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Billing for work

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Catherine Kim
Billing for work
on Jul 28, 2015 at 9:15:52 pm

Hi, I have a questiom about billing for work that I thoght you guys could help me with. I was hired by a company to work freelance for a month with the strong possibility of going full-time afterward. For the first few days I worked in the office but worked from home for the two weeks afterward. The work I was doing for them requires a lot of feedback to move forward so there is a lot of back and forth.. After the second week or so I didn't hear/get feedback from them right away like I normally do - the boss was out of town, I assumed that was why. After two weeks they let me know they decided the work want quite what they were looking for. Do I bill for the full month including the two weeks I wasn't technically working but waiting for their feedback or just the two and a half weeks or actual work?


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Mads Nybo Jørgensen
Re: Billing for work
on Jul 29, 2015 at 9:25:43 am

Hey Catherine K,

That is the oldest trick in the book - the phones goes silent and no one is replying to your emails. If you have an agreement for a months work (in writing?), then that is what you should charge. It may very well be that client did not understand how much information they needed to collate for you to do your work, and that this is why they are trying to bail out. If issues with the work, maybe offer to stretch the deadline to allow them to catch up - but do not give them a months work for free!

More so if they are using the work that you've already done?

The offer of full-time work upfront as a sweetener should make anyone run for the hill. This is another trick to try and massage your prices downwards.

All the Best
Mads

@madsvid, London, UK
Check out my other hangouts:
Twitter: @madsvid
http://mads-thinkingoutloud.blogspot.co.uk


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Mark Suszko
Re: Billing for work
on Aug 1, 2015 at 2:46:48 am

Did you deliver everything you promised? Then they're pretty much obligated to pay. getting them to pay may be a different matter. But they don't get to stiff you halfway thru the job.


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Bob Zelin
Re: Billing for work
on Aug 8, 2015 at 11:53:36 pm

my opinion is different.
1) don't be shy.
2) call the owner. Ask him (her) - what should I bill you for. Put it in their court. Your ultimate job is not to "screw them over" now, because you worked hard on this - your ultimate job is to get every last penny you can out of these people. So seem like you are the most honest hard working person in the world. Get them to hire you again - so ask them "whatever you think is fair is ok with me". And get them to hire you again. SHOW UP TO THEIR OFFICE - UNINVITED. Ask questions to their staff (if the boss is not in the office). Show them effort that none of their employees show. They will love you - you will "get in" - freelance (or staff which I never suggest). Once you are in, you can be a "big shot" and demand what you want - but right now, you are nobody - so kiss some behind, put the extra effort in, ask what THEY think is fair and just eat it. You will get in. And you can "screw them over" later with billings - because you want them to think that they can't live without you. Right now, I assure you - they think that they can live without out you.

Everyone lives their lives this way - "I can find another dentist, I can find another accountant, I can find another editor, I can find another producer, I can find another cameraman" - but once you are in, and they TRUST YOU - people go crazy "oh my God - I have to have THIS PERSON, because they are the only ones that can do this job". This is the way that most people are about everyone (including personal relationships) - your only job in life is to GET IN - once you are in, you can control the shots. Advice from a guy - just lie.
We all do it.


Don't be a big shot - not yet.

bob Zelin

Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.
bobzelin@icloud.com


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Mads Nybo Jørgensen
Re: Billing for work
on Aug 9, 2015 at 3:13:41 pm

Hey Bob,

What were you smoking when writing that advice!!? ;-)

My understanding is that Catherine was working for the company in a creative position. Which is very different to that of sitting behind a rack counting the green lights on the network switch.
(That was a cheap gag - I do know that you do a lot more than that and many companies would simply not be working without your efforts)

However, Catherine was told that if she performed well that there may be full-time job in it for her. Client suddenly stopped returning calls and told her, that she was not for them and terminated her services early. At this point, there is a saying where I come from: "Do not go back to a dud (fireworks), as it will blow up in your face" (Loosely translated from Danish).

Catherine needs to extract the money that she is entitled to. And you are right, if she on the way through that process can find out the real reasons for the early termination, then so much better.

[Bob Zelin] "This is the way that most people are about everyone (including personal relationships) - your only job in life is to GET IN - once you are in, you can control the shots. Advice from a guy - just lie."

I am somewhat concerned with the advice of "just lie" - this does not build for a long term ethical relationship between customer and supplier and more often than not, will not only end in termination, but also one that will tarnish the reputation of a young hopeful freelancer - worse, if you're in small industry, soon everybody will know.

All the Best
Mads

@madsvid, London, UK
Check out my other hangouts:
Twitter: @madsvid
http://mads-thinkingoutloud.blogspot.co.uk


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Tim Wilson
Re: Billing for work
on Aug 9, 2015 at 6:48:37 pm

Respectfully Mads, I think Bob was right on the money with this.

