In my world, almost everything is for sale.

As a consultant, every single piece of knowledge and intuition that I have is a valuable commodity, available to those that are willing to pay. I sell finished products, process and great big, obtuse ideas.

What I don’t sell is my time. And neither should you.

If you’re a consultant or a freelancer, time is your most VALUABLE commodity. You will spend all of your time trying to figure out how to not spend your time because while you might be able to recoup ad costs and marketing budget, you will never recoup time.

So I don’t sell time, and neither should you. But what does that look like.

For starters, I don’t work (on most projects and services) on an hourly billable amount. There’s a few things that are wrong with billing hourly, especially if you’re a designer, developer or consultant.

First, hourly billing punishes efficient work. If you were going to pay me to build a website and I built THAT website and I happened to do it faster than expected, then why should I receive LESS money for doing a good job, faster.

Hourly billing leads to dragging your feet and it does not encourage innovation. As such, I bill on a project basis. I bill on an outcome basis.

Now, if a client is making it difficult for me to do my job, for any reason, then there is the potential for that amount to rise but at the core, you’re not paying for my time. You’re paying for my experience. You’re paying for the results. As far as you’re concerned, I can Wizard of Oz this behind the curtain and as long as the lion, the tin man, and the scarecrow are all fixed when we’re done, then we’re golden.

Second, and I think more serious, hourly billings sets the stage for poor relationships between client and consultant. The client will ALWAYS want the consultant to work faster because they’re financially rewarded if they do so. So they’ll ask if you can work faster…and faster…and faster. And the consultant will get their back up over being pushed and the quality and efficiency of their work will actually decline, meaning this can often mean MORE expense for the client, and the cycle continues.

There is a great marketer named Joel Klettke who has a GREAT piece on setting rates that discusses how you can avoid the trap of hourly billing (personally I LOVE version 6).

Look, the point is this.

You can’t get time back. So if you’re going to sell it, you’d better get a pretty huge return and understand that you can’t use that return to buy more time.

And our time’s up.

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