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I took on a graphic design job recently and I quoted the client for 36 hours of work. About half way through the project the client got stalled out because of upper management's indecision and because of that, many little changes started being made to the project. I am now up to almost 80 hours on the project and foresee another 10 before it's finished.

This is my first job with the client and I would like to continue receiving projects from them and hopefully procure a long-term relationship with them.

Should I consider this an investment and just charge them for the quoted work? Or should I re-quote them and if so, how should I go about doing that? Should I re-quote them the full amount?

What is the general practice for a situation like this?

Thanks!

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2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

This time: Pekka's answer is good.

Next time: Pay attention to how many hours you're putting in. As you approach the estimate mark, you send a note to the client, saying "Hey, I quoted you for 36 hours, which was to cover services X, Y, Z, A, and B. We're only done X and part of Y, and I'm up to 30 hours already. I'm happy to continue working with you through the completion of the project, but I don't want to sock you with a surprise bill. I can work up a new quote for you based on the progress we've made so far, or I can just bill you at $X hourly rate. How would you like to proceed?"

This shows the client:

  • you're paying attention to the client's bottom line as well as your own
  • you're willing to be flexible about payment BUT you're also not going to let yourself get railroaded
  • you're considerate enough to give them wiggle room before the monetary deadline, so they have room to renegotiate on their own side

If the client asks "how did we end up with so many hours?" then you give them the breakdown as Pekka outlined.

In this case, it's easier to get permission than forgiveness.

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I need to keep better track of my hours from now on, especially with this client. By the time I sat down to add them all up, I was already 20 hours over. Sending a notice and a breakdown of hours before the estimate mark is a great idea. It shows them that I'm putting them first as a client and respecting their budget while also looking out for myself as a designer. Thanks for the helpful advice! –  Beth Feb 12 '11 at 2:35
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I think there are also project management apps that keep track of your time for you. This way both you and your client know exactly how much time has been spent on the project and everyone is on the same page at all times. –  Calvin Huang Feb 12 '11 at 2:47
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For keeping track of hours, I find a plain old grid timesheet on paper works really well. For actual billing, I really like iBiz from iggsoftware.com (Mac-only) which has a built-in time tracker option for the menu bar. Inexpensive, thorough, fairly easy to learn. –  Lauren Ipsum Feb 12 '11 at 15:13
    
Keeping track of time is sadly always a very boring activity, whatever tool you use. It certainly helps if you keep notes, as a diary or comments in commit messages for different versions of your files in a version control. Otherwise, it is very hard, for me at least, to recall the different activities I did at the end of the week, and even more several weeks later. –  Eric Bréchemier Feb 12 '11 at 18:12
    
ApolloHQ is a project manager that has timekeeping capabilities. For billing, there are a bunch of apps that help you generate virtual timesheets: timely / toggl / tsheets / freshbooks / tickspot / harvest / cashboard / paymo.biz / intervals / rescuetime / hourdoc / ace project / 5pm / goplan / clientspot / slimtimer / punchytime / functionfox / 14dayz / time-assistant. Also there are these desktop apps: yatimer / vertabase timer / timetrek / premember / klok / easytimetracking.net / timepost2. –  Calvin Huang Feb 15 '11 at 5:07

Or should I re-quote them and if so, how should I go about doing that?

If it's squarely their fault, I would absolutely re-quote them. Everything else would create a bad precedent for how additional time is dealt with in the jobs to come.

The more detailed documentation you can provide along with the re-quote, the better. A work log like this (pulling this out of my arse)

  • Additional task exceeding the agreed scope: Changed overall colour palette to green; changed agreed photograph against one of a cute puppy; additional time to rebuild and re-render print version (requested by Matt February 2nd) 1,5 hours on February 3rd

  • Additional task exceeding the agreed scope: Enlarged title font after pre-production on special request; changed font to Zurich Sans; additional re-build, re-render and re-send (requested by Peter February 4th) 3,5 hours on February 6th

will make it crystal clear how the additional time came about. (Adjust the wording, of course, but you see what I mean.)

As to whether you want to re-quote the full amount or only a part... If they are clearly at fault for the additional time, it's perfectly within your rights to charge the full amount. If there are ambiguities (like you miscalculated out of inexperience, or delivered late at some stage of the project, etc.) you can always bill a reduced amount - just make sure they see the friendly gesture, e.g. by calculating the full amount on the bill, and then deducting what you want to give them.

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That makes sense to me. I like the idea of billing a reduced amount this time around as a friendly gesture. I feel like I would have to do as Laurem Ipsum suggested and send a notice before the estimate mark, giving them a chance to renegotiate, before charging full price for all the extra hours. Now that I have a better idea of what this client is like to work with, it will be much easier to make an accurate quote in the future and hopefully avoid this situation altogether. Thanks for the advice! –  Beth Feb 12 '11 at 2:14
    
I would say that re-quoting might not be an option depending on the wording of the contract (e.g. fixed price for a task). It is usually a good idea to detail how (as in the process and as in how much will it cost) changes to the agreed scope of work (included as an annex to the contract) will be taken into account. If you bill by the hour on the other side, it is your responsibility to send a weekly/monthly report of time spent but charging overtime would be perfectly justified. –  Eric Bréchemier Feb 12 '11 at 18:17

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