Charge by hour
How does this charge by hour thing work for freelancers and consultants? Suppose, as a consultant I tell the client that I charge $75 per hour. How would the client be able to check how much time actually goes in the task and if I'm not overcharging them ... u know? I can work on the project for just 3 hours but bill them the next day for 6 hours of work.
If your three hours was worth six, in their estimation, then you'd likely get away with that but done consistently you'll get found out.
charging by the hour works mostly for onsite,
I usually send the client a timesheet, something like:
The prior posts were "on the money." You can get away with lying. Whether you are on or off site the bigger issue is what you produce. I know an off-site developer who will respond 24x7. Call her and she will do anything for you. I have also seen on-site developers spend 6 hours a day doing "research" on the internet.
Be as expensive as you can. If you are cheap, your client first will think he has taken advantage of you, but then will believe you're a complete idiot, which renders your work useless. If you are in the middle, your client will suspect your work is on average, whereas he expected you to work above average. But if you are expensive, the client will believe he got some genius working for him, even if the code looks silly. "There's more to this code than meets the eye."
A lot of my projects are fixed-cost, but for those that pay by the hour, there's no point in trying to bill more hours than you've actually worked.
Steve Jones (UK)
Especially in this market, I would go for underbilling.
To the original poster, it works on trust and results, and managing that is part of being a consultant. As others have pointed out, an essential part of that is providing some sort of work summary so they, and their managers too, can see what you're doing for the day or week.
I'm told lawyers charge by the hour, but I don't know anybody who takes it seriously. As a client I look at the work done, reckon how long it would have taken, and then work out what seems to be a fair cost.
There are lawyers whose business is examining and disputing billing by big law firms.
My lawyer bills by the hour, and gives me itemized invoices.
Worse is when you query the bill, and they send you a gormless reply with an invoice for $47.50 for replying to you.
My wife works for a law firm so snooty, they refuse to itemize. They just send you a bill for the full dollar amount, no description. Their clients seem to think it is so important to have a top rated law firm, they grin and bare it. I'm sure that one of these days they are going to completely undermine their reputation, and the firm will decend into chaos. I honestly doubt they overbill or anything so directly sinister, but they aren't so well managed that you aren't often paying $150+ an hour for some recent Harvard or Columbia law grad to stay up all night sorting through piles of paper and stack them by some useless set of categories. Meanwhile the government (for once outpacing the private sector) has learned to scan in every last document in a case and google the damn thing when they are looking for something. (But then congress finds a way to make the government settle the case on far better terms than the government's opponent deserves, and I'm not referring only to DOJ vs. MS)
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