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One Thousand Dollars an Hour (samsoff.es)
258 points by jamesjyu on Aug 6, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 155 comments

There exist many, many things one could do with a computer worth piles of money. Knight just blew $400 million in 45 minutes. What rate could you have charged them in the middle of that for credibly offering a fix?

That's worth a few orders of magnitude more than a lot of work, but there are plenty of companies with revenues in the millions or tens of millions with very specialized IT needs. They might be unable to hire for them or unwilling to spend 6 months interviewing and training when they could hire an expert to parachute in now. That expert might well charge a project rate that works out to a bit of money, but crucially, anchor it to business value rather than things which have a cheap, non-expansive dynamic range like "price per hour."

Sometimes the dam just breaks. If you are so good as to be able to predict such an instance, you can see the future and should BE trading stocks, not working on the systems that facilitate trades.

If you are very good at building the systems that facilitiate trades, you should be paid well, but you will be paid for building stable, reliable systems and not for predicting one off gotchas. That is impossible to do consistently.

No amount of money can prevent the one off events. You can only hedge. As a result, is $1000/hr worth a hedge? Likely not.

Now, is a guy worth $1000/hr if there's a crisis, he can come it and make it better and we are talking millions of dollars. Likely so.

All of these things to say: no, he's not worth $1000 on any given hour, but might be on a very particular hour.

> What rate could you have charged them in the middle of that for credibly offering a fix?

Plenty of course. But the odds that such person exists outside their organization is nil. The world's top programming expert would take more than 45 minutes to assess the issue. (I'm assuming that cutting off power wasn't an option.)

However, I believe you have to be comfortable and convincingly experienced in that particular area in order to get such a contract. Which is not always an option since the area is ‘very specialized’.

Or you may be able to deal with wide range of IT problems that includes that area, but then there's a question of credibility—whether that particular area would seem like something you can deal with to company management, considering that you've never done exactly that thing before. In this case it seems that you either need strong reputation for dealing with different problems successfully, or some leads inside the company. (Either way is possible, of course, but apparently not as easy as it may seem on the first sight.)

Good marketing ploy. Causes people to freak out for a minute with thoughts like "is this a trend? Can this rate be sustained? Am I behind?". And here I am commenting, so he wins.

All that said, please keep in mind:

1. Gravity still exists, financially and otherwise. Reality too.

2. Strong teams still win. "Pay me $1000/hr with $10,000 NDA bonus or I'll be in my trailer" might get press, but the assumptions and arrogance behind it won't make meaning over the mid or long terms.

3. CheddarApp is just ok. As a card carrying yearly CheddarApp subscriber, I can say that I've used it for a week and meh. I'm hoping he gets enough press to get enough people to put $20 on the table to build out that spartan feature set.

4. Employers can pay what they want. In the end, if someone thinks they can get ROI on $1000 an hour, why not. God bless America, right?

CheddarApp is just ok. As a card carrying yearly CheddarApp subscriber, I can say that I've used it for a week and meh.

I'm all for bringing up programmers' hourly rates but I think I'd want to have a little bigger feather in my cap than another to-do app before I tried a ploy like this.

I'm an android user and I don't know the man or the app. Is this really his only feather?

According to the About page [1], he created one of the first third-party iOS apps [2] which now has usage numbers in the millions, worked at the creators [3] of Hipstamatic [4] (a fairly well-known iOS app), has contributed a sizeable amount of open-source code [5], and has worked on a number of other projects [6].

[1] http://samsoff.es/about [2] http://www.youversion.com/mobile [3] http://heysynthetic.com/ [4] http://hipstamatic.com/ [5] https://github.com/samsoffes [6] http://samsoff.es/projects

What's the worst that could happen? Nobody wants to hire him for that rate? Sounds like he'd be perfectly happy with that outcome.

I agree. There are people with far superior resumes who will work for less. Frankly, I think he realizes that he won't get much work charging what he is going to charge. This seems to be a publicity stunt and nothing more.

If a decent to-do app is enough advertisement to be able to justify an hourly rate of $1000 (or even 1/4 that), I've been doing something really wrong.

However, the $10,000 fee (or at least some significant fee) for signing an NDA bonus is fairly reasonable. Most NDAs are usually unnecessary, inappropriately scoped, and force the person signing it to take on a substantial legal liability - I wish more people would refuse to sign them or require compensation for doing so.

"...justify an hourly rate of $1000 (or even 1/4 that)"

No. He didn't justify anything. He's limiting the type of clients that talk to him.

Point: "This rate is designed to weed out less serious clients. [...] If anyone hires me to write code for $1000/hr, they are wasting their money."

You're missing the point. Clients can't justify hiring him for such an exorbitant rate because his claim to fame is somewhat mediocre.

But isn't that the Clients' problem?. His blog post is very clear, he claims he has some specific optimization skills on iOS apps and they're worth $1000.I have no idea or experience on iOS to judge whether he's right. Also do note, he may have other references that vouch for his skillset(optimization of iOS apps.

Actually my guess is that he honestly doesn't really want any consulting gigs and previously wasn't advertising a rate, but due to his involvement with some high profile projects got a constant stream of offers he brushed off by quoting ridiculously high rates, then found out that some would accept those rates and some of the projects were genuinely interesting.

