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Client education - finding a way to charge for it

I constantly find myself in a position of having to educate my clients. I often spend a great deal of time letting them know what they *can* do in order to identify what they *want* me to provide a cost proposal for. I usually pad those hours back into the estimate on the first job so it's not a big deal.  However, as they remain my client and call back asking for small adjustments/add ons, this happens again and again. I have to spend time educating them. Then, the modification they want done is small and it's tough to pad into the 2 hours quoted for the small job.  At the same time, I don't want to lose the client.  Has anyone else been here?  Any suggestions?

Friday, August 20, 2004


Surely you jest!


I think the prominent consulting authors like Jerry Weinberg have addressed points like this. Unfortunately, only a "true consultant" is paid for his advice.

Being service and "labor" providers, we aren't supposed to know more than the customer, right? :-(

I hope someone else has a better answer to this than "if you're any good, it comes out in the wash".

Bored Bystander
Friday, August 20, 2004

My dad is in the appliance repair business (San Francisco Area), he charges 40 bucks to come out and talk to them, and check out their appliance.

In the long run it depends- you can compensate in
1. A Flat Consultation Fee
2. Charge for the artifact, i.e. Them-we need a Database you OK, the completed design docs will cost X.
3. Simply bump up your hourly rate
4. not take on small projects, or if they really are 2 hour projects higher a lower paid assistant.

the artist formerly known as prince
Friday, August 20, 2004

Neo, sadly, this is a common problem for consultants, especially if you deal with lots of small firms. There are a couple of solutions.

1. Whenever they ask you for advice, offer to consider their requirements and to give them a written report on the subject. This makes it more obvious you're doing something for them, and people can understand why you're charging for a report. If they say no but still want you to answer, you have to tell them you would need to look into it properly.

That is actually not a bad idea anyway, because the quick answer you give for free might be wrong, in which case they will judge you harshly, even though you were doing them a favour.

2. Offer to be their regular consultant for a small monthly fee (retainer.) If they take up this option, make sure you still charge by the hour.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Neo, does Queen Bee do this to you?

Friday, August 20, 2004

"The only defence a man has against overwork is the size of his fee". A lawyer said that.  Lawyers seem to get rich.

Folks LOVE free stuff and the folks who give it to them. But by definition, it's not billable.

You won't lose the client if you ask for a retainer to cover the nickel'n'dime time, or a flat fee per call, or a flat fee to study the next development problem.

But watch the "education" cost, to you, and to your client. Shotgunning options at folks in the hope that one takes root and turns billable is less time-effective for both parties than addressing problems as they bring them to you.

Get paid for your advice.
Give the right advice.
Get a reputation for good advice.
Get recommended.
Get more clients.
Start harvesting.

When you are run off your feet , you won't have time to "educate"  ... and you can increase your fees .


Friday, August 20, 2004

One company I worked for was billing $5,000 per day for UI changes based on one software engineer's day.  A thing of beauty.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Obviously this is the first rude awakening from Neo's Queen Bee love affair.

I am giddy with glee.

I knew this was gonna happen
Saturday, August 21, 2004

Oh, yeah, I forgot about that!

You can't live anything down on this board.

Snort, chortle
Saturday, August 21, 2004

These are some really great ideas.  I'm not sure some of my small clients would go for a retainer. However, that's certainly worth suggesting to those who call just about every month with questions. I like the idea of the written report which makes the answer seem more formal. That's great.  Thank you all very much.

And no, I'm not talking about my experience with the Queen Bee as you like to call her.  For one thing, I've only worked with her for just over a week and that's not enough time to have the problems I'm describing which occur with my other clients.  However, working with her for the past week has been great. I've been presented with specs that are written out in great detail.  For the work I have to do, every screen is mocked up or an example provided to me. So far, this has been a very pleasant experience. I wish all my clients were like this. 

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Beyond the very first meeting I charge $50 per hour for any and every reason I have to go to the client site. I'll answer some basic stuff for free over the phone, but if the client wants my time they are going to pay for it. You need to be strict about this else some clients will suck all your time for nothing. The bright side is that all my clients understand this and are happy with it.

Matthew Lock
Sunday, August 22, 2004

Oh, and when the client calls you for free advice give them a 5 minute time limit then tell them you are too busy to talk right now and suggest you to come and talk to them on site. Then charge your hourly rate for that.

Matthew Lock
Sunday, August 22, 2004

Matt, a lot of my clients are in different states so I can't go see them. Have you ever tried the same principle but setting up a phone appt to talk to them at a specified time?

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Try doing what lawyers do. They get their customers to sign an agreement that says they agree to pay for work conducted for the customer. Whenever the customer rings up, the lawyer adds it to the bill. Five minutes is $50, and so on. Each month they send out the bill. Seems to work.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Has anyone done this successfully?  (I'm referring to the last suggestion about what lawyers do.)

Sunday, August 22, 2004

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