We’ve had tons of reader questions rolling in here at GDB and I absolutely love it!
Today’s question comes from Colleen who asks:
“Should I be charging for client meetings? [What about taking time to] learn or to learn more about a project…”
I think it’s a fantastic question.
Essentially, what kind of work should you bill for and what kind of work should you disregard as “overhead costs.”
Freelancing vs. Agency Work
I used to work at a design agency.
We had two different kinds of hours we could bill: client work and other.
It was that simple: either we were working on a client project or we were working on something else (meetings with potential clients, pitching future clients, learning the latest Illustrator technique, etc.).
These two kinds of billable hours essentially told my boss what expenses he could pass along to the client directly and which costs he could cover with the business’ profits and savings.
But that’s a hard model to scale down to a freelancing level, in my opinion.
A freelancer trades hours for money, straight up.
If an agency designer spends one hour doing “other” work, there are still other designers in the building doing work that’s billable to a client.
But if a freelancer spends one hour doing “other” work (driving to a far-away client meeting, researching domain names, learning how to build a responsive site, etc), how do they recoup that money?
How to pay for “other” tasks in your freelance business
Even if you’re not meeting with new/potential clients all the time, there are always “miscellaneous” tasks to be done when you’re building a business. You probably can’t, for example, bill clients for the time you take to buy paperclips and manilla folders from the office supply store.
So what do you do?
You can’t just eat those hours.
Your business (if you’re a freelancer) runs on an hour-for-dollar model.
If you waste an hour, you’ve lost an hour’s worth of money.
So, to make sure you still make the amount of money you need to make your business healthy and live the life you want, you have to account for the “other” work when you bid out your projects or determine your hourly rate.
So what’s the answer?
Alright already, so what’s the answer to Colleen’s question?
I would recommend not billing your client directly for tasks that might be deemed “other” work. Meaning, don’t list it as a line item on your invoice.
But you should include it in your billing model. Factor it into your project bid cost or your hourly rate.
So the answer is yes. You must compensate for every hour you spend at work. Not factoring that in can kill a freelance business.
But get creative. Maybe you can find ways to spread out a miscellaneous cost over multiple clients and projects.
I hope that helps.
Have something to add?
If you’ve got something to add, please leave a comment on this post. I’d love to hear your answer to Colleen’s question.