Life On Contract: Lowering Your Cost without Dropping Your Price

Last time in Life on Contract, I discussed ways to figure out a starting point on how much to charge for your services. However, sometimes you and a client may wish to work together but for some reason they cannot (or do not wish to) pay what you have decided to charge. If you are inexperienced, it can be tempting to assume you have overpriced yourself and discount down to what they are willing to pay. But if your price is a number you have chosen for reasons you can explain, dropping it is not something you should do unless you have thought about it carefully.

Instead of just agreeing to do the same work but for less money, it is often possible to offer a lower overall cost without cheapening the value of your work. I’ll share a process I use to find opportunities to make this happen.

It Should be Win-Win, Not Hard Sell

The best case scenario is a client wants your service, your cost is within their budget, and everyone agrees to work together. Tragically, the process isn’t always that smooth. If cost is an issue, the alternative to lowering your price is to fine-tune what you provide to better fit the actual needs. To do that, you will need two things:

  1. A detailed understanding of your own time and costs for the work.
  2. Knowledge of what things your client considers most important.

By intimately knowing your own costs, you can figure out where to make savings without scrimping on the things your client considers important.
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This Vapour Deposition Chamber Isn’t Vapourware

If you are an astronomer with an optical reflecting telescope, the quality of your mirror is one of your most significant concerns. Large observatories will therefore often have on-site vapour deposition plants to revitalise their reflectors by depositing a fresh layer of aluminium upon them. You might think that such a device would be the preserve only of such well-funded sites, but perhaps [Michael Koch]’s work will prove you wrong. He’s created his own vapour deposition system (Google Translate link of the German original) from scratch, and while it might be smaller than the institutional equivalents it is no less effective in its task.

At the heart of it is a stainless steel vacuum vessel with a two stage vacuum pump system to evacuate it. The mirror to be silvered is suspended in the vessel, and a piece of aluminium is suspended over a coil of tungsten wire that his electrically heated to melt it. The molten aluminium is described as “wetting” the tungsten wire in the same manner as we’ll be used to solder working on copper, but in the vacuum it vaporizes and deposits itself upon the mirror. Such a simple description glosses over the impressive work that went into it.

This is a long-running project that isn’t entirely new, but very much worth a look if only for its introduction to this fascinating field. If you are new to vacuum work, how about looking at a Superconference presentation introducing vacuum technology?

Thanks [Paul Bauer] for the tip.

Tesla Coil Uses Vacuum Tube

What do you do when you find a 5 kW transmitting tube in your local electronics store? If you are [TannerTech], you build a vacuum tube tesla coil. This isn’t the usual little wimpy coil, but a big bad boy that would look at home in an old horror movie.

The first power up was a bit anticlimactic, although it was working, it wasn’t very spectacular other than the tube glowing brightly. A few adjustments and some mineral oil did the trick.

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