If you do consulting/freelancing as a software developer, should you charge your client on time spent on planning?
By planning I mean long phone calls, on-site meetings, etc.
closed as primarily opinion-based by gnat, GlenH7, MichaelT, Bart van Ingen Schenau, amon Aug 10 '14 at 15:00
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Think of the 'legal' model of charging.
Many lawyers/solicitors, etc. bill (in the UK) in 15 minute units, rounded up.
If they are not giving value for money, good lawyers will say so. Otherwise, their time is money.
Same for you.
My experience is, clients often do not value anything they get for free.
So contributing to a plan for free may actually allow the client to feel okay when they ignore your advice.
It might even be useful to have the discussion around charging more for planning, because that is a project management skill, which is typically more expensive than development (when it's well done). Be ready to back down to your normal rate, if you don't want to take full ownership of the plan, but instead are only contributing your time to building a plan.
Edit: Another benefit of having a 'my time costs money' discussion early on with a client, is when they ask for something, they are likely to have had a think about paying you, and if you ever do do something for free, you can explain why, and they are more likely to appreciate it.
Sometimes, when people do some things for free, and payment for others, clients get confused, even suspicious. Depending on their industry, they might even assume 'free' is when you did something wrong.
Absolutely - planning is time consuming and effort. If it's done well, it also helps to reduce development time.
For some reason, though, some software clients (particularly web software) see planning as a waste of time.
So, it comes down to how you charge:
Unless you are a novice. If you are trying to learn the craft then you might want to take on a few freebie consulting gigs to build your confidence.
If you are an expert then demand an expert price. Do not dilute your value.
So, how long does it take to become an expert? 10,000 hours.
as long as the result of the planning effort is some deliverable artifact, something that has a value for the customer.
If you produce a 3 pages long document describing what will be included, acceptance tests (the definition of done), milestones, risks, options weighted and tossed away and why..
which the customer can agree with and sign..
then it is totally valid to say:
If you would charge the client for just spending time by talking, with no deliverable artifact, if the only result would be a vague promise that sometime in the future the client will get something concrete
This kind of time spending can not be considered work worth the wedge.
Unfortunatelly there are companies that hire people that do exactly this, just talking, wasting other people's time in meetings without any meeting minutes, followup actions without any result. Just wandering in circles. And yet they charge the employer big sums of money for just making "management" impression. I was working in such companies for several times and I have met such people.
Please don't join this dark side of the common sense.
55 "funny ecards" from the world of people I'm talking about in this footnote are available at http://www.projectmanagement.com/blog/Project-Management-2.0/6966/