Ask a.k.a: bonus or billable

One of my clients is a training company and I have a fantastic relationship with them. Their product is highly regarded, especially within big corporations. My contact there has repeatedly told me that I’m “welcome to take their core training.” I’d already taken the training at my last job and enjoyed it, so I thought a refresher would be nice. It will require some driving and gas, but I’ll have a free place to stay with a friend. Should I be billing for my time? – Will L.

Interesting question, Will. Since you say that your client said, “you’re welcome” to take the core training, it seems like they thought they were offering you a bonus of free training. In that case, you took the “freebie” and shouldn’t charge for travel.

On the other hand, if attending this training is to give you more background and immersion specifically for your client, then it is work and you have every right to charge them for your time, mileage and gas.

So, that’s not a clear answer, but this situation doesn’t seem clear, either.

If it’s not too late, you might try clarifying with the client. If it is too late and you think you should have charged, it’s a good lesson to remember. In the future, if you’re invited to attend a training session, try asking if he or she thinks it will enhance your work for the client. If the answer is yes, they should pay you.

Readers, what would you do? Does it feel “gray” or is an answer very clear to you? How would you have approached this? Please share in the comments. (To post a comment, you’ll have to click on the title of the post and then you’ll get a screen with just that post and a comment box.)

Do you have a question related to freelancing and/or writing? Ask a.k.a writer

2 thoughts on “Ask a.k.a: bonus or billable

  1. Eric, thank you so much for your perspective. It’s perfect for writers and I especially love the idea of including the training session on an invoice with “no charge.” Thanks again for your comment!

    Here’s a comment from a reader that was emailed to me. Since I don’t know if this was intended to be anonymous, I’m not including the reader’s name.

    “You’re right, it’s a gray area. But more frequently, access to optional in-house ‘trainings’ is considered a perk, not a payable, when you’re a freelancer or consultant. If it weren’t optional, but required, then you charge. If you were a regular employee, attendance would be mandatory, so you’d get paid and get the training. As a worker-for-hire, the rules change. So for me, the key questions are (1) Is it optional, left up to your discretion? and (2) Is it worth the investment of your time, a non-renewable resource? If the answers to these two questions is yes, give it a value then note it as a complementary service on your billing, take credit for your commitment, and enhance your relationship with your long-term client.”

  2. (This is from an attorney’s perspective, but I imagine the relationship isn’t too different for professional writers).

    When you are socializing with or attending a company-sponsored event as a guest of your client(s) where you will expand or grow your contacts with a client organization, etc. it is marketing yourself and probably bad form to bill that client for it. If you are marketing yourself well, the few hours you spend will be rewarded down the road with further assignments from that client or others you may meet at their function. If you do bill them for it, they may stop inviting you, resent you, nit-pick every itemized charge on your next invoice, or stop giving you assignments. On the other hand, you can remind them you attended their event by sending a thank you note, and/or putting the training session on your next invoice with a “no charge” to show them you value them as a client enough to spend your time learning about their company.

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