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I've got a long term client that I'm currently on a 15hr a week arrangement with for a flat monthly rate with the general understanding of about 3hrs a day, with flexibility on managing that. Since it is a long term respected client, and a guaranteed rate, I'll sometimes go beyond the time to get certain things done, but am diligent about meeting the minimum otherwise. He manages what I work on daily using a bug tracking system for the project, assigning and checking things on completion, and there is daily interactions 90% of the time, unless he is away for business.

Each month I invoice him for the month and the flat fee, and have for 5 months now. This month after invoicing him he asked for a detailed itemization on where the time was spent and the dates of completion for each item, so he can "know where his money is going". It was a slower month due to him being away on business some.

My question is, what responsibility is it for me to provide a post-month itemization if we are not on a task or project based arrangement and it has never been my responsibility to manage or provide this? Basically, it is pretty tedious to have to figure this out post-month, when all I track is the 3 hrs a day gets met. Should the time invoice be enough for a client?

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3 Answers 3

I tell customers who ask for detailed itemization of time usage that "this is not a service I provide". If pressed, I note that tracking that level of detail for him would create administrative overhead for you, and that you would either have to tack that time on to his bill, or adjust your rates to compensate. Since your goal is to provide value to your clients, not paperwork, you've opted instead to not offer either option and instead just decline to provide the service.

Of course, there is a risk that the client will prefer to find someone else who is willing to meet his administrative demands, but if they are happy with your services this is pretty unlikely.

Once I've told customers I don't provide that kind of itemization, they have backed off right away, and it was a non-issue.

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I agree! Be firm, and let him know that trust is a major issue, especially if he's going away lots –  Canadian Luke Feb 17 at 2:13

In my experience this is a huge flag. For one reason or another trust has broken down with the client, which is indicative by them asking for an itemized report.

One way to salvage the relationship is to simply ask them what is the motivation behind the request for an itemized report? Ask them if they feel like they're getting less than what they paid for? If they feel like they have ask them how they came to these conclusions.

The other option that I've seen people do is to simply provide the commit log for the time frame in question.

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Good point, although it isn't the only reason a customer might ask. Sometimes managers like to create busy work for themselves by "reviewing" lots of paperwork. They think this is management. –  Avonelle Lovhaug Feb 17 at 4:37

My question is, what responsibility is it for me to provide a post-month itemization if we are not on a task or project based arrangement and it has never been my responsibility to manage or provide this? Basically, it is pretty tedious to have to figure this out post-month, when all I track is the 3 hrs a day gets met. Should the time invoice be enough for a client?

I have the same client. however, I use online desktop tracking system where I set tasks and the app takes my desktop snapshots. So the client can visually see that I spent 1h on XY task and he can even see what I did.

Setting things like this, I no longer write extensive reports.

I'd say that a client has right to ask that. I don't say it's fair cause guess what would happen if he asks a local company to monitor every minute of their work. But without looking at it from the dark side, this can yield good results. You will create a productive yourself and your client will have 10 times more trust in you being able to visualise your work. Remember how we all trust more to painter (which work we can see and monitor) or hairdresser then to a translator who disappears and comes back with 10 translated pages?! Your eyes are your best proof.

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Interesting perspective, I think task tracker software such as timer tools could be useful, but anything that relies on taking snapshots of my desktop is a little bit too intrusive in my opinion. –  Miro Feb 18 at 21:04
    
There is a chrome tool which works together with assembla time tracking.you simply create tasks in assembla project and tool registers time. This is without desktop snapshots –  Peter MV Feb 18 at 21:20

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