Working as a remote freelance under hourly basis, we tend to spend hours in requirement discussion with our clients. I wonder whether those hours should be counted while billing the charges, or would it be unfair to count those hours?
If you are spending more than an hour on the requirements, then absolutely! Remember, you are the professional, and if you are giving away free advice, they aren't going to pay!
Walk into the situation with all the knowledge you know. Let the client know about some of your previous work, and let them know that if the discussions about their requirements take more than, say, 15 minutes, you will need to bill for the time it takes. When you are discussing requirements with Client A, you are taking time away from Client B, which means you still need compensation.
Making this requirement up front also separates those who just want your ideas, from those who want you to do it. I let them know at the start of the meeting, and so far, all my clients have understood. If it's less than 15 minutes (timer on my phone), then that part is free. But if I have to keep coming back to the client to get more information, or if important details are left out, then it gets billed in.
Because of how I charge for that, I will usually tell the client in email or over the phone during the initial contact to:
- write out any questions for me
- design mock-ups should be drawn up
- how they perceive the project should look/function.
These people are not web designers, but they can at least get a bulk of the work done on their time alone. There is no reason to walk blind into a meeting and have the client expect the world from you, especially if you prepare them ahead of time. A simple 1-minute conversation can save you hours of headaches later on.