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Billing For Client Visits
Posted 20 February 2004 - 12:15 PM
I rather much dislike business travel, jet lag, and -- for that matter -- big meetings. I'd just love to do this without going to the client's office, but they really want me there.
As with all my long-term clients, I bill this client at an hourly rate. Any advice on how I should bill for this? How do others of you bill for this?
Posted 20 February 2004 - 12:21 PM
Posted 20 February 2004 - 12:47 PM
Posted 20 February 2004 - 12:50 PM
Posted 20 February 2004 - 01:18 PM
It's a good news/bad news type of situation. So far what I've told them to do and which they've implemented has had a tremendous positive impact. Online marketing accounts for over 50% of the business now, up from about 5% before the consulting engagement began.
From the start I've been telling them that there were a couple of flaws in parts of their strategy that predate the engagement, and warning them that changes in the search engine environment could render these aspects of their strategy useless. These aspects of their strategy were also very expensive to build. My predictions have now come true, and I have recommended that a lot of work be redone, and that an expensive piece of custom-built software be scrapped. Their CTO has described my recommendation as "a return to the Dark Ages". (Perhaps because following it would cause a dramatic reduction in billable hours from the CTO and the IT person, who, like me are also consultants to the organization).
Pretty serious and controversial stuff -- so they'd like to see me in person.
Posted 20 February 2004 - 01:30 PM
Posted 20 February 2004 - 02:45 PM
It's bad news, and if the client is worth the trouble I'd definitely make the trip - since if their management is picking up this vibe strongly enough to spend all the money on this trip - there is probably more going on behind the scenes than you may realize, and your professional credibility is at stake.
It sounds like this is a serious client who is willing to invest in their business - I'd show up for sure. And maybe even go to lunch with the CTO to discuss things. Even if you don't bring him/her around, it may make it less likely for them to stab you in the back the minute you are not on site and they are.
I once footed the entire costs of a trip like this myself (actually, my company did) under this kind of circumstance - it saved a 9 million dollar deal, and only cost us 10k for the trip.
Posted 20 February 2004 - 03:24 PM
I don't think there's any serious chance I could lose the client. They've been really happy with what I've done for them -- so happy they let me buy, cheap, a 1% stake in the business. And they should be happy. They're making buckets of money based on my marketing programs for them (and a lot of good hard work from a lot more people than just me).
The issue is that what I'm telling them to do now is just so shocking. In '02 I told them I was concerned about the long-term viability of this aspect of their strategy. In '03 I increasingly pointed out the problems caused by it. This week I flat out said that it had become non-functional and should be abandoned.
Politics are definitely involved. But the CEO/founder/majority shareholder is an excellent businessman. He's taken the company from being a one-man show to being a 9 FT on-site staff plus a virtual team of 5 more specialists, of which I'm one. I send them a nice-sized invoice every month.
While I know the CTO is quite concerned by my recommendation, the one who is really threatened is the IT consultant. About a year ago he did a pretty outrageous stunt of creating a webpage about me -- optimized on my name -- to "prove" SEO was easy.
Also, remember, I'm never there. These folks have never seen me in RL -- except for the Marketing Director, who is a long-ago former co-worker.
Posted 23 February 2004 - 06:28 PM
Posted 23 February 2004 - 07:48 PM
That's what I'd do. I'd also take them out for dinner/lunch on me - after all they've been a good client.
Cline sounds like they want a body language shoot out between all parties involved, I would give them a price that I would be happy travelling for add on a bit more for inconvenience, and, if they accept it go.
Posted 24 February 2004 - 05:20 AM
Posted 24 February 2004 - 11:13 AM
Besides, the nature of our business relationship is almost part-time employee. My name is even on the org chart. Everyone in the organization who is not directly involved in providing the service the company provides, or as administrative support to those individuals, is an off-site consultant with the exception of the Marketing Director (who used to be an off-site consultant but has gone in-house with them because there is now so much work).
It took months to convince them to become a client, and since then their business has nearly tripled, with the bulk of the business increase coming from the online marketing programs I created or heavily influenced.
But, since I bill by the hour, the ROI on my services has been awfully good.
They can buy me dinner. Besides, I'm a cheap date. I'm vegetarian.
For me it's just that the travel thing was nothing I expected when I got into this business. Before I became an internet marketing consultant I was doing this work in house, and putting in outrageous hours. My wife -- a scientist/manager in biotech -- and I were always exhausted and wanted a more normal home life. So I'm now Mr. Mom, running the household and a consulting business from my home office. Business travel is not condusive to a normal homelife.
Posted 24 February 2004 - 11:29 AM
How old are your kids? Just a few years ago, I turned down all travel requests because it was just not feasible. Now, my kids are old enough where I'm comfortable leaving for a few days at a time and they are fine. I just put a cardboard cut-out of myself at the computer, and it's just like I'm home!
Once you can figure out childcare/driving arrangements, things usually work out okay. I tried a number of things through the last couple of years, and finally have things running fairly smoothly while I'm gone. I do usually end up making a bunch of school lunches for the entire week ahead of time though! (Those new Smuckers Uncrustables help!)
Also, my oldest now drives so that really has helped for the last couple of trips. In fact, now she always asks me when I'm going away because she knows she'll have more access to the car!
Still, I try not to travel too much. Ideally, I prefer not to travel more than once a quarter, but lately it's becoming more like a few days a month. I will definitely not do it any more than that.
If it's really impossible for you to do it due to your home situation, simply don't. Tell them it's not possible due to your current family situation. They'll live.
Posted 24 February 2004 - 11:45 AM
The household managed fine without me in the past. It will do so fine for a few days while I'm in the UK. It's jus that I got into this thinking I wouldn't need to travel for work. IMHO it's not a good use of my client's money to bring me in. I've already emailed them everything I'm likely to ever say in person. I think the trip has more to do with actually meeting me than it does with the need to address the strategy. Although, they do need a substantive revision to their strategy in order to continue their pace of growth.
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