I fear that some (many?) people assume that web designers work much the same way as attorneys: we note every minute where we are pressed into service, and bill accordingly. And they feel that my hourly rate might be rather steep for some tasks that only take 5 minutes.
If only that were the case! Call it good customer service, or flexibility, or maybe just being kinda lax about it, but I don’t bill for every minute worked. In fact, there are a number of tasks that I intentionally do not bill for, as I consider them the overhead of doing business, and they are somehow accounted for in my hourly rate. I probably should bill for more of the time I spend working.
These unbilled tasks include:
- Writing proposals
- Answering emails
- Answering phone calls
- Sending punch lists, reminders or invoices
- Fixing an error that was my fault (for instance, if there’s a typo and you tell me about it, I don’t bill for the time to fix it)
- Discussing projects on the phone. Exceptions would include regularly scheduled staff meetings where project status is reviewed, or a scheduled design review meeting (which might be an hour-long “working” meeting)
Now having said that… not all small tasks are billed, but I do keep track of them so that there is a record of when a task was done. For example, a client might ask me to change a word, a link or a password. Any of those tasks might literally take just 5 minutes, and I’m not worried about billing for every 5 minutes — but I do like having a record of when you asked me to change that word, link or password. And if you ask for enough of these, I will think about billing for them.
So even if I’m not billing for a task, I’m noting it on the invoice so that my client knows when it was done. I generally mark these items as “NC,” meaning that I noted at the time it happened that there would be “no charge.” Sometimes a “no charge” item is one of the above, or sometimes it’s a task I took on without being asked, or I felt that it wasn’t truly billable work. Perhaps it was recon work to provide you with enough information to decide if you want me to do actual billable work on your website, or it might have been helping you debug something on your computer/e-mail/phone that had nothing to do with the work I normally do for you. I include these items in the invoice so (again) there is a record of when they were done.