Consultation Terms

If you consult Geoff Chappell, you will in fact be consulting Geoff Chappell Ltd, which is incorporated in New York State. Unless otherwise agreed, all billable work will be done by Geoff Chappell specifically, who speaks here for the company as its President.

These terms (and my fees) are negotiable if you make at least some attempt at accommodating the guidelines that I present here. The attempt need be nothing more than explaining your needs so that I can understand. Note the converse: I can’t accommodate what you don’t explain.

That I make a point of explicitly stating terms is, of course, a defensiveness born of bad experience. I hope to please just from getting stuck straight into working at the things that you need and which I can do for you.


I happily agree to non-disclosure of anything that I learn about your software and methods. I anyway take my clients’ confidentiality as understood.

Intellectual Property

I also happily agree that any software or reports that I write for you are works for hire in terms of copyright. For software, however, your bill will be lower and my enthusiasm about working for you will be greater if you allow me to use my own headers and libraries without risking that you claim ownership of them or deny me the continued reuse of them.

If in the course of working on your software I invent something such that you can patent, then it’s entirely yours: I renounce all interest.


Recognise, please, that very little software stands in isolation. That you think to consult me very likely means that you at least perceive some trouble between your software and some other software, notably Windows. Anything that I learn about other software while working on your software’s interaction with it must be my professional development, not your intellectual property (as much as it can be anyone’s).

Engage me for research, if you want, and then whatever I uncover for you is entirely yours, but what I ordinarily sell is the application of research to your problem, not the research itself. Unless you are specifically commissioning research into Windows, then any attempt by you to claim ownership of discoveries and know-how about Windows—or even to restrict my future development of such discoveries and know-how should I have become aware of them while working on your problem—means at best that I can’t risk applying any such knowledge to your problem for your benefit. I can instead be no more than a capable programmer, bringing to your work my substantial experience with Windows programming but applying only what is public knowledge. Why would you want to cripple the work I can do for you?

An example may help. If while I work on your software I notice a defect in Windows, then my professional duty to you for what you pay me is discharged by saving your software from falling to the defect. Whether I then make a detailed study of the defect on my own time at my own cost, and write it up for publication is my business. Deny or frustrate that business if you must, but do not expect that my published fees account for it. If your needs for intellectual property require that you claim even discoveries that merely pertain to the work I do for you, as you might reasonably for work done by an employee, then be honest about the processes: make an offer of full-time employment or pay full freight for the research.

Invoicing and Payment

Payment is due 14 days from invoicing. Payment is to be made by direct deposit into a bank account that will be specified on the invoice. Payments from outside the U.S. are to be transferred telegraphically in U.S. dollars at the sender’s expense. I may require part-payment in advance of starting any work that is expected to take more than a week. I may require periodic part-payment during large projects, i.e., that are expected to take several weeks.

You do not own the work until you pay for it.

I must dismiss you as completely unreasonable if you even hint that I should work intensively to your benefit for weeks but have to wait months before you pay me: have a sense of proportion, please!

Business Premises

Only exceptionally will I work on-site for you or agree to any terms that seem motivated by your expecting that the work will be done on-site.

I appreciate that you may be concerned for the security of products in development or of data streams that contain sensitive information. I will try to accommodate your reasonable concerns. I appreciate that collaborative opportunities, informal teaching and many other things of potential but somewhat intangible benefit to you—and to me—truly can develop only from on-site interaction.

However, experience shows that even businesses that pride themselves on their support for so-called knowledge workers sometimes provide absolutely wretched places for intellectual work, at least of the sort that benefits from, if not requires, long periods of intense concentration. I don’t have time, at any price, for indulging anyone’s apparent tolerance for sloppy work, which is inevitably what you tolerate when you can’t or won’t provide a suitable workplace.

That you think to consult me very likely means that your work has become unusually intricate in some way and will only be attended to properly by concentrating on it, possibly for hours on end. I am not interested in a bigger bill for working additional hours in frustration. My aim is to do the most thorough work in the least time for the lowest cost. If your workplace does not provide for working in peace, then do not even think to ask me to work on-site at any price (but perhaps do think to rescue your current workers).

Written Contracts

Please be sure that any contract you ask me to sign is appropriate for occasional consultation of an external resource with independent interests in intellectual property. Except for confidentiality or some warranty against unreasonable defects in my work, I will accept no obligation to you that persists between consultations or continues after. Your legal department perhaps already has a model for its own occasional need for outside counsel. Your engineering department perhaps has a different model that it agrees to for occasional support by software manufacturers.

If you instead try to tie me up with procedures and requirements whose direct connection with doing the work is nothing you can explain, then I am less likely to be available to you and certainly not for my published fees.

If you require me to agree to your standard terms, then please review them before sending them to me (or directing me to your website where you already publish them). Ensure that any overheads you would impose on me are meaningful, productive and even essential. Don’t insist that I jump through hoops for reasons that you can’t or won’t explain. You will get a lower bill from me, as a consequence of more energetic, enthusiastic and concentrated effort on your behalf, if you let me get stuck into the work that I specialise in. The work, not my indulgence of your overheads, is what you’d be consulting me for, isn’t it?