Dr. Freelance: I’ve got a relatively new client who, not kidding, results in an average per-project billing of somewhere around $25. I like the client and I need the work, but how can I convey that these little tweaky projects are driving me nuts?—Short Stop
S.S.: I think we’ve all been there at one point or another, and I know what you mean when you’re willing to do something for a $25 client because you like him or her, and even twenty-five bucks can add up over time. At the risk of answering a question with several questions, here are five things to consider with a nickel-and-dime client:
- Are you getting your full hourly rate out of these brief interactions…even when you include the 5 minutes at either end to get into and out of a file, and the time that you spend communicating with the client?
- Do these tend to be emergency and/or last-minute projects, and if so, are you charging a premium?
- Have you conveyed your frustration to the client, and explained why piecemeal projects aren’t in his/her best interest?
- Is there any way you could politely/delicately ask the client to batch the multiple tweaky projects into a weekly single session?
- Are you sending multiple invoices and getting a separate check for each, or are you sending a single monthly accounting of your time?
If you’re honest about your answers, your next step is probably clear. There are freelancers out there who set a minimum price for their work. (I wrote about one such campaign at my Jake’s Take blog, “7 reasons to reject lowball work.”) I tend not to draw such hard lines, because my experience has been that open communication and coaching can sell the client on the benefits of efficiency. After all, even a $25 client may grow into a much bigger one, or may give you a referral to something huge! Quite often, they don’t even realize they’re doing anything wrong. And as for those who don’t care, release them back into the market.