I was wondering if I should not account for the time spent in email communications with the client in the quote. After all, a project often involves several hours of email writing, why should this be free? How do you guys deal with this?
Some of the time you spend with a client can be considered a cost of doing business. For example, initial sales calls, pleasantries, quick chats, contract signing etc. Others are chargeable events that you can't really soak up, certainly not in the long term - i.e. on-site visits, lengthy phone calls or emails providing 'consulting' on matters relating to the project or their business. Often though it's not necessarily about the money, it's often just incredibly inconvenient and inefficient for you to be continuously having to deal with someone pestering you - for example the clients who phone or email several times a day.
You set the rules on these things. Specify how consulting works with you - let them know the procedure they must follow if they want you to consult with them on a matter. Encourage them to book an appointment, even for phone calls. Don't answer emails immediately, make them wait 24 hours for a detailed response (you can always initially send a quick "Very busy, will reply in detail later" email). If they appear to be taking advantage, don't be afraid to tell them and offer to arrange a consultation at your hourly rate. In your contract, define what type of communications will be charged for and the relevant hourly rate.
If you quote a fixed price for a project, allow for this in the final price you quote - e.g. you could assume you'll spend 5 hours engaging with the client over the course of the project, so make sure your quoted price allows for that.
If you charge hourly for a project, this shouldn't be a problem as long as you made it clear upfront that clients would be charged for lengthy consulting, even via email.
My accountant doesn't charge me if I ask a quick question via email once in a while. But if my question requires a lengthy response, he'll email me back to let me know it's chargeable. TBH though, you are not an accountant, so your milage may vary on this, it's really about developing a gut feeling over how to handle it and it will vary from client to client. You definitely don't want to penny pinch with a good client, it's not worth it, especially if they already put lots of business your way. Learn when to suck it up as a cost of doing business.
Like shadowbox states, include this in your base rate. But I would strongly advise you don't bill them separately for time spent emailing back and forth. That'll get you dropped (and a bad reputation to boot) very quickly. Communications with your customer are a basic cost of business, not a separate function.
Thanks you both, especially shadowbox for his very informative reply.
It varies from client to client, and how frequently they email who to what support they demand, but ultimately how you price this support
No client would agree to them being charged per email.
I previously had a 'client' who demanded detailed technical answers, which ranged from S.E.O, S.M.O, consultation amongst over things.
To make things worse they were hosting the website themselves and because of my inexperience, I did not incorporate any support into the pricing.
As crazy as it may seam the client believed I would endless support them until the very end of my existence, all for free, with the included bonus of gradually passing my entire knowing just in case I passed away. Kind of like a DIY helper constructing his own demise.
We really do have to be fair with our decisions.
Even mentioning consultation and charging for this would almost always cause some kind of conflict. Imagine the complications caused from charging email correspondances.
I would incorporate a support package for your website once it's lived which would include your email correspondance.
Whilst developing the website, you could charge for your emails, putting this under your hourly rate. The same could be said for any meetings and total time spent. It's just not recommended that you tell clients that everything would be charged.
I hope this helps.
I agree with the good advice given above. Yes, you should bill for the time spent emailing, provided the emails are relevant to the project. So exclude initial contacts, giving quotes, general chit-chat, and so on. But do charge for emails that are for any kind of support.
And, no, don't specifically itemise emailing on your invoice. Just bill the number of hours you spent on the client's work, regardless of whether that was for emails, phone calls, or software development or whatever.
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