Do You Bill for Time You Spend Waiting for Clients? — It seems we’re all so busy anymore that it’s hard for freelancers and their clients to keep appointments. Well, maybe just the freelancers and clients I deal with. :) But regardless, I’m wondering how you deal with it when you have a scheduled call with a client and they’re not available and the time you’ve arranged. For instance, they’re schedule a time to call you at 10 a.m. and you plan around it, and then you don’t hear from them.

It’s one thing to e-mail me 15 minutes before the call and say, “Can we make it 10:30 instead of 10?” because if I can, I will. And I get that stuff happens. But I never know what to do with existing, regular clients. Do you bill them for the time allotted for the call, or do you let it go since you just kept working on something else anyway?

I offer a free phone consultation for new clients, but if they bail on the first appointment, that uses up their free time and then they have to pay my hourly rate. How do you handle it for clients with whom you have an existing relationship?

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9 comments… add one
  • Kaarin Aug 1, 2008

    This is a great question. I have one client who asks for on-site meetings fairly frequently. They are never, ever ready when I get there, but I figure it is their time that they requested. So I charge from the moment my foot lands in the office. If they want me to wait for half an hour, they can certainly pay me while I read or review notes.
    Not sure what to do when it comes to calls, but I like your idea of a free first call and if they bail the clock starts ticking on the next one.
    Is this something that needs to be addressed in contracts and/or agreements when first landing a client? When renewing an agreement? Not sure what to tell you with existing customers. Again, great questions.

  • Susan Aug 2, 2008

    Kristen, if I had a dollar for every time this happened with an interview source for an article, I’d be rich! If only I could bill them!

    I did have a copywriting client who was not so good about sticking to appointment times and she felt bad about it, so she told me to bill her. That money helped assauge her guilt (but didn’t make her more punctual) and ensured that I was paid for my time. So, if it’s a chronic problem, I’d say yes. If it’s a one time thing (like your client had a last minute emergency to deal with), I might be more inclined to cut the client some slack.

  • dewaji Aug 4, 2008

    I usually give them free consultation for 3 hour /project. If they use more than that, or they want regular consultation, then I charge them :D

    dewaji’s last blog post..Busby SEO Challenge

  • Amy Aug 4, 2008

    Kristen — This is an issue I have struggled with frequently. I try to avoid calls altogether because of this. Waiting around and planning around a ringing phone gives me anxiety. My clients are lawyers, so it’s to be expected that the world will revolve around them and that they will never be on time for anything. (Seriously; ask them. I’m not being mean.) My solution is I no longer wait. If they’re late, my ringer gets turned off and they can leave a message. Meanwhile, I am working on other people’s stuff. Eventually, this annoys them, so they agree to just email me whatever it is they want to talk about. Saves my sanity. :-) All but one of my current clients now emails me rather than doing the phone thing. The remaining one calls frequently throughout the day, or emails me saying “Call me in fifteen minutes.” (I call, and he’s on the other line, and so the game goes.) He pays me enough to make it worth it, but I still don’t just sit around all day waiting. It does annoy me though.

    Amy’s last blog post..Ninja Kick Your Competition

  • Lori Aug 4, 2008

    I agree with both Susan and Amy. My time is just as valuable as my client’s time. If it’s once or twice, okay. But if it’s chronic, it’s no longer my responsibility to make sure this person meets his or her deadline, and I will send an email to that effect. Unless I’ve mentioned payment for time waiting previously, I won’t bill them for it unless it’s been a HUGE inconvenience. I still kick myself for not billing the company that arranged, and then didn’t call, during my vacation.

    Lori’s last blog post..Cleaning the Freelance House

  • James Aug 4, 2008

    I bill clients for all time spent, minimum of 15 minute increments.

    I also find using a tool helps with this tremendously. Right now I’m using Cashboard – which is really great.

    Helps me track these moments, and plainly bill my clients for it all.

  • Dina Aug 6, 2008

    I just don’t wait. It’s 10:15 and you haven’t heard from them? Work on someone else’s stuff.

  • I would say it depends on if it happens a bit or not. I would def bill someone if they did it a lot, but once, I wouldn’t bother. I would also make mention of it to make sure they know how I feel. Nothing is better than communication.

  • Kristen Fischer Aug 25, 2008

    KK, this is a great post idea. I do the same thiing–first consult free and after that, even if they just want to discuss things, I’m on the clock. You have to be savvy and smart about these things–you’re a business not a free resource to the world all the time!

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