Usually, when you get to the stage where you charge this kind of money, you are really charging not for the work, but all of the work that you've done before and the experience that came with it. An hour with someone worth their salt can easily save you 20 hours paying the $50/hour developer types.

You don't hire these guys to build your project, just to point you in the right direction. The real question is "does this particular guy have $1000/hour advice to offer". His customers ultimately decide this.

There's an anexdote for that:

woman is strolling through a local park, when she happens upon Pablo Picasso sitting on a bench. Struck by her good fortune, she summons the courage to speak to him.

“Excuse me. You’re Pablo Picasso right?”

The man smiles.

“Would it be possible to have you sketch my portrait? I’ll pay.”

Picasso accepts the offer.

He considers the woman carefully for a few moments and then takes out a pen and paper. He quickly sketches a single line on the page.

He takes one last look at the page and hands it to the woman.

“That’s incredible!” She says. “You’ve managed to capture my essence in a single stroke of the pen.” “That will be $5,000,” Picasso replies.

“$5,000? But it only took you seconds to draw it!”

“Actually, my dear, it took me my whole life.”

(from http://morethanaliving.com/2007/03/20/pablo-picasso-anecdote...

This kind of dynamic exists in a few professions.

About a year ago I was locked out of my house and had to call an emergency locksmith - the cost was around $150. He turned up and inserted a piece of rigid plastic into the gap between door and frame, opening the lock. The process took 5 seconds, and I immediately realized that, given the knowledge that this would work, I could have opened the door myself using a credit card. But I didn't possess that knowledge, and the value of gaining access to my home was worth what I paid. I had paid not for hours worked, but for experience.

Locksmiths are sort of a weird case: you can learn to open 95%+ of commercially relevant locks with $100 of tools and less than an hour of training. The biggest reason it costs $150 and not $25 is that your locality makes it illegal to advertise as a locksmith, and illegal to possess locksmithing tools, without certification. There's a nebulous security rationale for this, because apparently normal people can be allowed to own credit cards and compressed air cans but if we allow them to open locks for money as well then they'll burglarize every house in sight.

If locksmithing tools are outlawed, then only outlaws will have locksmithing tools.

From that perspective, the ban makes sense, kind of. If the police catch a burglar with locksmithing tools, then he's automatically a criminal, even if they can't prove he broke into anybody's houses. What if he's not a burglar? Well, law-abiding citizens by definition wouldn't have those tools, unless they have the appropriate certification, which the police can of course check.

It serves as a convenient filter to lower the bar to being able to arrest burglars. Of course, there's the question of whether there are legitimate reasons for non-certified people to have these tools, and whether the tradeoff is worth it (I'd certainly lean toward "no" there, since it seems like a big restriction of freedom for a minor gain), but on its face the prohibition is not completely absurd.

It very much depends on which locality you are in. In plenty of places it is legal to own locksmithing tools. You can find many videos of lockpicking on youtube.

You obviously don't watch enough sitcoms if you didn't know that would work.

Ok, granted, I saw this and until I visited the US I didn't believe it would work (it wouldn't in most doors I've seen). But in the US, we tried, it opened every locked door in the house.

So yeah, the lesson to be learned from this is next time to at least try some hair brained ideas before calling someone. :)

I have watched enough mechanics open a car door locked with the keys inside. I still can't do it on my own though. Call a professional, the guy gets it done in seconds (plus the time it takes for him to travel to wherever I am). Some things, even if you possess the knowledge, you may not possess the skill.

... and for the knowledge that you should probably replace your front door lock if it can be opened with a credit card in 5 seconds ... I would. But fortunately my lock's a bit more secure than that :)

I was charged $750 last time I used a locksmith :-( They did change the lock though ...

Also worth noting on his "hire me" page (http://hire.samsoff.es/):

"I prefer not to sign NDAs. If this is a requirement for you, there is a $10,000 fee to sign your NDA. You will need to sign my consulting agreement. It has confidentially agreement included."

He then has a very simple work-for-hire contract that includes an NDA.

There's something appealing about this approach, because reading arcane contracts while a project is still being spec'ed is quite annoying. So instead he shifts the burden to the client. But, obviously, many clients won't swallow that.

I'm curious if he can make this work.

Is this an American speciality?

In most legal systems, confidentiality is part of hiring someone. You often sign an NDA nevertheless but its value is mostly declarational.

"In most legal systems, confidentiality is part of hiring someone."

I assume you're talking about European systems, in which case it's not true, at least not to a significant extent. And when you hire a contractor it's even less defined - a contractor can freely talk about what kind of work he did for a company, right down into quite specific detail, without a proper NDA or clause to that extent in the contract.

I'm pretty sure he doesn't care if it works, he is working on his own project.

He is invincible, hence the rate.

Exactly. If the lucrativeness of his side project changes I'm sure his tune will soon follow.

If you've ever read a book called "Influence: The Art of Persuasion" [1] you'll recall a story about a store that sold rocks in New Mexico. The woman who owned the store was trying to offload all of her turquoise during peak tourist season, so she set the price a lot lower than normal. Although this was the most popular sell typically, fewer people started buying thus having the reverse effect of what she wanted. She relocated the stones' showcase to the front and center of the store. Sales plummeted further.

