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To charge or not to charge

time on your hands

I’ve been reading a few interesting blogs/discussions recently about virtual workers and their pricing tactics.  One that doesn’t sit very comfortably with me at all relates to perceived “lost” time; in particular travel time.  Technology advancement means more and more people are working from a home office – some even set up a career this way,  me included.  So for some of these people working from a clients office is sometimes referred to as a premium service, but why? If your saying you can work equally well from a remote office what value are you adding to make the service premium?

“Too many people today know the price of everything and the value of nothing”.  Anne Landers.

There are two issues here as far as I can see it: the physical cost of the travel and the lost time when you could be working on other clients business.  Lets take the first, physical cost.  OK, you’re going to be out of pocket and you’ll want to recoup that, particularly if it’s the client requesting that you come to them.  It’s fair to say that businesses know too well the cost of fuel and will often accept an additional charge.  Secondly,  travel time.  This is where it can get a bit sticky.  Yes, it is sometimes helpful to have face to face meetings with prospects/clients whilst in the settling in period – you’re still getting to know each other and find out how to make the most of the working relationship.  If you were in an employed position it’s unlikely you would be able to charge for travel time (or fuel cost for that matter).  A professional consultant wouldn’t charge for travel so why do other virtual workers expect to get paid for their travel time?  I’m not saying your time isn’t valueable but perhaps the issue is more with the initial charge out rate – is it too low to allow “travel inclusive”?  If so, then this is a different issue.

My rules are: if your office is less than an hours travel from my home then there is no additional charge.  If it’s fiurther afield then the travel will be charged at cost but I won’t charge the time.  It’s not dead time – if I’m using public transport then I can read on the bus or train and if I’m driving then I either listen to podcasts or use that time for thinking/planning.

I’m sure this post will divide some of you but to be treated like a professional you should behave like a professional and in my experience very few professionals charge for travel time.