There is a trap that so many business owners fall in to. It comes up when you have a past client that needs some advice. You happily answer some emails and give advice and continue to point them in the right direction.

You figure at some point they’ll pay you for…something. You just keep sinking time in to them.

I recently talked to two different freelancer’s and when their billable hours in the week came up they both talked about an old client that was just eating their time. They were spending 10 hours a week answering questions for a previous client and not getting paid for it.

The fact is that you have 168 hours in the week. Of those hours around 40 might be work hours that could be billed. The biggest asset you have is your ability to help customers make decisions.

Those old clients asking you questions are getting your most valuable asset for free. It’s time to start monetizing your advice.

How to monetize your advice

There are two main ways that people bill for their advice. First, and the one I love most, is a retainer.

Most retainers are set hours for a monthly rate. Some people allow hour rollover, but I don’t. You get your 5 hours and you use them or loose them. I do this because I’ve had a few clients in the past want to build up hours and then use all my time in a month for some big site refresh.

That’s not how I want to run things, but if you do then go for it. Still, set a cap on the amount of hours that you allow to be built up.

The second way to approach billing for your advice is hourly. In this instance I’ll figure out what the root question is for the client and then charge them for the time it takes to find the answer for them with a minimum charge of one hour.

It’s important to remember that the smaller the unit of time your customer is buying the more expensive it is. It’s like child care. If you’re doing monthly daycare in my area it’s about $25 per kid per day. If I’m paying one of the good older babysitters we pay around $15/hour.

You should be charging the same way. Prepaid retainer hours for me cost around $100 – $150 but hourly work for clients that just comes up is $200.

Value your time and be intentional

I get why you want to help you past clients. You want them to keep working with you. The problem is that if they just keep asking for free advice, you won’t be around anymore to help them out.

You need to be intentional about every hour you have in the day. Don’t let a bunch of it get spent on work that isn’t bringing in money for the business. Your advice is valuable and giving it away for free all the time is like throwing money out the window.

It’s time to start valuing the advice you can give to your clients and start charging for it.

Photo by: comedynose

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