As she left for a short vacation, she left a note for one of her employees to drop the price to half of what it already was, and at least try to make a little bit of money back. But the employee misread the note and accidentally doubled the price of the turquoise. By the time the store owner got back, the rocks had sold out, at DOUBLE the price.

The store owner contacted the author of the book, a psychologist (I forget why) and he explained the reasoned this may have happened. Most of her customers were affluent and wealthy tourists who had been under the subconscious impression that you get what you pay for. When they saw high-priced stones, they knew that they were getting quality stones, at least that's what they had been led to believe through years of dealings.

This is why this guy's experiment will work and is a great idea. He is probably no more skilled than many of the hackers on here, but he stands out with his exorbitant price tag and some companies figure, 'hey, you get what you pay for.' This is especially true in the business world. So regardless of the fact he may not be worth it, or may not possess superior abilities, if he is getting the money which I hypothesize he will, more power to him.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Influence-Psychology-Persuasion-Busine...

I believe in the same book, the author explains black pearls. They were previously trinkets--very cheap. It wasn't until they were put in a high end jewelry store in New York that they were suddenly desired, and commanded a price premium.

I am unavailable this month, so for the moment my rate for new clients is one billion euro per hour.

The article is a waste of time. It's just a newly minted consultant waxing lyrical about being a newly minted consultant. Good for him if he can make it work (I'd never be able to) but this is just what a high end consultancy would charge for offering the same kind of services, nothing surprising.

I don't think $1,000 an hour is unreasonable for an expert (I'll leave aside the judgment of whether this guy is such an expert or not). There are quite a few law firm partners that charge over $1,000 an hour for their services (http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/st_TOPRATE0...) (and that's just the small publicly-available slice of what is usually pretty guarded information).

The fact that people here on HN are reacting negatively to the rate reflects what I think is a cultural flaw in the developer community: programmers seem very reluctant to demand real money for their services. I rarely hear people complain that programmers are too expensive, even during this current boom. Given that people complain about everyone's rates: doctors, lawyers, plumbers, etc, that's almost a sure sign that programmers charge too little and expect too little.

Software is where the money is these days. Google, etc, have double the revenues per employee of any major investment bank. Yet, the culture on Wall Street is such that the investment banks (which are public companies too), pay out ~50% of revenues in compensation. There is no reason software development should be any different.

No. Most of you do not get it at all. It's like selling a house you built with love and live in. You do not want to actively sell it, but if someone gives you double of the market rate, then it will be foolish not to sell. That's called passive selling. I passively sell everything :-)

Is $1000/hr really a fuck-you rate for IT? Coming from finance and eyeballing management consulting rates that are a healthy multiple of those I didn't get the marketing ploy at first.

Yes, $1000/hr really is a fuck you rate for software development.

Most software development projects are months/years long and there are huge context switching costs when trying to swap a new developer in for an old one so you tend to get stuck with the same contractor for the duration which means you're committing to paying someone $1000/hr for months/years. This is quite different than finance/legal where maybe you just need some expert's time for literally like an hour.

There are some situations like the one he referenced where you're just doing 3 hours of optimization or whatever to an existing codebase but projects like that are few and far between (and I'm guessing the person paying for them will often be disappointed... I'm sure Sam is a great programmer, but 3 hours isn't much time to devote to making really substantial optimizations to an existing codebase nor to train another programmer how to do them him/herself).

If you look at what he is selling in his blog though it's a few hours of consulting time here and there as a mentor, imparting expertise on others.

I don't think $1000/hr is a fuck you rate for expert assistance of that sort. I don't know if I would consider him an expert worthy of hiring at that rate but I could see others doing it.

Here's a case where I could see $1k/hr making a big difference (granted I think the customer only paid $200/hr for this but it would have been work $1k/hr if necessay). We had a stored procedure that was performing really badly, and needed some advice on what to do better. I spoke with a database expert for approx an hour and he explained what was probably happening and gave me some pointers to fixing it. If I was trying to fix it on my own, it would have been a week's effort at least because the problem was not in a single statement but poor performance as an emergent property of several hundred or thousand statements running in a specific order and throwing off caching.

Are we talking about $X000/hr for a single finance/consulting professional's time? That rate seems rather unbelievable, but maybe only senior folk in the top-tier firms get to charge that? Are market conditions in finance/consulting just that skewed towards the suppliers?

Yes, that kind of rate is only for partner-level time at a Big 4/Big 3 type shop--and those guys aren't billing more than a few hours a week typically. Even then, $1k/hour is pretty high.

Now, it's not uncommon at all for the staff folks who are on the ground 40+ hours a week to be billed out at anywhere from 200-600/hour. But >$1k? Very rare.

This is conceited as fuck. Nice to-do app.

It's a PR stunt, and a pretty lame one at that. And he should be building a massively cross-platform data sync framework (ala Dropbox, but not just files) -- not a to-do app whose defining feature is sync.

Well I'd better get moving on Provolone... I can't wait to be charging $1000/hr.

Seriously though, that's pretty stellar if he can pull if off, and someone that's knowledgeable and creative enough is certainly worth it to get things going in the right direction.

peccorino romano man, peccorino romano. You could charge $2k/hr

Sam's resume:


This, to me, is more surprising than the rate.

