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Money / Pricing strategy

Billing clients in six minute increments

Being a soloist, there are many factors to consider when billing clients. How do you work out how much to charge your clients?

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I have a friend who is a lawyer {insert your preferred lawyer joke here}.

He’s what you’d call a good bloke – relaxed, generous and always up for a chat. The sort of character who’ll volunteer to do the books for the soccer club and put the nets up at 7am for the under 9s. You know the type.

But one day I was shocked to discover his dark secret…

He charges clients in six minute increments.

Even though I knew this sort of thing went on – charging for every photocopy, phone call and paperclip – I’d never really stopped to think about it. In the novel Hell Has Harbour Views one of the hot-shot lawyers manages to bill a client more than 24 hours in one day. That’s probably a true story.

Whenever I rang my friend at work for a chat, I’d end by asking “Who’d you charge that to?”

"Even though I knew this sort of thing went on - charging for every photocopy, phone call and paperclip - I'd never really stopped to think about it."

Now, I’m a solo business person that charges for my time. But I can’t imagine how embarrassed I’d be or how hard my clients would laugh if I sent this email. “Good to chat about your project yesterday, attached is your invoice for $55.”

In law, the reasonable man is a hypothetical ‘average’ person that is used as a test of behaviour: “How would a reasonable person act under similar circumstances?”

Want more articles like this? Check out the pricing strategy section.

To me, billing clients in six minute increments fails this test. It indicates a culture miles removed from a meaningful, personal client relationship.

Personally, I feel 100% more comfortable charging a rate that builds in time for small variations. You’ll win some and lose some overall, but for me nothing leaves a bad taste in the mouth like those extras that sneak onto a final invoice, even if they’re small.

But then again, I haven’t got the corner office and the BMW, so maybe the lawyers who are billing their clients in six minute increments have got it right.

Soak up the extras, or send a revised quote pronto? What works for you? Tell us by adding a comment below.

Peter Crocker

looks after content at Flying Solo. As part of Business Copywriter he partners with digital agencies and corporate clients on websites and digital content. He's the co-author of Flying Solo Revisited: How to go it alone in business.

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