Photos and Words of Patrick Calder

I live in Washington, DC with 1 cat named Pixel, 6 cameras, 3 computers, 158 movies, 286 books, and 1 bowling pin. I own the Design Foundry and pretend to be a graphic designer by day.

Please keep in mind that this post is more than 3 years old. Opinions change. Tastes change. Everything changes. I may still agree with or like this, or I may not. But everything is kept up here for archival purposes.

Don’t Itemize / July 21, 2004

Rule #32689 – Do not itemize expenses for clients.
The exception, of course, is when a client demands it. But maybe twice in 10 years have I ever had clients ask for it.
You will have the urge to itemize. It seems like, if you itemize, you are able to justify the amount of money you are charging. But any time you are justifying anything, except that lipstick on your collar, it’s probably a terrible idea.
Itemizing is time-consuming and will cause trouble. Clients will start second guessing you and trying to “optimize” their bill by cutting what they feel are unnecessary expenses. (Of course, you shouldn’t be quoting unnecessary expenses anyway). One of my clients cut back on the proofing they did to save on the 50 cents per laser print or $5 a PDF. I made the mistake of rattling off a list of expenses to a client that they may not have considered. While I can understand logically why they were hurt at the thought that talking to them was a drain on my resources (read: time), I was surprised when they literally threw a fit.
And as a designer, I cannot survive by strictly billing hourly or per item. The value always has to come in somewhere. If your client doesn’t have the opportunity to nitpick a bill, it instills a much greater sense of value, as opposed to product.
So simply said… don’t do it!
The flip side, of course, is that clients actually seem to prefer the simpler, unitemized bill. They’re coming to me because they either can’t or don’t want to do the work. By spelling out every step you take, most clients feel overburdened. It much more impressive sounding as well, to give them a single number, and say “it includes EVERYTHING!”. And when it comes time to bill, its cut and dry — there’s just a single number that both sides already agreed upon.
Yeah… don’t itemize.

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