It was surprising to me too, I work as a consultant and am regularly billed out at up to $400/hr. I have a resume and a "consulting resume", which is a list of all the projects I've been staffed at for my current employer with the company name's redacted.

People are willing to pay the high rates because you bring a wide range of knowledge about how other companies have done things, your level of technical skills is usually secondary.

The dirty little secret of consulting is that at a high level everyone is obsessed with NDAs and the like, even to the point of not letting you claim we've worked for them in any capacity, however once they've got you there they want you to name names. When it comes down to making a choice between several options, the option that company X chose is seen as the "safer" one.

Edit: after re-reading, I wanted to be clear that I wasn't suggesting that consultants do (or should) divulge this information; my emphasis should have been more on the experience vs. skills part.

I used to be billed out at $325/hour as a junior programmer and it wasn't until later that I fully understood why.

It's not your "wide range of knowledge" but rather the risk profile of your employer. Some RFP's demand that the consultancy have 10k+ employees, 20+ years in business, and so on. Some of these requirements are government mandated, some process mandated, etc.

In other words, if you, with all your knowledge, were to strike out on your own, you would find yourself quite unable to bill at $400/hour, even if you were to be hired by the very same clients (which is not going to happen because they are paying the higher rate specifically so that they can get the low risk profile as per above).

In my experience, $400/hour at a large consultancy translates into ~$150/hour as a sole consultant, wide as your knowledge may be.

That's not a resume.

To quoteth: "It's easy to use on your iPhone, iPod touch, iPad. Cheddar is ... instantly in sync on all of your devices"

I don't think he understands what the word all means. Just me 2cents.

For that rate I'd maybe hire Simon Peyton Jones, but $1000 for iOS "optimization advice"? The market must be in a really bad place.

It's great marketing for his app, if nothing else.

"The guy who makes this app charges $1000/hr, he must be amazing!"

I know a similar thing from top online poker players. Many of them offered training lessons for ridiculous rates simply because they would make more money playing the same time, so why bother teaching people for a lesser hourly rate ?

Other successfull players still took these lesseons at these very high rates simply because these top players were the only ones able to help them improve their games and this was worth thousands to them, as they already were making alot of money.

I had a quick look at his SSToolkit framework which he published on github. I reviewed he source code because he said he is doing iOS code reviews for $1000/hour. After five minutes or so I stopped taking him serious. In my opinion his code is good but really far from brilliant. There are even some serious flaws in his code - at least in my opinion. Here is a short and imcomplete summary of his code ( https://github.com/samsoffes/sstoolkit ):

The method -randomObject (NSArray+SSToolkitAdditions) is supposed to return a random object but when he is generating a random number he is generating non-uniform random numbers.

In general his category methods are not prefixed. This will definitely break something sooner or later.

He is not using the designated initializer or NSDate - although it would make sense in -dateValue (NSNumber-SSToolkitAdditions)

He is drawing patterns in -drawRect: where he could simply set the background image to a pattern color.

He is not using the shortcut functions for handling CGRects.

He has a file containing utility drawing functions (SSDrawingUtilities). This file contains functions like CGRectSetWidth, CGRectSetOrigin and so on which pollute the CG namespace which is owned by Apple...

>The method -randomObject (NSArray+SSToolkitAdditions) is supposed to return a random object but when he is generating a random number he is generating non-uniform random numbers.

You mean because of the modulo operator, presumably, and yes, the technically correct way to do it is to retry if the raw random number is larger than N*floor(UINT32_MAX/N). Still, that's a pretty minor bug considering what a minor deviation from uniformity it causes.

>In general his category methods are not prefixed. This will definitely break something sooner or later.

Yeah, this is a common mistake for people making "additions" frameworks, and it just strikes me as egotistical. When I was doing ObjC development, I'd even prefix my own private category methods, because hey, you never know.

> You mean because of the modulo operator, presumably, and yes, the technically correct way to do it is to retry if the raw random number is larger than N*floor(UINT32_MAX/N). Still, that's a pretty minor bug considering what a minor deviation from uniformity it causes.

Yes, because of the modulo operator and this is not a minor thing in my opinion. Especially with small arrays his implementation will return the the 0th or 1st element much much more often than other elements.

I think the correct way would be to use arc4random_uniform(...).

> Yeah, this is a common mistake for people making "additions" frameworks, and it just strikes me as egotistical. When I was doing ObjC development, I'd even prefix my own private category methods, because hey, you never know.

Yes. He even did create about 30 functions which use the CG-prefix.

Edit: I just realized for my math below I used 2^32 as UINT32_MAX instead of 2^32 - 1. The rest of my reasoning holds up though.

>Especially with small arrays his implementation will return the the 0th or 1st element much much more often than other elements.

Much, much more often? Correct me if my reasoning is wrong, but for a, say, 6 element array, this bug would make a difference less than 0.0000001% of the time ((UINT32_MAX%6)/UINT32_MAX). For a 3 element array, it would make a difference about 0.000000023% of the time. Maybe you mean by small "less than 100 elements", in which case the worst case is 96 elements, where it happens a whopping 0.0000015% of the time.

Indeed, the problem is only pronounced for large arrays, because that's when there's an opportunity for UINT32_MAX%N to be large (since A%B < B). There is no case where the 0th and 1st element are significantly skewed ahead of everything else. The bias is characterized by the last few elements of the array being selected significantly less often, but the "significantly" part only kicks in for very big arrays.

