SHDesigns: Embedded Systems Design, Consulting and Developer Resources Page hits:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

Q. Do you host the website yourself?

I used to host it on my ADSL line. Now I use a hosting company. Information on how I hosted the site can be found here.

Q. How much is this going to cost?

This is a difficult question. Usually this requires some preliminary work in order to determine the total amount of work required. Estimates are provided once the scope of the work can be determined.

Q. How much will an estimate cost me?

For very small designs, I may provide an free preliminary estimate. For more complicated designs I may require payment for the time required for the estimate. A real estimate will require a considerable amount of work on my part. Basically a general design is done to identify the major parts. An estimate can then be performed.

Q. Can you guarantee the estimate?

Small designs, yes. Usually no. There are usually many external factors involved. My part of the work is usually close. I rarely go over the estimate by any significant amount. Most often additional costs are caused by changes in the clients requirements. As a principle, if my estimate is off I usually stick to the estimate. In my experience, cost overruns are almost always caused by changes made by the clients after design has started.

Q. Will you make it for us?

I sometimes will build a small PCB for initial testing. For any production work there are companies that do this very well. Usually my clients are capable of building the systems. If not, I can set up production and provide boards.

Q. Your estimate does not show building a breadboard. Don't we need to breadboard it first?

I normally go direct to a circuit board. Most clients think this is dangerous as changes are difficult. They are used to designers that slap something together on a breadboard and the fiddle with it until it works. I use a different methodology. I do a very careful design first and consider every detail. This takes longer to do the initial design, but saves time later. I rarely have any major changes to a PCB. This PCB is then very close to the final design. I have done initial PCB designs with hundreds of components that needed only a few jumpers.

Q: Will you do the PCB layout?

Sometimes I will do the PCB layout; especially on small boards. Usually depends if my main subcontractor is busy.

Q. How much do you charge per hour?

Initially, I try to avoid these questions. If I just state the hourly rate, people will balk. They don't understand how the rate is determined. I charge by the time actually doing the work. A lot of overhead time is not included so the actual billed hours are less and the rate is higher. If I estimate 20 hours of work, I usually spend 30-40 hours overall . Time spent on accounting, multiple-project management, billing, training, research and maintaining my development systems is not included. This is different than most consultants; they bill by calendar time.

Q. Is phone support included?

A project estimate includes expected phone support. There is no minimum. After a project is completed, some phone support is provided free. Any significant additional time is billed. Email support is preferred as it does not interfere with other projects. Email also gives a written record I can refer back to.

Q. Will I have to buy development tools or equipment?

I have development tools for most applications. Any specialized test or development hardware may be rented by the client. Any tools required for a specific project will be included in the estimate. I usually consider development tool costs overhead and not include in a project cost.

I have sufficient hardware and software tools for most designs and testing. Any additional tools (i.e. emulators) may be rented if needed.

Q. How can you do this all by yourself?

I do not work alone. I have other consultants that may do some of the work for me. Usually I allow the client to work with them directly. I do not add any additional cost to work done by others, their charges are shown in the estimate and are the actual cost to me.

Q Will you reverse-engineer another design?

Usually no. There are definite legal ramifications in reverse engineering. This requires a "clean room" design that most clients are not familiar with and can not support.

Q. Can future work be done by someone in house, or are we required to use you again?

I provide all documentation, software, hardware and sources for everything related to a project. This allows a client to revise designs in-house if needed. I consider everything related to a project the clients property. Unlike other consultants, I do not try to make my clients dependent servants. I rely on the quality of my work to have clients use me again.

Some work may include my own intellectual property. This would be products that are sold or licensed by SHDesigns. Any SHDesigns IP would be specified in the initial design.

Q. Will you reuse our design for someone else?

In general yes. Most parts of a design can be considered generic. Anything that is client-specific, will not be reused. Most software is reused; only any code that implements a client intellectual property would not be reused without the clients permission. The client owns the design and can reuse them.

Q. Will you work for our competitors?

Yes, but only if their work is completely unrelated. I have refused work because I have done a similar design for a competitor.

Q. Can you guarantee confidentiality?

Yes, and I prefer a written contract or "non-disclosure" agreement. Any client information, technology or resources in my possession will be kept confidential and may be returned or destroyed at the clients request.

Q. Will you work at our location?

Only if needed. Usually I spend time at the clients site for initial design work. Then most work is done here. This gives me more freedom and I can be most productive.

Q. Will you be dedicated to our project or will you also be doing work for someone else?

I usually have several projects that run concurrently. There is usually one major design with some small projects. Any project has time waiting for external parts (i.e. PCB layout/assembly.) I can fill in the wait time with the small projects.

Q. Do we need to pay in advance?

Usually a projects first stage is paid in advance. Then payments are made either upon reaching milestones or with a payment schedule specified by contract. Once a good working relationship is reached, future projects are usually paid as work is completed.

Q. We can't provide a 1099 contract. Can you work as a W2 employee or be paid by deliverables?

Yes, I know the difficulties that 1099 work can cause with large corporations. As long as the type of payment is included in a contract I an accommodate most clients needs.

Q. Is a formal contract required?

It is preferred as it specifies in detail payments and liabilities, but not required.

Q. Will you hold any patent rights to a design?

No, anything related to a design is considered the clients property. I would like to be named on any patent that uses my work, but I hold no patent rights. I have worked on writing several patents so I am familiar with the process.

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