September 29, 2021

“Can you pretend to take longer?”

A fellow list member and past student wrote in with a headslappingly awesome example of why hourly billing is nuts (shared with permission, name withheld by request):

I recently had a prospect who agreed to move forward on a quote (at a fixed rate with 100% payment due up front - my standard terms). We had the initial prospecting call, kick-off call and were about to start the project.

I then received an email from the person who was in charge of setting up the billing side of things and they stated that:

So, I had three choices: A) accept, B) counteroffer, or C) walk. I chose B.

The final counter offer was to agree to their terms, but at a higher flat rate (+10%) to compensate for the tax implications, potentially involving my CPA, etc. This was agreed to by my main contact on the team to “make up for the downsides.”

I then broke the flat rate fee into an hourly rate. Now, I could have broken this out in a million ways as logically, this is just digital semantics. For example:

I chose something I thought was “conceptually” reasonable, around $150/hr.

Here’s the kicker: They came back and said the hourly rate was too high and they were going to do the project internally.

Their response was fascinating. Why would a flat rate be totally fine, yet as soon as it’s broken into a “randomly determined” hourly rate, it is too high?

This, yet again, proves that “hourly billing is nuts” :-)