When is My Work Non-Billable?
I’m a programmer and I’m having a really hard time explaining to a client the difference between what’s billable and what’s non-billable. Every request they send me starts with the subject line, “BUG/S FOUND NEED FIXED”. 90% of the time it isn’t a bug so it is driving me crazy that they keep trying to make everything sound like it is a bug. I know this is a petty question but how would you handle this situation?
Not really a bug
Opening your email box shouldn’t feel like you are being assaulted. Personally, all caps messages, regardless of their content, MAKE ME MAD! A really simple trick I use is to either change the subject line when I send a return message or say something directly like, “Hey, I have a filter on email for your requests. If you want faster response time can you please put ‘Your Client Name: To Do Item’ in your header?”
I’m wondering if you have a bigger issue though. I find that a lot of clients need education on the concept of hiring someone who provides an ongoing consulting service. Do you think your client is calling these issues “bugs” in hopes of not having to pay for the work?
My time is billable and one of the ways I have helped my clients keep costs down is by having them test any new features or changes I make. I do the initial testing myself to make sure everything is working, but for most clients I don’t test every single possible scenario, which can be very time consuming. Instead, I tell them that a feature is ready for review. They do the testing and if they identify an issue, I then go back and spend the necessary time to make it right. Then I bill them for that time, knowing it would have taken me longer to identify the issue and implement the proper fix. The only time I’m not billing is if I misunderstood their requirement and built something they didn’t approve. Of course there are exceptions when you do need to discount time for mistakes or do something that’s non-billable, but I think it is important to help your client get out of the mindset of nitpicking your work in hopes of saving a few dollars.
Ask Molly is my weekly column where I answer your questions about the things that are keeping you from truly enjoying your work. I can’t help you with your personal life or your love life, but if you have questions about your work life, I’ve got you covered. Drop me a line below and ask me a question! – Molly