Dear Danielle: My Billing Is Overwhelming Me!

Dear Danielle:

My billing is overwhelming me! Any suggestions? –PV

Well, a little more detail would have been helpful. ;)

You may as well ask me how to solve world hunger for as general as your question is, but a few thoughts do come to mind.

First thought is:  Hire someone to take care of that for you.

Administrative Consultants are business owners, after all, and every business owner should be handing off non-core, non revenue-generating duties to an employee or service provider.

So get help, sooner rather than later.

Of course, that’s the overly simplistic and obvious answer.

And even if you get help, you still need to be involved in the analysis of the process and problems, and setting things up, at least initially, with the person who takes that work on for you.

In the meantime, I have a few questions of my own.

First, I’d want to know what your business model is.

Because if you are running an administrative support business, I can’t imagine any easier kind of service to bill for than a once a month retainer fee.

However, if you are running a secretarial type service where you work primarily by task-based project, rather than a monthly retainer basis, and you bill by line-item services, you are necessarily going to have more complex billing issues and a greater administrative burden.

The other drawback to billing by line-item hours is that the faster you work, the less money you make, while none of the value and benefits the client receives from that work is reduced. That’s not fair nor profitable for you, is it? You didn’t go into business to give things away for free, right?

The other thing I’d want to know is, if you are working on retainer, how or what on earth are you billing for that is making things so complicated?

  • Do you have overly complex fee structures and/or charge different rates for different admin work?
  • Are you overly concerning yourself with reporting hours to clients?
  • Are you charging different clients different rates?
  • Are you making too many policy exceptions and creating counterproductive, unprofitable distraction for yourself in the process?

As an independent professional, and not an employee, it’s not necessary to itemize every single minute of effort and time you’ve expended on behalf of a client.

If you are doing that, you are making things a whole heck of a lot harder on yourself than need be.

It helps to remember that clients aren’t paying for line-item tasks and projects; the value they are paying for is the overall service of having a smart, competent, right-hand administrative professional to work alongside them in their business.

When that’s the case, there’s no need to bill or report all the minutiae.

It can be as easy as setting some basic parameters, creating a package based on that, and putting a single pricetag on the value of that support.

One of my main rules of profitability is keep things Simple, Simple, Simple.

Streamline. Get all your clients on the same page and bring everyone up to your current rates.

Set your policies and don’t be in the habit of making exceptions to them as that only increases your administration and reduces your profitability.

Beyond that, I really need more specific details to elaborate further.

Hope that helps a bit in the meantime.

3 Responses

  1. This is very interesting. I charge by the hour which I like for client flexibility but it makes it challenging not earning same money each week or month.

  2. Glad to hear it has provided some food for thought, Julia. 🙂 You always have the option of changing that circumstance in your business, too.

    Beyond rates and business planning and profitability, this falls under the topic of Standards as well.

    For example, you might decide to make it a standard in your business to only work with retained clients (because it makes your life easier, your billing simpler and easier, and your business easier to manage and more profitable).

    Being flexible for clients doesn’t have to be extended at the cost of your ease, profitability and financial interests in your business.

    Here’s a blog post with some other ideas you might find interesting: Flexibility for Flexibility’s Sake is No Flexibility at All

  3. Thank you very much for all you help.

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