Here's Catherine's question: "Do I bill for the full month including the two weeks I wasn't technically working but waiting for their feedback or just the two and a half weeks or actual work?"

Here's Bob's answer: [Bob Zelin] "1) don't be shy.

2) call the owner. Ask him (her) - what should I bill you for. Put it in their court.



So far, so good. The question is why you should ask the client/boss what you should you bill?

[Bob Zelin] "Your ultimate job is not to "screw them over" now, because you worked hard on this - your ultimate job is to get every last penny you can out of these people.

So seem like you are the most honest hard working person in the world. Get them to hire you again "



What's wrong with that? I think it's perfect advice.

Question: What should I bill?

Answer: Rather than guess or turn it into a fight, do what the client wants. Give yourself the opportunity to win them back.

The rest of his post is about what it takes to win clients back. And it's very good advice. Very practical. Very achievable.

Because the thing is, nobody's in a particular to hire a freelancer. Ever. The onus is on the freelancer to MAKE the client want to hire them. It's a game of active marketing. This is how a freelancer markets themselves: make yourself visible, make yourself available, spend the time you're NOT working for them to learn how they WILL want you to work for them.

And if a freelancer stopped asking for a job from every client who said no, or every former client who said "We're looking for something different," there'd be nobody to work for, ever.

To loosely paraphrase from the Danish, you HAVE to keep going back to duds. You HAVE to. It's when you DON'T go back to duds that your entire career blows up in your face. LOL

As Bob says,

[Bob Zelin] "Everyone lives their lives this way - "I can find another dentist, I can find another accountant, I can find another editor, I can find another producer, I can find another cameraman" - but once you are in, and they TRUST YOU - people go crazy "oh my God - I have to have THIS PERSON, because they are the only ones that can do this job"."

In quoting Bob's advice about lying, my joke is that I prefer to call it marketing. I say I CAN do something before I actually can, because I know I can LEARN how to do the thing quickly enough that it looks like I knew it all along. Bob's right. We all do this.

If we don't do this, we should.

But you stopped before his most important line, the last one:


[Bob Zelin] "Don't be a big shot - not yet. "

There are limits to how far you can overstate your skills. His advice to Catherine is not to overreach, which is of course what you said as well.

In context, what it also means is to accept your reality with humility. Freelancers get dismissed before the contract period is up. Freelancers get taken advantage of. They get abused.

But their response CANNOT be to "be a big shot." They have to take each loss on the chin, and put themselves in a position to win next time.


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Mads Nybo Jørgensen
Re: Billing for work
on Aug 9, 2015 at 10:31:06 pm
Last Edited By Mads Nybo Jørgensen on Aug 9, 2015 at 10:32:35 pm

Hey Tim,

I think that this situation is much simpler and doesn't warrant Catherine spending too much time on it. If client is not happy with the full bill, client will call her. If she, as you and Bob is suggesting, puts herself in a position of negative negotiation, then she may end up with less than what she originally had agreed with the client.

By putting in the full invoice, she will have the advantage of being able to negotiate down, in return for the opportunity for finishing the job. Also, if she has to go through the legal process, she can (hopefully) provide the upfront agreed cost between her and the client, and the invoice to match that amount - if those too doesn't match, she will be at a disadvantage. So I still say: Put in the full invoice.

[Tim Wilson] "Here's Catherine's question: "Do I bill for the full month including the two weeks I wasn't technically working but waiting for their feedback or just the two and a half weeks or actual work?""

I had a friend once who was hired by the local corner shop on a minimum hourly wage to man the till etc. Every time there was no clients, he was asked to wait in the back office - after being there for 8 hours, the owner proceeded to pay him for two. When he inquired why, the owner said: You were only working in the shop for two hours, so I pay you for two and hope to see you tomorrow...

The point is, Catherine made herself available for 4 weeks, and should be paid for four weeks.

You got Catherine's question, but omitted the important part:
[catherinek ny] "After the second week or so I didn't hear/get feedback from them right away like I normally do - the boss was out of town, I assumed that was why. After two weeks they let me know they decided the work want quite what they were looking for. Do I bill for the full month including the two weeks I wasn't technically working but waiting for their feedback or just the two and a half weeks or actual work?"

The thing to note here: They stopped giving her feedback after the second week, and 2 weeks after that they fired her - I suspect that they already after the second week had decided to let her go, but legally would be in a better position of they let her wait out the four weeks, in order to claim that she didn't deliver to the agreed deadline. Again, unless she puts in the full invoice, she will be at an disadvantage - in any case, it is quite common to put in a cancellation charge in situations where the client have not given enough time for the freelancer to find alternative work.

