Introducing the Fractional Developer Plan!

Long-term contracts for reliable, flexible development services.

Tags: News

Thus far, Matthew Cardarelli Solutions has operated exclusively on a per-project freelance basis. This has been a great way for me to build client relationships by skillfully executing short-term projects with well-defined requirements.

In the meantime, I’ve been working behind the scenes to create an alternative better suited to clients with long-term needs and rapidly-changing requirements. Today, I’m officially launching a new offering I call the “Fractional Developer Plan.” Continue reading to learn how the Plan works and why I believe it’s an improvement over traditional developer pricing models. At the end, I’ve included an FAQ for prospective clients and anyone else curious to learn more.

How does the Fractional Developer Plan work?

At its core, the Fractional Developer Plan is a subscription-based, fee-for-value freelance contract that allows you to secure my services and availability on a recurring basis. It’s similar to a traditional retainer contract, with a few key differences.

Like a retainer, you pay a fixed monthly fee, but instead of paying for a specific number of hours, you pay for a number of “Developer Days.” A Developer Day is a business day where I provide at least six hours of services to you. This could be writing code, reviewing code, writing tests, investigating bugs, deploying infrastructure, discovering requirements, participating in design meetings, or anything else I do in service to your organization.

The other difference between this Plan and a traditional retainer is how I demonstrate accountablility. Rather than install an invasive time-tracking app, or meticulously manage an hourly timesheet, I keep a monthly journal. This journal tracks:

  • How your Developer Days are allocated toward your organization’s initiatives
  • Each instance of service you receive

At the end of each month you receive a report generated from the journal, which presents a clear picture of how I converted your Developer Days into value-adding services.

An illustrative example

To better understand how this works, let’s walk through an example. Client Awesome expresses interest in a Fractional Development Plan. They own a consumer-facing web application that is crucial to their business, but does not require a full-time developer to maintain. We begin with a collaborative discover process, where I help them estimate how many Developer Days they will need each month. In this case, we determine that they will need at least five Developer Days’ worth of work performed each month. Client Awesome requests that, as part of that allotment, I attend their internal demo and presentation meetings every other Wednesday to provide feedback to their internal teams. We sign a contract in early May, with an effective date of June 1st.

On May 20th, I reach out to Client Awesome in order to sync up on their highest priorities for June. They have a list of small bug fixes they’d like done ASAP, and one Big New Feature they’re hoping to launch in the Fall. On June 1st, Client Awesome receives an invoice for the June monthly fee.

Here’s how the rest of June shakes out:

  • I spend 2.5 Developer Days maintaining the web app, primarily by fixing bugs.
  • I spend 2 Developer Days working on the implementation of Big New Feature.
  • I attend two demo presentations, each 1-hour long, to provide feedback. These add up to just over one-quarter of a Developer Day.
  • On June 20th, I reach out to Client Awesome to align on priorities and requirements for July.
  • Near the end of the month, an urgent bug is reported. At Client Awesome’s request, I spend one-half of a Dev Day to fix it. This effort brings me to 5.25 Dev Days for June, just over the monthly quota.
  • On July 1st, I send out the June work report and the July invoice. The invoice includes both July’s monthly fee and the June overtime charge for the extra quarter-day.

I’ve created a sample work report and sample invoice to illustrate what Client Awesome would have received on July 1st. Please note that the prices shown on the invoice are completely fabricated and not a reflection of my actual pricing.

Fractional Developer Plan FAQs

Click on a question below to view the answer.

What inspired the Fractional Development Plan?

A few different things led me to create this Plan. First of all, I've received inquiries from multiple clients and prospects about the possibility of contracting me on retainer, so I knew there was demand for something like this. Second, I've noticed a trend in online freelance and consulting circles where self-employed individuals, from associates all the way to the C-suite, are offering services on a "fractional" basis to organizations that may not be able to afford hiring someone with their skills full-time.

I'll readily admit that I am by no means the first or only person to have this idea. I'm jumping on the bandwagon because I genuinely believe this is a great way for me to offer long-term service contracts to both new and existing clients.

Why does the Plan use Developer Days instead of hours?

Most types of work performed by a software developer demand several hours of uninterrupted focus. Many developers, including myself, perform their work more efficiently if they can dedicate most, if not the entirety, of each day to a single goal or objective. Knowing this, booking and billing work by the hour seems counterproductive to both me and my clients.

