Freelancers make their money by selling time and skill, how do you handle giving up time to meet a new client or meet the team? Should you charge for that?
I had been freelancing for almost two years and thought I had graduated from those feelings of not knowing or second-guessing myself. I never thought I had “seen it all,” but I liked to believe that I had enough experience not to be caught off guard.
At the time, I was put into a new situation where I did not know what to do. I landed a new client and was invited to come into the office to meet the rest of the team. Normally, I bill for all my meeting time, but this felt more like a “get to know” everyone meeting (which somewhat falls into the same category as “Can I meet you for coffee” meetings). I didn’t want to shortchange myself, but I also realized that building a strong relationship would be much more valuable in the long run than fretting over one or two hours of billable time.
So, I did not end up billing the client. I’m still not sure that was the right decision as a business owner, but I walked away from the meeting feeling good. And, half of that “meet the team” meeting ended up being a mini-interview with the CEO to talk about my experience and background (and to me, that would have felt weird to charge for).
Every “get to know everyone” meeting will be different and I don’t think there is a set rule as to whether you should bill. But, here are three things to keep in mind when deciding to charge for the first meet the team meeting:
Think About Who Benefits Most From The Meeting
If your first meeting provides more value to the client, you may want to charge for your time. However, if the meeting benefits you more, then think twice about charging.
Here’s what I mean: if the meeting centers around you sharing your ideas, presenting your plan, or doing an audit of current work, then your client is receiving a lot of value from you. But, if the meeting focuses more on educating you, introducing you to the team, or socializing, you’re understanding your client better and getting more value.
Identify What Kind of Relationship You Want
Do you want more of a transactional relationship or a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship with your new client?
There’s nothing wrong with a transactional relationship; that just means you prefer structure and documentation. However, if you do go this route, make sure to be completely transparent about everything. Charging for every single meeting or communication may make you come off as counting paperclips if your client wasn’t expecting it.
Many freelancers offer one free hour of consultation, either before signing a contract or after, to build goodwill. If you do offer a free hour of your time, add that time to your invoice but write a “no charge” note so your client still sees the value.
Restructure Your Pricing
Change your pricing strategy so you don’t have to worry about charging for this or that. If you’re currently charging by the hour, consider switching to a per-project rate. This flat rate would include things like “meet the team” meetings, emails, and phone calls, without having you add them to an invoice. Or, if you prefer to stay with an hourly rate, increase your rate to accommodate these kinds of meetings.
If you’re charging enough to justify your value, one or two hours of “free” time won’t make a big difference to your bottom line.
How to Start: Modify Your Contract
You could decide whether to charge for the first team meeting on a client-by-client basis, or you could avoid the whole situation by adding something to your contract.
Adding an item to your contract about the first meeting takes away the guesswork. Both you and your clients will know what to expect and there won’t be any surprises. If you do want to offer a free hour, you could add something like, “We offer a one-hour complimentary session to meet the team and talk about scope. All meetings after this will be charged my hourly rate.” If you want to charge for all meetings, write, “All meetings, including discovery meetings, will be subject to my hourly rate.”
How do you handle “meet the team” meetings? Do you charge or not?