I like agile or iterative processes, and I’ve used them for a wide range of projects, from a few hours up to several years with a globally distributed team. The basic idea is to split a project into many sprints, each with specific goals or tasks. Thus, I recommend that we use the following process:

  1. We sign a mutual non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to protect intellectual property.
  2. Based on your needs, we draft a 1-page sprint proposal with a prioritized list of tasks or goals. The first sprint often includes:
    1. Review background info you provide & discuss follow-up questions.
    2. Provide brief written recommendations (e.g. 2 scenarios in 1-2 pages).
    3. Create a prototype to explore ideas & options.
    4. Discuss recommendations & possible next steps.
  3. You set a sprint budget of money or time (e.g. 5 or 10 hours), and pay me 40%.
  4. I normally start work within 48 hours of payment. I send daily status updates so we can adjust priories as needed. My goal is to give you as much value as possible within the budget.
  5. When the work or budget is done, we review progress, update the list of tasks, and repeat for as many sprints as desired.

Fixed price proposals are also possible, particularly for larger projects, but need more detailed requirements & formal change requests.