Charging for phone calls

I'm certain this question has been asked before but I'll bring it up again. Does anyone charge for time spent on the phone with clients? I find that I spend so much time doing unpaid work such as emails and phone calls that I'm probably making $2/hr with some clients if I would calculate all the time I'm putting in. I usually charge for scheduled meetings but not for unplanned client calls. It goes to show how important it is to make it clear and have it in writing before your start working with a client. I'm learning everyday, that's for sure!

Thanks for your input.
 

dage292

New Member
to me phone calls are a part of your business, same as email. It can add up to a lot of time. I think if it goes into excess then yes, there should be charges (incidental) charges added.
 

dognose

New Member
Hi Genevieve,

I almost lost a client over this issue. Since I hadn't specifically stated that this time was billable in my contract, she challenged it. ~gasp! It never occured to me that someone would think this time is not billable! I had five hours of call time that she refused to pay for, so I fired her. ~lol.

I was nice about it, but basically told her I couldn't afford to work for her. She claimed that this time is the "cost of doing business" & that she spends time on calls with people that she doesn't charge for. "Maybe you should," I said, & I didn't back down. About a week later she called & asked if we could work something out. I told her only if she signed a new contract.

She tends to get off focus during calls & before all this happened, she would get annoyed with me when I would try to get her back on topic. Now she's grateful when I tell her, knowing it's costing her money.

Good luck with your clients! If it's out of control, it's definitely worth talking to them about.
 

NBVPA

New Member
So are you saying you charge a client every time they call you? I was thinking of including local calls and just charge for calls I make on their behalf. It seems I need to rethink this.

Thanks for the info

Lisa
 

dognose

New Member
If a call takes an hour, even if you are just getting instruction from your client about the work they want you to do, that's an hour of your time that is spent on this client. As long as you have calls/emails covered in your contract, then you can use your judgement as to which calls to charge for.

If you spend half an hour a week on the phone with one client, that doesn't sound like much. But if you have 10 clients, that's five hours a week that you are giving away free. That's 20 hours a month!
 
You're so right Lezly! I'm doing way too much free work for my clients. I guess it's part of learning but I think it's my biggest challenge right now. It also makes me realize that my hourly rate is probably too low because I'm not covering my costs in all the time I spend not billing. I don't think at this time that clients will understand or agree to a higher rate so including these extra costs upfront is really important. It will be very hard to go to current clients and change my policies but future clients will do for sure!
 

reneeshupe

New Member
I find it interesting that clients would think that a phone call wouldn't be chargeable time. If they consider their own business, I'm sure when they think about it they figure out ways to incorporate the additional time spent on phones calls. Anytime you speak to a lawyer, accountant etc...time is charged for time spent.

When I was first starting out, I gave away a lot of time because I thought it was the right thing to do, but something I've learned when a client knows that the time spent with me in conversation is chargeable time the calls are usually much more succinct and to the point than they might have been previously.

For me if I'm doing something on hourly terms - anything and I mean anything- related to client work whether it's a phone call, internet research, extensive emails is charged back to the client. If it's for the client it's chargeable and for a client to think otherwise might mean they don't understand the client/consultant or VA relationship and they will either need to be educated or possibly might not be the right client.

Genevieve, your approach and experience is very common and you're certainly not alone. While you may not feel comfortable bumping up your rate with your current clients definitely do it with new clients. When I was starting out I did this for every new client I brought on board I'd bump up my hourly rate by $5 and continued to do so until I had 2 people balk at the rate, within 6 months my rate was double what I started out with and with 10 months I had increased it by 50% again.

The other interesting experience I noticed was that as my rates went up I brought on more interesting projects and clients. I also began to feel more confident in saying "No" to clients that I knew I ultimately didn't want to work with.
 
Thanks Renee for your feedback! I find that at this point, my rate seems to be the limit people are willing to pay. I know I'm at the lower end of the rate scale but anytime I discuss rates, anything more doesn't seem to work with the current clients that I'm attracting. As time goes, I'm hoping to gain confidence enough and hopefully charge more and attract quality clients or else it will never work out. Are we allowed to mention $$ amounts on this board now?? It has been a roller coaster ride and total learning lesson each day!! Thanks to people like you and Lezly, we can keep looking at the future and know that everything is going to workout!
 

dognose

New Member
Renee, you always add so much to a conversation! I'm glad you found VAF!

Genevieve, I passed my six month mark in business for myself in August & I could write a book about what I've learned! Sounds like you could too!
 

bzarzosa

New Member
Lezly, the way you handled that client was brilliant! I've also found myself on the phone with a rambling client (in another business) trying to get them to get to the point. I had this one client where I dreaded when she'd call. She'd start off on track and before I could say, "How's it going?", she'd be off on a tangent.

When I told her that my time was billable and I expected to be paid, when she'd call I'd remind her of that and reluctantly, she'd cut to the chase. I eventually let her go. She was a true time vampire.
Barbara
 

jesshuerta

New Member
I spend alot of time meeting with my client to go over new stuff...sometimes up to 3-4 hours! This has happened several times. And I've never charged but maybe I should.
 

tecoleman13

New Member
I hadn't even thought about this time waster!! I think I am going to put a limit on calls, all calls over a certain amount of time say 15 minutes or better is billable. I don't want to charge for every single time they call me, seems like it would stifle communication.

This also brings up the email question, do you charge for emails or excessive emails maybe?
 

hazel

New Member
Hi ,
I have been beating myself up for this issue too ,thank you so much every minute you spend on a client is time spent working including phone calls.I am at star up stage and still shy about charges.I guess I will just have to put things right from this stage.
Haze
 

RobnT08

New Member
I charge for phone calls and emails. I don't charge for my own admin emails, like a summary of my work or hours.

However, I did not think about adding this to my contract. I am adding this to my list of "to do's" right now. Thank you for the suggestion.
 

ebrasslmt

New Member
This is awesome! Thanks for bringing this up. :)

I am still in the start-up stage as well, and I have been wracking my brain, trying to figure out how to charge for calls. I have a client right now that is technically outside of my VA business, as he is a mentor of mine for Wordpress, and actually inspired my ideal client vision. He is super striaghtforward, and a military man. I am working as an IC, and he refuses to charge me to get trained by him. Hopefully this doesn't become a problem down the road when I propose that he be my first client!

Either way,I think I'll start charging him hourly for my calls with him.
 

SuzannaK

New Member
You should definitely charge for calls and emails, they are part of the job just like when you are an employee. I have a call with a client every Monday to go over things and I charge him for it. (I found out recently that he charges almost 9 times more for a call with his clients than I charge him, so my charge is not much for him : - ) On my invoices, I list everything I did for the client and the cost, including the phone call and date and time that we had the call. For emails, I factor in the cost of the email into the cost of the task that it was for.
 

Mouthy

New Member
Chiming in late, here...wanted to say as soon as I start a call with a client or they call me, I start the timer. Period. They know it, they pay for it.

Most of the time these are planned, weekly or semi-regular calls—"meetings", if you will.
 

ChiVA

New Member
I do not charge for calls (or emails) between myself and a client... I will, however, charge for any international calls or setting up a conference call through a service (if I can't do it from my phone).
 
Yes I absolutely charge for time on calls as well as spend responding to emails. The one exception is in offering a free consultation for new prospective clients and in the get to know you/interview process. Once I've accepted a job, time spent getting instructions or learning how to do a task as a client wants it is billable just like you get paid for an in-office meeting or time when your boss is giving you instructions. I do not charge clients for my phone bill - THAT is a cost of doing business.
 
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