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Dear Fire Ant & Worker Bee,
When you go to meetings with clients at their request, do you invoice your time?
Starting Out & Counting
Whoa. Face time with clients is always good—it’s how you build trust and discuss ways to make your working relationship more efficient. It consolidates your ties. If the people you’re meeting work in open-plan offices, it may even give you a chance to meet new users of your services within that company (and/or remind the accounts person over near the window that you’ve got a few invoices outstanding, could they check on that please).
So the answer is no—client meetings are an investment in marketing, quality control and continuing education, and as such not billable.
Speaking of non-billables, some translators we know get nervous and/or uptight whenever genuine freebies come up. They fail to realize how very rewarding flexibility can be in certain strategic situations. Just as it would be foolish to, say, produce a test piece for free for a lowballer, it is absurd to nickel-and-dime a good client (or even prospect) to death.
In fact, being generous with good clients (and being recognized as being generous) is usually win/win. It makes you one of the team, allows you to leverage the resulting goodwill in a variety of situations, and smoothes the way for these valued customers to deal quickly and efficiently with large invoices at other times.
Seth Godin wrote an excellent blogpost on this very issue recently.