In fact, the first array length for which you will even see a difference 0.01% of the time would be 430,142 elements [ed: this holds up even adjusting UINT32_MAX to the correct value]. Considering that this is a framework intended to be used for iOS development, I think once your NSArray has grown that large, you might have more important fish to fry than worrying about a small bias in your randomization.

You are correct. I have just checked my code that I used a couple of years ago to generate random numbers using %. I had the impression back then, when I then switched to arc4random_uniform that it works much better. It must have been something different or my perception tricks me. Nevertheless not knowing or caring about uniformly distributed random numbers and charging $1000/hours seems a bit strange. One could argue that % needs less CPU cycles but then again: Does this matter? Using arc4random_uniform makes your code much more readable etc. So from a pure code review standpoint of view I would argue that arc4random_uniform should be used if possible. Of course he might also not have used it because of compatibility reasons. Who knows.

Btw: I would like to talk to you in private. How can I contact you?

What is the average hourly rate for high-level engineering consultation? It seems that's the service he's offering, and I don't really think he is overcharging.

About $350/hr

Data points to back that up? That sounds high for mobile dev.

Sorry that's the cost of a civil engineering professors consulting time being the top in their field. I misunderstood op

I've heard around $250 is the ceiling, and that's for top-flight people physically in SF or NYC.

1000/hr == ~2MM per year.

There are thousands upon thousands of people who make more than this annually.

I think one of the things that keep people self-limiting is looking at their income per hour. I have long stopped looking at my income per hour and focus on what I want to make annually.

This has been done. Off the top of my head: Thomas Fuchs (http://script.aculo.us/thomas/ $800/hr). I even think this was posted to HN.

It's not up to date - he's also not living in Vienna anymore AFAIK :) With their 2 products churning out big $, I'm not sure Thomas would do consulting at the moment.

I don't think the rate is unreasonable, given the value of great advice. But I could see some internal techies at a company scoffing at a consultant who is using Rails to run his personal blog: https://github.com/samsoffes/samsoff.es

I'm not defending that scoffing, mind you, as playing around with frameworks is good initiative...but anyone who's been burned by a consultant/vendor who recommended a bazooka to kill a mosquito will be wary.

What's wrong with using Rails to run your blog? If your website is built on a given web framework, it is often more sensible to run the blog on that than to introduce a standalone blog engine.

Because you can use octopress and only have to serve static files. https://github.com/epochwolf/epochwolf.com


> This is my new blog in Rails 3.1. I moved my blog to Jekyll a few months ago and really missed playing with a Rails app, so I'm moving it back and starting from scratch.

And you can use page caching in rails to do the same. The argument for using octopress is more that it enlarges the space of possible hosts.

Because it's a very heavy solution for a relatively simple site?

My issue with this has less to do with the rate and more to do with the overall tone of it. Sam has done some excellent work, no doubt, and should charge whatever rate he finds appropriate. However, the presentation of this is likened to a gold cufflink clad lawyer with a monogramed shirt who proclaims with a laugh, "I don't get out of bed for less than a grand an hour," as he sips the brandy and takes a draw on the Cuban cigar before expelling its smoke in your face.

If his time was really worth $1000/hr, he wouldn't have time to write blog posts like this

Given the response this is generating, I have to disagree.

If you run a successful company, you'll be getting that hourly income at some point ... It's not likely to be a todo list company though.

Pay me the right amount of money and you too can have many of my cycles devoted to solving your problems. Exactly how much money depends on what the problem is. Or, you know, you can just pay me to learn (really, internalize) your stuff and point out problems or potential problems. I tend to find things in complicated systems. It's what I do.

I'm dead serious. Bring it on.

I'm inclined to think that such amounts of money aren't paid for some things you find out in systems, but they are paid for you knowing every last bit of the system and giving advice on how to exploit it.

Charging a bunch is a good weed out.

I charge per day at a high rate, but have a discount for interestingness (since my goal isn't really money per se).

How do you advertise to find clients?

I'm somewhat well known; they come to me.

Josh created del.icio.us

Heh, sounds like it started out as something in between an ego-trip and a way to shoo customers away which has taken a life of its own and is now hotly being debated by the HN community. Now I'm following him on twitter to see what he's doing right :-)

I think you're better off just charging per project. People are more comfortable paying $10k for some specialized help, even if it only takes 10 hours, than they are paying $1000/hour for 10 hours of work.

Something like what Paul Rand did when designing the NeXT logo. He charged $100k flat to "solve the problem" of creating a logo.

Fixed fees only work well when the client has a discrete problem that needs addressing, but in my experience those are the best projects anyway. Imagine a team of people struggling with some hard problem for 6 months and then you (because you're a specialist) solve it in 10 hours. Those are the absolute most fun things to do. Hero Projects.

If waffles cost $450, then $1000/hr wouldn't seem so unreasonable. Oh wait...

I should start measuring my income in waffles per hour.

Nobody pays me in waffles. :(

Waffles on demand? Waffles as a service?

If there's a growing trend for the rising demand of waffles, we'd be selling machinery to make waffles instead and ebooks and courses on how to get rich making waffles.

