10 ways to get paid for additional work

Here are ten approaches to getting paid for additional work and that may be worth considering in the right circumstances.  I should stress that I can’t wave a magic wand and ensure your clients pay you for additional work that you haven’t discussed or billed in a professional way.  The key, invariably is good communication.

Whether you quote a fixed fee or simply give an estimate, you should be clear as to what work this covers and what work would be extra.

2. Restrict unlimited facilities

If you offer unlimited calls and support consider including a ‘fair use’ limit to avoid being taken for a ride by the odd client.

This wouldn’t allow you to suddenly spring any ‘extra’ charges on a client at the end of the year. It would though legitimize you pointing out that you feel they are abusing the facility.

One accountant I mentor had not spoken to a client about the almost daily free support calls required by a new in-house bookkeeper whom the accountant was effectively training for free. I encouraged him to nip this in the bud so that either the calls would stop or, as happened, the client agrees to pay an additional fee for the training her new bookkeeper requires.

3. Give yourself wriggle room

If you quote standard packaged fees on your website include some caveats to avoid being taken for a ride.  Accept though that this is not a get-out if you are the one to have made a mistake at the outset.

4. Be clear when the clock is ticking

It’s generally best to avoid creating the feeling that the fee clock starts ticking every time clients call you. You want them to keep in touch. You want to know what’s going on and what worries they have, and you don’t want them to think that every time they get in touch you’re going to try to sell them additional work and fees, so your fixed fee should probably anticipate an element of this.

If a client does want you to advise on something specific outside the scope of the recurring engagement, can you quote for this before starting the extra work?

5. Bill promptly

Keep your client informed of your progress and ensure you bill promptly – as soon as you’ve done the extra work and at least monthly if the work is protracted. Face your fear and bill it anyway, before it loses its value to the client. If you don’t bill it you’ll never get paid!

6. Keep track of delegated work 

If the additional work is done by staff or contractors, make sure they know your views and ensure they know to advise you if they think they are doping anything more than usual.

If you still use time sheets, even if only for management purposes and to justify fees paid to contract staff, keep track of the accruing costs. The sooner you can decide whether an additional fee may need to be considered, the better.

7. Delegate the billing

The staff who actually did the work are often the best people to draft the bill – after all, they know exactly what they did.

If your staff are responsible for billing the extras maybe they will be more commercial – after all the more they bill, the more money comes in to pay their salaries/fees.

8. Talk to your client

If you’ve underestimated a fee and want to increase your prospect of recovering more than the expected amount you must take the initiative.

Set out your justification and plan your approach to the client. Don’t just send the bill. You will only know what your client thinks if you speak to them – and you trust them to tell you the truth!

There is a tendency to simply send an invoice that references extra work and then await the dreaded phone call or letter. A better alternative is to first speak with the client to assess their reaction.

I have known accountants who sent out big fee notes for additional work and didn’t discuss them with the client. They were relieved to get the fees paid without complaint and assumed all was well. In the event the client had started looking for a new accountant and moved away quite soon after paying the unexpected extra fee note.

9. Event billing

This is the classic approach of billing by reference to specific pieces of additional work rather than waiting for the end of a quarter – or even the end of the month.

If it’s too much hassle to raise an invoice mid-month there is something wrong with your billing process. Smaller, more frequent bills don’t look so bad, unless they are so frequent that the client fears a bill each time they speak to you.

In general though each bill highlights the value of a specific extra service. This is much better than expecting the client to remember and appreciate the value of a whole succession of small and large jobs performed over an extended period.

10. Focus on the client’s perception of value

It is invariably harder to get paid more if things simply took longer than you expected. Clients don’t generally care how long the work takes.  Whenever you want to charge for additional work make clear the additional value this has delivered to the client – preferably from their perspective and not simply from yours. The more your client appreciates the additional value they are getting for the additional fee, the less they will resent it.

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Mark Lee

Mark is a speaker, mentor, facilitator, author, blogger and debunker. Mark Lee helps professionals who want to STAND OUT and be remembered, referred and recommended using his 7 fundamental principles to create a more powerful professional impact, online and face to face.
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