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We recently hired a consultant to help develop some new features for our website. He did a fantastic job, but we ran into a little issue. One of the features he built out for us only half worked. Incorrect information was showing in the wrong spot (date showing under the time slot) and there was a missing button field... so essentially, we couldn't even use the feature he built out.

Due to a time constraint and the fact the feature wasn't being used at the time, the issue wasn't caught at launch. However, a few weeks later when we started using it we noticed the issue. I had contacted him explaining the situation and specifically asked if this will be billable or something that he would just fix for us (I have to approve all expenses by my boss first). He did not respond, but went ahead and did the work. I assumed (stupidly) that since he just went ahead and did the work, he was fixing it for free because he didn't deliver what we had originally asked for.

Flash forward, I received a bill for the hours he used to fix this issue and my boss is going ballistic, refusing to pay to fix something that turned out to be broken. I can understand that maybe the time lapse was out of range for fixes, but at the same time I specifically asked about hours before he started work. Is this something we need to pay for and how would you suggest I approach the situation? I understand his time was spent on the project, but the project was never technically approved. We enjoy working with him and don't want to ruin the relationship, as we have a second large project coming up soon.

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    Was he paid on an hourly basis or a fixed sum for the complete job? – user152 May 26 '16 at 14:14
  • Yes, he is paid on an hourly basis. However, whether it's appropriate to bill for fixes or not, my concern is more so the fact I asked about whether the project is billable and to please provide this information before he started working on the project. He ignored this request, and went ahead to complete the project when I was only asking for a quote on billable or non-billable hours. At least knowing this information, I would have been able to speak with my boss first and let him know the situation. Now we're stuck with a bill for hours we weren't necessarily willing to pay for in the first p – Fazzio May 26 '16 at 15:10
  • I don't think you should be liable to pay for this if you weren't given the opportunity to accept it. Having said that, if you have an ongoing contract in place that implies that he can just bill for whatever time he spends, then you might be out of luck - but if that's the case, you might want to suggest to your boss to change the contract. – Tim Malone May 29 '16 at 7:38
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There is no clear cut right or wrong; it all comes down to your working relationship and which processes the two parties agree on contractually and during the project.

Since you seem to want to continue the relationship, I suggest you pay the bill and keep this episode in mind when negotiating the next project. Turning what I believe is a misunderstanding into a stand-off on principles, could very well jeopardize the working relationship. And good commercial partners are not always easily found.

The situation you describe is notoriously difficult: When is a project considered 'delivered'; what are the acceptance criteria? What constitutes a bug which needs fixing for free and what constitutes a change request? You'll need to discuss these issues and come up with a mutually acceptable agreement.

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As stacey points out in the comment, it depends on how he was paid during the project. If you did agree to a fixed sum, it is very unusual to charge extra for bugfixes. However, if you paid him hourly, it would be perfectly normal to charge you for every hour he spent working on the project.

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    While that's true, the OP mentioned that the contractor went ahead and did the work without approval. Even if billed hourly, non-approved hours make things a little more nuanced. – Laconic Droid May 26 '16 at 15:11
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    @LaconicDroid You are right! – Apfelsaft May 26 '16 at 17:49
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No project ever is completed in perfection. Just look at the updates from your own operating systems. Expecting that is unrealistic.

If money in closed projects is an issue,create a separation between project work and maintenance.

That is for ongoing projects, you pay a higher rate and for delivered projects, you negotiate a maintenance contract with a fixed amount of money per month with a certain threshold of hours bellow which no extra is charged, or it is charged at a lower rate.

The arrangement might be interesting both for your consultant and for you.

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Yes, Whatever it is after all you spare your time and completed the work, So you can charge. All though you can give them discount or adjust the payment in future services as well.

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However, a few weeks later when we started using it we noticed the issue.

Here comes the importance of Unit testing. You see, freelance hiring is quite different from hiring in the corporate world. In the latter, you are just wearing the shoes of a recruiter, you just pass/fail a candidate without a worry, because you have a whole lot of QA/QC guys working day in and out to ensure the quality of software before it gets into production use.

As a freelance employer or hirer, you are wearing multiple hats. You are not just a recruiter who just hired a freelancer, but also have to oversee every now and then how the work is turning out. As I mentioned Unit testing is a very critical part of software development. Ideally, you should ask in the first stage of hiring itself about whether and how the freelancer tests their developed software. In a large and complex software project, there is Integration testing too apart from Unit testing.

In a large company, the developer and tester are usually never the same guys (that's how you actually catch bugs in the software!). With freelance hiring, you get the same work done in a fraction of the cost, but the downside is that you should be able to handle these nuances too!

Flash forward, I received a bill for the hours he used to fix this issue and my boss is going ballistic

Here comes the importance of a proper contract or agreement before venturing onto a project. If you had gone through a hiring platform like Upwork, you could have avoided this issue altogether. Firstly, for hourly contracts, you have the Upwork's escrow. With the escrow in place, you could have paid only the initial budgeted amount upfront. Once work is done, that amount is paid to freelancer by Upwork and there is no scope for any additional ad-hoc billing by freelancer, as happened in your case.

If you don't hire through a platform like Upwork, you have to carefully draft the contract agreement and make these things clear at the time of hiring. Again, don't assume anything, keep communicating with the freelancer always through email/skype or whatever your preferred medium. This is another needed skill in freelance hiring! Whilst it is the professional responsibility of the freelancer too to be proactive in communication, some turn out to be like this dude of yours who just developed and billed it!

In short, freelance hiring isn't a very easy job (one of the reasons freelance economy is much smaller compared to the usual employment, but that's changing slowly). There are multiple pitfalls to look at and some prior research to be done.

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