Waffles are overpriced. That's why I am introducing my new technology: Redundant Array of Inexpensive Waffles.

This will allow you to create high syrup capacity waffles from an array of lower-quality waffles.

Cloud waffles.

No, no... WaffleCloud(tm). As a mobile service. Syncs with your whipped cream on-demand.

Waffles are a $10b annual business in the US alone. If we can get just 1% of that sector...

Clearly you haven't worked for a startup.

I don't get why everyone is so up in arms about this. I come across folks every day who say they charge "$x" or "$y" and think it's way above market rate for what they say they do.

The reality is that perhaps this guy and his todo app might score some work at that rate or he might not, it's his prerogative to decide what he wants to charge.

I might look at someone elses folio today and when they tell me they want $500 a day I'd look at their work and think good luck.

There's a massive difference between saying what you charge and what you actually charge on the invoice at the end of the day.

Good for Sam. Now you just need to get your prospective clients to get wind of this, right before you quote them your steal of a $300/hour rate. Level-setting is a powerful thing.

I don't think that is the point at all. His own projects are so important to him that unless someone offers him $1,000 per hour to work for them, it isn't worth his time. He isn't trying to get new business: he's trying to keep business away, unless it's so lucrative ($10,000 for 1 days work) that it's nonsensical not to take it.

Yes, what I wrote obviously isn't Sam's point, which is plainly written and quite clear.

I was writing about what you as a contractor could potentially do, independent of Sam.

I think the part that shocks me the most is the fact that he has a client who is willing to pay him at this rate for 3 hours. I can see the benefits of doing this, but lets be frank here unless you're good and have the proof to back up the rate then you'll be laughed at by everyone for charging so much and be undercut. It's more than obvious Sam is more than just mediocre and can justify this hourly fee, I wish I could do the same myself.

You can and should charge at least $225/hour if you are a competent software person. There are far less competent software people then there are mediocre lawyers, and mediocre lawyers can charge $225/hour.

HN's patio11 (if memory serves) has made a strong case in the past for charging by the day or by the week or by the job ... pretty much anything other than by the hour. Ex.: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2909480

Not that you're necessarily wrong, but you've only addressed supply, not demand.

"The main reason for the rapid growth is a large increase in the demand for computer software." http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/s...


How is the stock photo for the software dev page not yet a meme?

That is a glorious mustache.

Edit: I did a Google image search on it. Here's the stock photo page: http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-58442602/stock-photo-male-pr.... "computer hacker in black shirt working at laptops" -- I wonder what the annual salary of black-shirted computer hacker is. BLS doesn't seem to have stats on that one.

Here he is looking manic: http://www.123rf.com/photo_7515672_computer-hacker-in-black-...

I'm thinking lawyers might, by the nature of their profession, provide more value than devs though, since they can keep you out of jail or prevent you from being seriously screwed in a deal, while a dev is mostly just increasing your revenue/profits by extending your software. Also, lawyers are able to provide value within relatively small timeframes (compared to developing something meaningful), which makes high hourly rates more acceptable to clients (as clients are mostly interested in "how much for not going to jail" total amount, not the hourly rate)

There's plenty of software required to track / audit what's happening in a business in order to comply with plenty of legislation

Precisely the reason why we built TapFame (tapfame.com) Businesses always have hard time finding the developer under their budget and we developers don't want to waste our time dealing with the low budget projects or just the idea people. After connecting a couple of projects we are realizing the tremendous value we can provide to the app ecosystem.

cheddar is a glorified to do list app

come on bro...

No, it's a todo list app, period.

It doesn't pretend to be something else or more, so the 'glorified' here is meaningless.

That said, it doesn't matter what Cheddar is. He asks for that pay for iOS consulting in general, not for recreating his own app.

Well if demand can sustain the price on a daily basis then good luck to him/her ... and I'm very jealous.

Work like this would tend to be ad-hoc, not 9-5, and the work he's received so far (in his example) would seem more like what an architect might charge to make a drawing or two.

So the price seems entirely fair if the skills really are specialist enough to demand it.

you are missing the point entirely of hourly rates, quite simply, if your time is averaged out to be worth 1000 an hour you would most likely find yourself in a position as a business owner / executive, etc, whose pay is dispersed differently than it is for a lower wage hourly worker, such as stock options, etc... as a contract developer youre better off acting as your own project manager and charging rates on a per project basis, ive worked on 400k projects that are considered relatively small by the companies paying for the software being developed, id take being able to pull in a few 400k projects a year, and executing on these than getting 1000 hr as a contractor, of course ive never accomplished either as im a salaried midlevel devloper

Paying money for an app from guy who says "pay me $1000/hour or go fuck yourself"

not in a million years...

The challenge is to fill hours at a rate like that. Sure if you don't need to consult at all and you manage to fill a few hours a month at this rate then power to you.

For most freelancers though, they need to fill a lot more hours.

He doesn't want to fill hours. He wants to be working on his startup. But if he can pull in $3K by showing up for a morning, it's not really a bad deal.

There are many lawyers that have their hourly billing rate set at $1000/Hr.

No, there aren't. There are some biglaw partners who for some, very specific work charge amounts that are in the general vicinity of USD 1000. And that kind of money includes office costs (or whatever the term is that the firm uses to describe the fixed overhead rate they apply to billables to cover secretaries, stationary etc.)

