“…hourly billing is inherently unethical. The client’s best interests are served by a quick resolution, but the consultant’s best interests are served by a lengthy encampment. That isn’t what I’d call a partnership.”

– Alan Weiss

Input vs. output

At its core, hourly billing is a skewed mechanism that can unintentionally foster discord rather than collaboration. It sets the stage for a conflict of interest—pitting the needs of the consultant against those of the client. This arrangement applauds lengthy engrossment and penalizes swift resolution, even though the client wants the latter.

As a consultant, if a task demands more hours from me, it fattens my paycheck—but creates a greater distance between our clients and the solution to their problems. This dissonance arises because we’re charging for our time—an input—rather than the impact—our output. Consequently, this system of charging time fosters an adversarial dynamic instead of a partnership built on shared objectives.

Articulate your value

For this reason, I propose a sensible alternative: track your time, but bill your value.

Remember, your client is more concerned about the problem you’re solving, the difference you’re making in their world—rather than the ticking clock that records your effort. They want to see transformation in an agreed-upon timeframe—and could not care less about the marathon of hours you’ve clocked.

And so our mandate as consultants is to clearly articulate our “value”—to construct a bridge between our client’s problems and the transformative potential of our solutions. In this sweet spot of shared understanding, we can bring clarity to our pricing structure—tying it to the tangible impact our solutions deliver.

It’s more than an invoice

Hourly billing immediately puts the focus on the wrong place. It prioritizes input over output, complicates every interaction, and—ultimately—minimizes the experience and expertise you bring to the table. But if you aspire to deliver value, bill according to the transformation you bring about.

If you bill your value and not your time—then the essence of a true consultation is the ability to generate significant change in moments, not months. This is the foundation of a relationship that is so much more than an invoice, it’s a partnership—and likely a long-lasting one.

It all starts with how you position yourself—so charge for your talent, not just your time.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand and Community at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2023 Stephen Boudreau.