I do hear what you and Bob are saying, but I would like to offer some expert advice from a third party that knows much more about this than me:
https://library.creativecow.net/lindeboom_ron/clients_or_grinders/1

The right honorable Mr Lindeboom describes the three basic personalities of a customer under the heading: Understanding the "The Market's Three Basic Personalities"

Catherine's client sounds very close to the one described under number 3:

I am always amazed that the Low-End 15% of the market is the first part of the market that most new businesses set out to work with. Some do it consciously and others unconsciously but the end result is the same -- a lot of work for very little money, if any. This often happens because many people think that you have to undercut existing businesses to build a new business. That's simply not true. But if you believe that you do have to undercut the market and you price yourself as a "low-ball" artist, you set yourself up to attract the people that occupy the lowest 15% of the market.

I call these people "Grinders" and for good reason: They will grind you and demand that you treat them like the people in the Top 15% category -- and they will expect that treatment from you as they push and push to get things below your cost. They'll promise you more jobs down the road and that just this one job needs a deal -- the others will make you some money.

Yeah, right! The truth is: they'll never let you make a dime off them while you suffer through insults, mistrust, constant changes and arguments over what you agreed to or didn't -- and no matter how well you do, nine times out of ten there will almost always be something wrong with the job you did. They will never be happy.

They do not recommend you to their associates and this is probably due to the fact that they know themselves quite well and think that everyone is like that creep they see in the mirror every morning. If they need to invent a reason not to pay you, they can get incredibly creative! The Net is full of stories of people trying to collect on debts made by these people.


I've highlighted a few lines that I think relates to Catherine's story.

Another good source for freelance horror stories are collected here:
http://clientsfromhell.net/

And they all have one thing in common: You are better off saying no to a bad client and using your energy on getting good clients - than running back to bad clients and beg, steal, borrow, lie to hold on to them.

However, I am sure (and hope) that when Catherine's client realizes that they have to pay her in full regardless, that they will want to find a way to make use of her skills in order to get best return on their investment - this is the point where Catherine can excel and show her skills, whilst finding out what makes the client happy.

On that point we are all in agreement ;-)

All the Best
Mads

@madsvid, London, UK
Check out my other hangouts:
Twitter: @madsvid
http://mads-thinkingoutloud.blogspot.co.uk


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Mark Suszko
Re: Billing for work
on Aug 10, 2015 at 1:10:04 am

Quote: I had a friend once who was hired by the local corner shop on a minimum hourly wage to man the till etc. Every time there was no clients, he was asked to wait in the back office - after being there for 8 hours, the owner proceeded to pay him for two. When he inquired why, the owner said: You were only working in the shop for two hours, so I pay you for two and hope to see you tomorrow...


This is actually illegal in the US; a federal labor law supreme court case established that there is a difference between "waiting to be engaged" and "engaged to be waiting". Say you're hired to stand watch over a pressure gauge and pull an emergency lever if the dial goes into the red zone. Or you're a fireman on duty, waiting for a call. The law says you are "working" even if you sit there and do nothing, because you've given your time to this sole task of being ready to act on a moment's notice. This deal of making you cool your heels in the office, being docked pay whenever there are no customers - that's not legal to do.


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Mads Nybo Jørgensen
Re: Billing for work
on Aug 10, 2015 at 5:30:48 am

Hey Mark,

[Mark Suszko] "This is actually illegal in the US; a federal labor law supreme court case established that there is a difference between "waiting to be engaged" and "engaged to be waiting". Say you're hired to stand watch over a pressure gauge and pull an emergency lever if the dial goes into the red zone. Or you're a fireman on duty, waiting for a call. The law says you are "working" even if you sit there and do nothing, because you've given your time to this sole task of being ready to act on a moment's notice. This deal of making you cool your heels in the office, being docked pay whenever there are no customers - that's not legal to do."

It is also illegal where I come from. However, often freelancers unwittingly ends up in the trap of "watching over the pressure gauge" without getting paid for it. Which is what happened to Catherine when she waited around for two weeks not knowing that the company had decided not to use her services any further - except, because she is a freelancer, suddenly the practice appears not to be illegal.

All the Best
Mads

@madsvid, London, UK
Check out my other hangouts:
Twitter: @madsvid
http://mads-thinkingoutloud.blogspot.co.uk


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Mark Rozitis
Re: Billing for work
on Aug 20, 2015 at 1:44:09 pm

Happens in Ontario Canada every day with the TV spot news freelancers, you can sit there watching that pressure gauge for 18 hours a day and you "work" for free until major breaking news happens, it is illegal in Ontario but if you don't like it you can leave now, need more government enforcement of the rules. They are breaking all the rules and getting free labour.

The other thing I'd like to add is this, get everything in writing and signed off on by both parties, a simple easy to read contract covering all the bases is a must or good luck in court later if things don't work out.

Sorry, it's business.....I learned the hard way.


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