say no politely. Just understand that providing a website that can be maintained by the next guy is definitely considered part of creating a professional product. They shouldn’t be required to work with you forever any more than you should be required to work with them.

As far as standard procedures for training the next guy, I don’t know that there are any. I offer to train anyone on the stuff I make at the same rate I develop at, I generally include a couple hours in any estimate or scope of work if they’ve expressed interest in maintaining the site internally going forward. Again, that’s just me. A huge part of the job is managing expectations, and people are generally OK with anything as long as you do what you say you will.

If training someone is really outside what you want to do, tell them, and possibly lay out what you would be willing to do as an alternative. If the frustration is instead about the relationship as a whole, then I’d say (kindly) it would better to have that discussion directly.

serenityNOW's avatar

@funkdaddy – the problem is, I’d be training someone with no web design background, so, it would be more in-depth than handing the reigns to someone that already knew the ropes. If all I had to say was, that content goes in that area sorry, watering it down for the non-techies, although I could train ya! because of that reason, it would be one thing, but this would be profoundly more “complicated.” Sorry, I’m sleepy and hope that makes sense.

As for me thinking, “they’re taking advantage of you by asking for more work,” you’re spot on. That’s an attitude adjustment I need to make. They are a company, and it’s called work for a reason…

My thinking right now, is that life is tenuous, and I don’t want to further sever an already slippery grasp I have on this job, and I took time this evening looking for work. I’ll show someone the material to the best of my ability, and see what transpires. Maybe they’ll realize how invaluable I am ;)

LostInParadise's avatar

From both an ethical and career point of view, I think it best to train someone else. You are not obligated to tell everything you know. Just tell the bare minimum of what would be required.

@johnpowell , That guide is pretty funny. I hope that you do not actually put those ideas into practice. If I wrote code like that, it would get to the point that I could not figure out what I was doing. I try to write readable well documented and thoroughly tested code for my benefit. If I am given someone else’s gobblygook code to maintain, I will refactor it to make things easier.

serenityNOW's avatar

@LostInParadise – I’m feeling a teensy bit more upbeat today. I appreciate everyone’s feedback, and one thing I like about Fluther is getting a (gentle) slap in the face every so often. I think that the ethical thing to do is what you’re saying. Show enough to get by. I can’t distill a decades worth of experience into a couple of sessions with the new person, even if I wanted to. Everyone codes differently, and fortunately I had some wonderful teachers in the past who taught me clean, readable coding skills. By far, I’m no master, but what I do, I do well. I love @johnpowell ‘s article, but I’m with you @LostInParadise – I could never do that – I’d just get confused.

It reminds me of a guy who made custom guitar and bass amplifiers that I helped with his website. What he’d do is create the amp and then glue all sorts of wires and solder shit everywhere, just so no one would be able to emulate his work. I found it almost insulting, and that mess of wires would mean that it’s only possible for him to repair. Not cool. Hmmm, hadn’t thought about that in years. I wonder how long he’d spend ungluing his mess if he ever had to do a repair, let alone having someone else figure it out!

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