Actually, USD 1000 per hour is special enough to merit an article in the WSJ about it: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870407130457616... . I certainly wouldn't say that 'many' lawyers bill those amounts.

Also, consulting a lawyer for specific work is different from hiring an iOS programmer. You get specific help that you cannot get otherwise and the law firm is on the hook for the services provided. iOS programmers are dime a dozen. Assuming this guy is the best of the lot, I still don't see him giving the kind of concrete guarantees a law firm would provide with their service. Lastly, the value-add from a law firm consultation is different (and much more concrete) than a top-notch iOS programmer, assuming he is one.

Controversial, just like he wants. I see the same things come out of dcurtis (in fact, the "minimalist" web design is eerily similar). Either way, very pretentious - but I wish him all the best.

Even if I was willing to pay this rate, I would worry whether his mind was really in it. For $1000/hr you would want someone with pretty specific skills really switched on and ready to work.

For $1000/hr you would think he could afford a valid certificate for his app's webstite.

that's not necessary at all...

I'm having lunch with Sam in 30 minutes… Any questions you guys want to relay?

If he just started iOS programming today, what are the major missteps he'd tell his novice self to avoid? (I've read he's not that keen on nibs, etc.)

Cheddar is awesome and Sam seems to have the ambition to do great things.

That copypasta tastes delicious.

Makes a lot of sense to me. I don't think it's a marketing ploy.

Going out and trying to get work is massively annoying. So is context-switching. Plus paying your own benefits, dealing with non-paying customers, legal fees (yes, you need a lawyer if you're going to freelance) and having a complete lack of job security. I don't envy freelancers when I look at what they have to put up with. With all this, a typical hourly rate (and this is generally considered fair) is 1/800 of salary.

He also has an existing project that he's working on full time, and that he'd presumably be taking time away from to work on the consulting gig. When you're already working full-time, it makes sense to tack a factor of 3 on to your hourly rate, on the supposition that leisure time is worth (when you work full time and have little of it) 3 times as much as regular work time.

Given all this, a reasonable consulting rate might be 1/250 of annual salary, so he's rating himself as being at the same level ($250k/year) as a mid-career Wall Street quant. I don't think that's unreasonable.

It's quite simple actually. If your business is not dependent of consultancy, i.e. it's not your primary source of income, you'd do yourself a disservice by not TRYING to charge a significant amount: you never know who might be willing to pay it. In particular, an amount that would be at least the lower bound of what you expect your app to generate in terms of income on an hourly basis.

After all, you're not dependent of those consultancy funds, but if you find someone who's willing to pay the requested amount, it's win-win. You're basically put in a unique situation where you're able to experiment with that and you might end up with a few interesting contacts as well by doing so.

Holy cow. If CheddarApp justifies a $1000/hour rate, then good programmers could easily justify $100k/hour or better.

Lawyers who handle multimillion dollar deals can justify $1000/hour. Security specialists can justify $1000/hour. Some guy who makes a mediocre todo list application can't.

You don't get it. he can charge whatever he wants to. Nothing stops him for charging $10,000 per hour, just like Lady Gaga or Biber or some other crazy POPular artist would.

Its really not about how much he asks; its about how many people can answer it. He tries to go against the current and assume 1 gig at $1,000/hr is better than 5 gigs at $200. It makes sense. I would love to see people paying for my work 5x more than average, I think I would be more excited too.

Also the guy doesnt seem cocky. He mentioned twice that this is too much to pay anyways.

It's my experience that most IT professionals grossly undercharge.

Get a plumber around. Chances are he'll charge you more for fixing your toilet than you will to build him a website. Both are equally easy jobs using off-the-shelf components.

As an experiment, I had someone ask me recently for an hourly quote to do some work. I didn't really feel like it, so I quoted double the normal rate. They didn't even blink.

If you're not a corporate consultant getting charged out at $400+ per hour, you're probably undercharging.

To be clear, I'm talking about consultant type work here, not 'code me a CRUD app on an hourly rate'.

How much would you charge to code a CRUD app?

Exactly. Everybody in these comments is doing exactly what he said not to: debating the legitimacy of this price.

The reality is he's in a position to not need work, and is able to afford turning down 95% of potential employers. Good.

I think security tops out at between 500-600; at that level, we're at a "scanning electron microscope" level of sophistication; this is "design verification for billion dollar cryptosystems" territory.

With the guy I know who charges like that (although usually more like $50k-100k/mo, for about 50% fulltime), the price also includes his million dollar lab. (SEM, FIB Workstation, ...)

At these rates you're also getting access to cryptanalysis.

While I don't doubt that there are security projects that work out to more than $1000/hr, top-tier security people do not as a rule bill anything like that.

For what it's worth: neither do top-tier BigLaw lawyers.

Top Bay Area law partners are $800/hr, although they're really soft on how they bill (I've never actually gotten a bill from ours; probably not until Series A, and partner work is minimal compared to $200/hr associates, and board meetings are free).

I've personally never seen >$450 for security, except for people who have huge expenses bundled in doing the work, so it's not really labor. $100-200 is more normal for long engagements, $200-300 for shorter. (the most I ever billed was $350/hr x 4hrs).

