It’s easy to let free work and unbilled hours creep in to a relationship with a client. Sure, a potential client could just come straight out and ask you for a free article or some free development code to “prove” you’re up to the job. I’ve talked about how I handle that. Here though, I’m talking about the more subtle ways we can end up working for free:
- Phone calls that turn into a free consulting and brainstorming sessions.
- Back and forth email communication
- Delivering the work to the client
- Management and billing
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With a defined sales progress, it’s not too hard to avoid working for free before closing the sale. What happens once our lead has become a client?
Let’s give an example of a freelance writer on $40/hr. The freelancer has agreed with the client that a given article is going to take 3 hours to research and write. Great – that’s $120.
Now lets look at what actually happens:
- Communicate back and forth with client discussing ideas and topics (30 minutes)
- Research and write article (3 hours)
- Client asks for “a couple of quick things”:
- Find a few free images (15 minutes)
- Upload the articles to WordPress, with tags and categories applied (10 minutes)
- Format the article so it appears in line with the other blog articles (25 minutes)
- Link out to other articles on the client’s blog (10 minutes)
- Generating invoice, chasing payment, confirming payment (15 minutes)
Should the short amount of time to handle billing of the project be attributed to the client? No, not really. Factor it in to your hourly rate. So setting that aside, the total time handling the project has been 4 hours and 30 minutes. Our hourly rate has just dropped from $40 to $26.50!