Friday, June 6, 2008

How to bill a "chatty" client

A while back, a WWHW reader sent me this question, and I answered it in the newsletter. (If you're not subscribed, just pop over to to sign up.)

Thought you might have run into the same problem before, too. (And if not, you will!)

Hi Sue,

I enjoy reading your newsletter, thank you for all your efforts!

I am just preparing an invoice for a client. The project was large and I was surprised when I totaled up my time at how much it added up. I'm wondering what your thoughts are on the details you'd bill your clients for. For example, my client was very chatty whenever we had a phone meeting. Do you charge for the time you talk to a client, all your meeting time? I was including this, but I want to make sure I'm correct in charging for it. I am always very careful not to overcharge for anything, but I don't want to be taken advantage of.

Thank you so much for any insight you may have on this!


Hi Karen,

Congrats on having this 'problem' : ) It shows you're in activity, building your business, and generating an income from your writing. That's fantastic! And I want to honor you for your commitment to charging with integrity - that character quality will serve you well and will be evident to all of your clients.

To answer your question, a lot depends on how the project was initially proposed. Did you quote an hourly rate? A flat rate? Something in-between? How much detail did you include as you and the client discussed your agreement together?

If your agreement was to bill on an hourly basis, absolutely you should include the entire time you met - either by phone or in person. Because you established before you started that your client would pay for your time, your client had the prerogative of being chatty - and should expect to see an invoice that's higher than a less talkative client would get : ) (Obviously, if YOU were the one who talk, talk, talked, you'd need to make an adjustment here!) On the invoice, I'd break it down as 'meeting time' and 'writing time' in this case.

If your agreement was to bill a flat rate for the project, the extra chit chat - and in fact, any meeting time - is on your dime. Your client would be very unpleasantly surprised to find an additional fee for that time, because it would be higher than the original price you quoted. (A sad, sorry lesson I've learned recently, by the way!) You'd want to bill just what you agreed on, and eat the rest - a less than tasty morsel that at least you can learn from.

If you structured the agreement to be some sort of hybrid between hourly and flat rate (looking more and more ideal by the minute, right?), you have every right to charge for all that meeting time. What I'd recommend if it seems like a really high, stroke-inducing fee, is to round down. Maybe show the initial meeting as a free consultation, to show good will. You'd want to bill the writing fee, and then detail each meeting (date, time) so the client can account for all the costs included.

Hope that’s helpful!


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