The funny thing is paying high rates for someone actually good for a few days is certainly cheaper than staffing up a huge project with a bunch of $35-55/hr idiots, but there are companies who just won't pay even $250/hr for people actually doing the work, so they end up doing this.

Plenty of M&A lawyers bill $1000/hour. Hell, Big 4 accountants who handle M&A bill $1000/hour and get away with it.

You're right, even BigLaw lawyers generally don't charge 4 figures an hour. But M&A is a special beast. When you're dealing with a hundred million dollar transaction, the legal and accounting fees are rounding errors.

I'm sure there's a class of M&A laywer, or at least a class of M&A project, where rates can be backed out to 4 figures an hour. But my numbers come in part from recently being a party to a BigLaw-mediated M&A transaction.

(Hopefully this doesn't sound argumentative; I believe you. Just supplying a data point. Overall point: $1k/hr is very very high.)

Did the M&A guys get % too? That presumably puts them up pretty high hourly, too.

You might be under-estimating the incredible demand for mobile developers right now... especially talented mobile app developers who have proven themselves capable of building a well-built, polished iOS app.

Right now, the mobile dev market might actually allow a rate like this.

The OP didn't say the Cheddar App justifies the rate. He/she just said he/she would rather use the (high) rate to weed out boring projects to focus on his/her own projects

And he/she doesn't have to justify that rate to everyone. If people hire him/her at that rate, it's justified.

a bit off topic.. but I found this he/she thing really annoying.

a bit off topic.. but I found this he/she thing really annoying.

Then use singular they. See http://motivatedgrammar.wordpress.com/2009/09/10/singular-th... for verification that this is acceptable English.

I don't like the singular they. I find it far more annoying than the generic he or the construct of he or she.

The generic he actually has an interesting history. In Old English, the word wifman (-> woman) is a masculine noun and wif (-> wife) is neuter. This is because man though meaning basically "human" is a masculine noun so any compound of -man is also masculine. If one wants to specify a male man in Old English one either uses wer (counterpart to wif, survives in werewolf, which is why I joke that all werewolves are by definition male) or wapman which is the counterpart of wifman.

This led to an interesting problem. If you are talking about a specific woman and have perfect gender agreement, then "he" has to be used to refer to "woman." That makes things hard to read and so Old English has a rule which is that you ignore the grammatical gender of the word when you refer to a specific person. If we applied this to modern English we'd have amazing constructs like:

"I went to the store and the woman at the cash register told me that I needed to give her an extra $5."


"Any woman thinking about getting married should make sure that he has some level of financial independence first."

The first is specific while the second is generic. He in the second refers to "any woman" not her prospective spouse!

Similarly "My wife says she isn't up to coming to the party this weekend" but "A wife today still finds it has to do a majority of the housework."

I don't like mixing numbers though. If "they" is an acceptable singular why isn't "it's" an acceptable possessive?

Does it have a "rule" like that really? Isn't grammar just a description of the patterns we see in languages?

As a clarification, it isn't clear that the rule is universally followed but at least from the areas of Old English literature I have read it is the clearly most common way to use gendered pronouns at least in prosaic contexts.

Rule in the descriptivist sense.

Etymology aside, what's your suggestion for a workable replacement to "they"?

Sure. One can avoid using gendered pronouns in generic contexts. As a writer, one doesn't have to use them at all if one doesn't want. Indeed "one" makes a fine indefinite pronoun when used properly.

My own style is to use he as super-generic (i.e. bordering on the proverbial), "one" as personal, shared person perspective generic ("one" in this case doesn't differentiate between first and third person, and has some aspects of second person imperative thrown in), and "he or she" as highly descriptive generic.

It works very well. I use "one" most often, "he or she" rarely, and "he" only occasionally. What I hate doing however is having to explain that by "man" I mean it in its original sense. That's why I prefer to say salesman over salesperson, etc. -man never carried with it gender assumptions. If it did, we wouldn't have the root in the word "woman." Now -wif did. Which is one reason why referring to an "alewife" as a female bartender is somewhat archaic.

What I hate doing however is having to explain that by "man" I mean it in its original sense

That's because the meaning has changed, and also the sexism of the term is better understood. If you're American, do you also use the term 'negro' to refer to black people? It's a neutral and descriptive term in medical parlance, but it's a clear case of a word having more impact than its roots back in the day.

So trying to shoehorn in an out-of-date definition is changing the modern meaning of the word, just the same as repurposing 'they'. In truth, I think you're just being stubborn about wanting to use sexist language, since you don't seem to have too much of a problem with using all the borrowed words and grammar we've gained since the 'alewife' days.

I have to wonder though: are projects whose managers are willing to pay $1000/h really more likely to be exciting than others?

I still remember when I decided to go from 10$/h to 50$/h on freelancing, and besides earning more, started to get better and more serious clients. Nothing compared to 1k/h, but still reminds me of something important:

The first thing to accomplish a goal is believing it.

(also, there will almost always be someone ready to pay any amount you ask, the best approach is an equation that maximize income/clients and minimize hours)

Sam, I really like your branding for Cheddar, and you have a consistency about your personal brand as well. And you're stirring the pot dude! That counts for something.

Personally, I think the $1000/hr isn't too much, especially if someone is getting branding advice from you.

Good luck!

Ok, his link baiting articles start to get ridiculous.

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