Working as a freelancer, I often see strange requests from my customers, some of which can negatively affect my daily work, and others trying to set some sort of control. I usually encounter those things during preliminary negotiations, so it's easy enough at this state to explain to the customer that I do care about my work and productivity and expect my customers to trust my work.
Things were much harder on a project I just accepted, since it's only after the end of the negotiations (the contract being already signed and not mentioning anything about video tracking) and after I started to work on the project that my customer requested that I record a video of all I do on my machine when working on his project, that is, a video which will show that I move the cursor, type a character, open a file, move a window, etc.
I work in my own company, using my own PCs.
I answered to this customer that such request cannot be accepted, since:
Despite those points, the customer considers that if I don't want to record the video, it's because I have something to hide and want to lie about the real time spent on his project.
How to explain to him that it is not an usual practice for the freelancers to record the videos of their daily work, and that such extravagant requests must be reserved to exceptional circumstances?
The most frequent example is to be requested to work through Remote Desktop on a more-than-slow server which uses a more-than-slow Internet connection, or to be forced to use an outdated software as Windows Me without serious reasons as legacy support.
In fact, I already did a lot of management and system design related work, which is essential, but usually misunderstood by customers and perceived as a waste of time and money. Observing the concerned customer, I'm pretty sure that he will refuse to pay a large amount of money for what was already done, since there is actually zero lines of code. Even if legally I can easily prove that there was a lot of work on design level, I don't want to end my relation with this customer in a court.
Which is not as risky as it could be, since I gave to this customer the expected and the maximum cost of the project, so the customer is sure to never be asked to pay more than the maximum amount, specified in the contract, even if the real work costs more.
One case when I effectively record on my own initiative the video of actions is when I have to do some manipulations directly on a production server of a customer, especially when it comes to security issues. Recording those steps may be a good idea to know precisely what was done, and also ensure that there were no errors in my work, or see what were those errors.
First of all, thank you for all your answers and comments.
Since the question attracted much more attention and had much more answers than I expected, I imagine that it can be relevant to other people, so I add an update. First, to summarize the answers and the comments, it was suggested to (ordered randomly):
While all those suggestions are equally valuable, I've personally chosen to say to my customer that I accept to do the videos, but in this case, we must renegotiate the contract, keeping in mind that there will be a considerable cost, including the additional fee for copyright release. The new overall cost would be in average three times the actual cost of the project. Knowing this customer, I'm completely sure that he would never accept to pay so much, so the problem is solved.
The customer effectively declined the proposal to renegotiate the original contract, taking in account the considerable additional cost.
(Or, the flip-side of my previous advice...)
You stop giving protestations, and say yes.
"Yes, I would be happy to write a new contract for these additional deliverables. Project-complete tutelege in my proprietary tradecraft is valued at (value of my projected income for the next $N years). There will also be a licensing fee $Y, for physical file ownership rights. If you would like to also own the video's content, I'll get back to you shortly with an additional fee for copyright release."
Lest you think that preposterous: seriously, what price makes it worthwhile to risk your business?
Value of a work product is not equal to the value of (work product + expertise + work processes)
An employer gets to own and direct all of these. A client only gets to ask "Do you offer__, and if so what do you charge for it?"
So, yep, these are reasonable terms for accommodating an unreasonable request.
BUT unless he accepts those terms and without further howling, I still say a flat "no" is the most persuasive you can possibly be that what he wants is infeasible.
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