Who Should Pay For The Work You Throw Away?

In: design| entrepreneur| running a business

10 Nov 2009

Developers, web designers, and graphic artists are just some of the creative professionals out there who charge by the hour, billing clients for the time it takes to create a product, be it a logo or a website.

But this raises an important question – what exactly is the client paying for? The process of creating that product or the end product itself? And where does the responsibility lie for deciding how that time is best spent?

“I thought of a better way to do this.”
When it comes to coding, there are endless ways to accomplish a specific task. Anyone who has ever written more than one line of code has had the experience of spending hours working on a solution, only to wake up the next morning with a “better” answer to the problem. It’s not uncommon to throw away huge chunks of code when a new idea comes along.

Designers can experience the same thing. Hours can be spent on a design, only to decide to scrap it for an entirely different approach. These decisions are often subjective, driven only by an individual’s own desire to produce something they consider “better” than what they had previously done. Even if a problem is already solved, or a design already completed, the drive to improve on it can add countless hours to a project.

To bill or not to bill?
In these cases, should the client be responsible for paying for work that may be thrown away? Or should the consultant not bill for the work, chalking it up to learning and consider it a cost of doing business? After all, many times when the choice is made to discard work, it is simply a matter of opinion.

Now, as a consultant myself, I may be biased, but I consider any work done on a project to be justifiably billable. If it weren’t for that client, your time could have been spent working on something else. So that time can be charged for.

From there, it is at the consultant’s discretion to decide what to charge for. Ideally, this should be taken into account before making the decision whether to redo something. There have been several times when I decided to start something over and not bill the client. But these decisions were made on a case-by-case basis.

While you can bill for any and all time you have spent working on a project, it is your duty to respect the client’s budget and make sure it is being spent responsibly.

Paying For the Product AND the Process
Exploring different solutions and occasionally having to revisit and revise past work is part of the process of creation. No one churns out perfect work the first time, every time.

A client may sometimes feel that this can be a waste of money, but a consultant who just plows through a project, without reevaluating the best way to do things, will end up costing you much more in the long run.

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Mark Webster

About Mark Webster

One of the Co-Founders of SideTour, former TechStar (NYC Summer 2011), ex-NBA'er, and past TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon Winner.