Proper Payment Structure For a One Time Consultation... How to charge

I will be doing my first development consult shortly. Well, first paid consultation. I’m not really sure how to go about charging, billing/invoicing, and ensuring that I get paid. It’s most likely going to be a one time consult. Though there is a chance they hire me for the project.

I will be charging $75 an hour for the consult. I’ve notified the client and has informally agreed that we should do the consult. The meeting will either be face to face, or over the phone. We have not discussed this yet. He is waiting for me to get back to him. I am trying to figure out how to bill & charge before I contact him.

My questions are…

  • Should I put the terms of the consultation in writing? In a agreement or contract…or is this overkill? Do you guys do this? An initial consultation fee agreement, maybe?? Maybe something that talks about my hourly rate & that they will be required to pay.
  • Would there be any way to enforce or prove that we met, for the timeframe that we did. Consult may possibly be over the phone.

If no contract/agreement then…

  • Should I bill a mandatory hour in advance? And then after we surpass that hour invoice them later on?
  • Should I just do the consultation and invoice afterward and just hope the money is paid. And allow the trade off to be, if they don’t pay, don’t work with them in the future?

Any feedback that you can provide me would be very helpful!

Yes, you should definitely put it in writing. But you don’t need to be formal about it. Just send him a letter or an email, setting out what you expect to do and how much you will charge. Then - most important - ask him to write back to say that he agrees. The whole thing can be competely informal. And it won’t antagonise the client in any way. On the contrary, you are showing that you are business-like.

You asked: “Would there be any way to enforce or prove that we met, for the timeframe that we did.” Don’t worry about it. Providing your charges are reasonable and you don’t try to take advantage of the client, he is highly unlikely to dispute the time you spent on the work. If he does, that would indicate a breakdown in trust, in which case you might decide that it’s better to write the client off.

Also, I wouldn’t invoice in advance. Do the work to the best of your ability, and submit an invoice. If you don’t get paid within a reasonable period (say, 30 days), send him a reminder. If that doesn’t work, there are further steps you can take. But you are a long way from having to worry about that just now.

Finally, a couple of articles that might help:

Freelance contracts: A cautionary tale
Freelance contracts: Covering the essentials