Daily Challenge Day 35

So was looking at options for restricting access to content, but not like a membership site. Most the wordpress plug-ins for membership sites, are based on grading members into groups, and each group has access to defined content.

The thing I want to create is user specific access, so individual users have access to content which they and only they can have access to. The only exception being the administrator creating and managing the content.

Basically it would relate to clients and projects. Since for most projects, the final reports are now produced in pdf format, it is possible to upload the files and then provide the client and only the client with access. Such access only being provided when they make payment. So we can achieve the payment of delivery normally exercised with private individuals when they come to pick up the paper based reports. Though for some people we send the paper reports in the post. Most people now pay using EFT through internet banking. Most private individuals are good and pay on time. On the other hand small business and especially large business are poor payers. Whilst accept that some businesses may have a monthly payment cycle, because they have few staff, and they do accounts monthly. Its not a very efficient practice, and those businesses with 60 to 120 day payment cycles: well who wants to do business with them. I don’t care if they are reliable in terms of actually paying, they are too slow, and I am not willing to carry them for that long. They have the big houses and big cars, not I, they certainly should be able to pay my bills from petty cash accounts. More to the point they should give their employees responsible for making small contracts and buying services access to a petty cash account, or business debit card so they can make such purchases. Besides faster payment to suppliers, it would provide tracking of such purchases, and better identify shortfalls in internal capabilities.

Anycase I went looking and didn’t really find anything, it seems to be a shortfall in supply, as a few websites indicated it was a common requirement but  not available. I am guessing I can do it with groups, but would need a new group for every client, possibly every project. Possibly create a product for each project, and grant the client access to that product.

In simplest scenario, would accept the project as usual, and work on the project. Would then supply project report in draft form first. If they accept then would create a product in woocommerce, with downloadable content, and grant them access to that content, only when they have paid for the product.

Alternatively I could use dropbox or something similar, and share the appropriate project folder for a short time once payment has been received. Payment could be via EFT as usual or via the website and the use of paypal.

What ever systems are adopted, the point is that new clients, especially businesses, and most especially those interstate and overseas have to pay first, before they can receive the work.

I’ve look at some of the online freelancing services, and they all seemed biased towards the buyer, therefore not true escrow services. Such services need a true independent third party, which can easily identify that the work has been supplied compliant with the contract for the work, and order release of funds. So at this moment not sure if such sites are of any value, first because of users complaining about getting paid, or payment being too slow, second because few of the sites are general enough or suitable for consulting engineering services. Most seem biased towards web development and software.

Another option is to look at project management and collaboration software. Whilst this may be suitable for business to business (B2B), it’s not really suitable for private individuals. My primary concern is tackling the problems of the 80%, the private individuals who thought it was beneficial to have access to someone local, and get things done quickly and at an appropriate price.

What they consider appropriate was and is too low and not sustainable. The speed they want is not viable as too much work comes in in one large cluster, and mostly silent the rest of the time. Therefore DIY via a computer seems the most viable option to always being available, provide fast response for many people at the same time.

At the present I am also not certain whether to stay with woocommerce or find some alternative solution. I mainly need cater for supply of digital downloads and services. Services are not really tackled very well by anything out there, The main options available are online booking and appointment systems.

I’ve considered online booking systems, if I could define products and the duration requirements for each. Then people could order the product. This would define a project, and the booking system would appropriately distribute the project across the calendar and block out the available time. That way people could come along see how busy we are, and then decide for themselves whether to enter the queue or try elsewhere. The other places they try, likely to suggest they can do the work and simply add them to the end of a queue: a queue they cannot see and may not want to be in.

If current workload is visible, then potential customers can then seek around for a suitable queue, or decide they are willing to wait for a given supplier. A supplier can then book up their time possibly for a year or more.

Unfortunately few projects have exact workloads. At the very minimum projects vary as a consequence of time expended chasing up required information. As a consequence of shortfall in supply of required information, several projects as usually worked on in parallel. The projects completed first at not necessarily the projects received first, but the project which supplies all the required information first, and once the project is thus properly defined, is then identified as simple to complete.

Complex projects, with poorly defined scope/objectives, and with poorly supplied information tend to take the longest to complete.

As I will keep mentioning: Engineering takes places at the frontiers of science and technology. We are not operating at any frontier. The technology we design is based on either applying or adapting an established technology, based on the established technical science available for assessing suitability of purpose for such variant.

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