I sell a B2B software that I developed which is customized for each client. I offer a maintenance agreement with the software that covers technical support, updates, etc. Most of my clients take the technical support but I have a couple who did not. So in theory, I would bill them hourly for anything they have me do.
One particularly cost conscious client has me submimt estimates that their CFO must approve before they have me do any little thing. Right now I am working on an upgrade for them which has a flat fee.
So a few times, their in-house support staff has called me with questions. Sometimes they are reporting bugs in my programming. But sometimes the conversation turns to where I am giving them training and helping them troubleshoot things other than my software on their system. Today I spent over an hour on the phone with them and 75% of that time was dedicated to fixing their mistakes/questions.
Now I am in a quandary. Do I bill for this time? I don't want to get the help desk people in trouble for using my services without getting it cleared in advance. But I also don't feel it's fair to all my clients who happily spring for the maintenance agreement that I'm giving free support to a company that won't.
When people email me for stuff I always say "that will be $x" if it comes with a price. But when I am on the phone with them, I felt too awkward to say "By the way, I will bill for this time."
When I have new clients I do say in my agreement that I'll bill for this type of thing but I am aware that the people picking the phone up and calling me are not necessarily in communication with the people signing my agreement.
Do any of you face this type of thing? Do you assume they just assume you'll bill for your time? Is it normal business to say "by the way I'm billing for this" or is that bad business etiquette?