As a Public Relations consultant, I work with a lot of other consultants and freelancers. The majority of these interactions are fun, inspiring and seamless. However, over the last seven years I’ve run into some consultants and freelancers who do things a little differently.
Don’t get me wrong; I love people who think outside the box. However, when it comes to how some consultants and freelancers bill, I get a little discouraged when I see practices that take advantage of clients. In particular, there are five billing practices that quite frankly I find to be cheap shots. And for this reason, I never do this to my clients or other partners I work with.
Learn what they are!
- Making sales tax an added line-item
For many purchases, seeing sales tax as a line item on your bill is a pretty standard thing. When it comes to how consultants and freelancers bill, however, I find it a bit tacky to make sales tax an additional line item. Just include it in your hourly rate! Sure, you might feel like you’re making 6% more on every job, but I promise you’re turning off future business that would result in a lot more income long-term. Unless you’re selling someone and actual product or good, adding on sales tax feels like you’re grasping for more dollars.
- Billing for an initial meeting
As a business owner, you know you need to invest in business development. And yes, this means sitting through a ton of coffee meetings and networking mixers. I never charge a client for an initial meeting, unless it’s specifically scoped out as a service with deliverables – and we’re all clear on the cost and terms. I’ve seen some consultants and freelancers charge their hourly rate for an initial meeting. Especially if that first meetings turns into more work, it’s best to chalk that time up to business development and build trust with your client by not immediately slapping them with a bill. After all, they didn’t bill you for their time to meet with you!
- Billing for answering emails and phone calls
Maybe even worse than billing for an in-person meeting is billing for every phone call and email you answer for a client. I’ll admit, I’ve run into some long-winded and chat happy people who require more of my time than others, but unless email and phone responses are scoped out in a proposal, I don’t sneak that into a client’s bill. If you’re truly bothered by answering client messages, or you feel like they’re getting out of control, the better thing to do is address it head on with your client and set boundaries for your time.
- Padding time sheets
Over the last seven years, I’ve gotten a pretty good feel for the amount of time it takes to complete certain projects. It’s pretty essential to giving clients accurate proposal, remaining competitive and staying on budget. What this also means is it’s easy to identify when another consultant or freelancer is listing really high hours for a job you know couldn’t have taken that long to complete. I’ve gone to bat for my clients a time or two to challenge how it takes 2.5 hours to switch out one word on a graphic. The best way to earn more money is to do good work, and more opportunities will come. Padding a time sheet will only help momentarily, then clients will catch on and move to the next freelancer with more reasonable costs and billing practices.
- Going over budget without notice
My final pet peeve is when consultants or freelancers give you a proposal for the scope of work, but when it comes time to invoice the price has increased – and without notice. I fully understand how projects can expand beyond the initial scope of the proposal, but again the right way to handle this is communication. Inform the client as soon as they’ve exhausted your scoped hours and ask them how they wish to proceed. Better yet, give them a budget for the additional expense to finish the project the way they want it done. More often than not the client will give you the green light to proceed, but it makes a huge difference to get permission, and to be upfront about the larger invoice that will be coming their way.
Do you have another pet peeve to share when it comes to working with consultants and freelancers? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below!