Jul 062012

So I’ve been winding down my project at DARPA and thought I’d put down some at least close-to-final thoughts on it.

I’ve been asked a number of times about how much people should charge for their work.  Three things on this:

  1. The government is doing you a favor if you get accepted – you get to do what you want, keep it, and that’s it?  That’s gotta be worth something.
  2. I got from a reputable source that the sweet spot for acceptance is under $150k.  Someone else told me that mudge said if you’re upwards of $500k you should forget it.
  3. With some reservations, here’s my own proposal (the only thing changed was my phone number and address ;))

Believe me, I’m not saying this is the greatest proposal in the world – it isn’t.  And perhaps the prices for my self are too high (as previously mentioned I based my rates on a document I found with some government contractor rates), but once you get used to a certain lifestyle…. and as you see I’m slightly overdue for the end, but I had to take some unexpected time off… and I’m slow, and I really wanted to get a few things working that weren’t in the proposal… and no, I didn’t get extra pay for them.  But FWIW all of this was mine, and at least it worked for me.  Perhaps it’ll come in use to someone else.

My own project changed over time, but stuck close enough to my original ideas that it at least somewhat resembles it, and I wrote my deliverables generically enough to give me some wiggle room.  I’ll say that I’ve worked like a fucking dog the last half-dozen months (only a few weeks left!), and far more than what I cited in the proposal, but it’s my work, my ideas, etc., and I really wanted to accomplish something ineffable but somehow doable that was stuck in my head… I’m still not sure what I’ll do with the work, but it’s something close to that shadowy platonic vision I had.  You never work harder than when you’re you’re own boss.

I can’t praise the program enough.  I’ve gotten far more out of the experience than I would have thought a priori.

And it might seem a small thing, but I’d like to especially praise all the administrative details of fast track– getting paid, etcetera – have been among the top experiences in my career – it just works, and promptly, and helped me keep focused at the end goal.  In my case, at least (I think this is the general method, but don’t know), I worked with a government sub-contractor and they deal with all the issues, and they were great (it was never clear about how much I could say about who they were, so I’ll be quiet out of caution, but the guy Dan I worked with (no relation ;)) was awesome – you da man, Dan!)  I never waited more than a week to get paid (it was all electronic fund transfer, too), which is frikin’ amazing no matter who you’re working for!  They were also flexible when things came up – for instance I mentioned using Bastille in the proposal, but because I hadn’t done my homework I hadn’t realized that it hasn’t been worked on in some time, and so it wouldn’t run on my target system; working out an alternate equivalent option was easy to do.

Anyway – if you go for it, be clear, stay true to your goals and best of luck to ya’ll.


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