I've chosen the "Developer Day" as my unit of fractional freelancing because it lets me divide my availability into units that maximize both the quantity and quality of service I can provide.

Without precise time tracking, how do I know I'm getting what I paid for?

The short answer is, it doesn't matter. Or rather, it shouldn't matter to you.

For results-based services such as software development, you should be looking for proof-of-results rather than proof-of-effort. That's why my work report allocates Developer Days directly to deliverables. To determine your return on investment, you only need to answer one question: for a given month, was the value of the services and deliverables I received greater than the monthly service fee?

If the answer is yes, great! If the answer is no, you've identified an inefficiency or misalignment that we should work together to remedy.

Why not offer an hourly retainer?

The Fractional Developer Plan has two advantages over an hourly retainer:

  1. It simplifies clients' cost-benefit analysis by emphasizing output and outcomes over time and effort.
  2. It minimizes my own administrative overhead so I can focus on exceptional service.
Why not offer a pure fee-for-value plan?

While it's true that software development is primarily an outcome-based service, I know that clients still value availability and presence. By reserving Developer Days in advance, I can ensure my availablity to you on a consistent basis each month. Additionally, I am better able to predict my workload and avoid taking on too many clients at once, resulting in higher-quality service to you.

If you have a well-defined scope of work already, and have a good idea of what that work is worth to you, you might be more interested in my fixed-cost Project pricing. You can learn more about that on my Pricing page.

Can I pay at the end of the month, instead of the start?

I am happy to accomodate your organization's payroll by shifting the invoice date to the last day of each month. Please note that the monthly service fee is always incurred at the start of the month, regardless of when you receive your invoice.

How do you compute the monthly service fee?

The monthly service fee calculation considers multiple factors, including but not limited to:

  • The quantity of Developer Days purchased per month.
  • Current market rates for full-time and freelancer developers with skillsets equivalent to mine.
  • My relevant skills and expertise within your business and technology domains.

That third item is especially important. If your needs are highly aligned with my core skillset, you will pay a higher rate per Developer Day, and in return, you will get more value per Day. If your work requires me to upskill or learn new knowledge domains, your rate will be lower to account for my relatively lower efficiency.

What if the work to be done doesn't fit nicely into full Developer Days?

Developer Days need not align one-to-one with calendar days. My primary commitment to you is to allocate time to your requests equivalent to the number of Developer Days you booked. The best approach during a given month might involve splitting a Developer Day across several calendar days.

That said, if you expect to request many small jobs of less than a day's work, and the timing of those jobs is infrequent or unpredictable, the Fractional Developer Plan is probably not the right choice for you. My Pricing page has more information on the other options available.

What if my needs change in the middle of a month?

If your needs change, just let me know as soon as possible and I will pivot my focus. I rely on you to keep me up to date on the relative priority of your outstanding requests. In return, I keep you up-to-date throughout each month on my progress and any blockers that may risk delaying my work.

What if I need more Developer Days in a given month?

If you need additional Developer Days in a given month, you can always request them, and I'll do the best I can to accomodate. If I have the time available, you'll pay the same rate per extra Developer Day as you would have if you pre-paid for them. If I'm already booked, and you have an urgent need for additional work, I offer priority service for an additional fee.

You can request a permanent increase to your Plan's Developer Day allotment at any time.

What if I need fewer Developer Days in a given month?

Because I reserve Developer Days exclusively for you ahead of time, it's not possible to request a one-month discount on your Plan. For this reason, I recommend starting with the minimum number of Developer Days you can confidently utilize, and then increasing that number if you find yourself requesting extra Dev Days each month.

You can request a permanent decrease to your Plan's Developer Day allotment at any time.

What is the typical term of a Fractional Developer Plan?

Plan contracts are active for three to six months, with an option to renew if both of us agree to continue working together.

What if I want to cancel my Plan?

You may terminate your Plan at any time. 30 days' notice is required. You will owe the fee for the month in which you cancel, if you haven't paid it already.

The future is fractional!

Stop paying hourly for development services! With my Fractional Developer Plan, you pay for output, not hours, while gaining access to the full depth and breadth of my skills and industry experience.

Ready to augment your R&D capabilities with a Fractional Developer Plan? Contact me today so we can schedule your free consultation.

Have questions or comments about this blog post? You can share your thoughts with me via email at , or you can join the conversation on LinkedIn .