November 26, 2017

“What if we can’t assess the value?”

When folks are first exposed to my stump speech about ditching hourly billing, a common objection is that some projects can’t feasibly have a value attached to them.

Here’s a typical question based on this objection:

Does an hourly model work for certain projects where there is little time or ability for one or both parties to fairly assess value?

To me, this situation translates to the client saying:

“We don’t have time to figure out what outcome we want, so just start working and we’ll pay you by the hour.”

It’s like getting in a cab and saying “Just drive.”

I suppose there are edge cases when “just drive” is a reasonable request, but that’s not the kind of work I think most professionals want to engage in primarily.

It might be fine for shoring up cash flow in a famine phase of the feast/famine cycle, but it’s basically mercenary work and not the kind of thing that grows one’s business.

Imagine walking into a surgeon’s office and saying, “Just do some operations on me for a while and I’ll pay you by the hour!”

What kind of doctor would be willing to comply with a request like this? What sort of medical practice would this lead to? What type of clients would be attracted to a doctor like this?