Between us, I love write-offs. Not hard costs, but time. Write-offs are the only tangible, monetary proof that we’ve over-delivered for our clients. I can usually tell that we’ve over-delivered by the ideas we generated, favors we gave, extra design work we’ve done, or bonus features we’ve developed, but I can never assign a value until we do billing and I have to write off a dollar amount.
Let’s face it; if you’re not over-delivering, you’ll be out of business soon. There are very few companies or skills that can’t easily be replicated. Some may argue that write-offs will put you out of business faster, but I disagree because they result in client happiness…when put to good use.
Sure, we all value our time. Some are sticklers who believe that every word they utter is valuable. There are many good arguments and tips for getting paid for your time. I’m not one of those people. I’ve written about the time sheet business model before, and I don’t like it. Time sheets are accurate within maybe 25%, plus or minus. And within that, most people multi-task, get interrupted, take a bathroom break, or let their focus stray. To me, a billable hour is one in which the phone is set to ‘do-not-disturb’, I’ve logged off AIM and G-chat, minimized Outlook, closed my virtual cube door, and I’m focused squarely on creating ideas and strategies to help my client win. Better yet, that billable hour is spent talking face-to-face with a client or their customers.
I also believe in favors. Favors are a very good thing. They show that you care and you’re invested in your client’s goals. They are a genuine thing that humans do for other humans they care about. If you’re not doing favors for your client, ask yourself how much you truly care about them.
Having written all that, moderation is good for just about anything. You can’t lose talented people to profit-sucking projects or too many non-billable flings. For the sake of the business and the people who depend on the income it provides, people must apply their trade to paying clients. The faster you hit milestones, the faster invoices go out the door. I’m not saying you should compromise the viability of the business, but writing off some time should be smiled-upon when it leads to loyal, happy clients. I’ve seen the opposite and it never works.