Increasing Non Billable Hours


this is a blog post for fellow freelancers!

A lot of people seem to be interested in increasing the number of billable hours. It is a logical step: spend less time on acquiring customers, more time on working for them and getting more money in the end.

So, am I writing a blog post with the intention of you getting less money for your time? I surely am not. I have spent some time on trying to figure out how to be a good freelancer. I find that one key thing to being successful on the market is to focus on growing instead of working a lot.

Some non billable hours can make you more valuable for clients. Learning new technologies, figuring out what clients need – and also figuring out if a client doesn’t really want you. As a freelancer  you will have to do more than just coding – and you’ll be able to achieve more than what is achievable by a bit of coding on your own.

If you have lingered around in the startup world, you might have come across people that try a scientific approach to founding companies. Get some data, deduct how you can create the biggest value for the highest number of people. You can use the very same approach as a freelancer. Making an offer to a customer? It will pay off to contact a few of your fellow freelancers to check that you name the right price – often people don’t charge enough for their work, which makes the customer not respect it and can even hinder you from creating value.

You can go further: ask your clients directly for feedback after a contract. There is only two ways this can end:

  1. You get positive feedback. You might even be able to extract a quote, put it on your website if they allow you to. Think about increasing your hourly rate 🙂
  2. You get “negative” feedback. You can derive how you can deliver a better service – if you hadn’t asked, you wouldn’t know but still made a bad impression. You’ve got nothing to loose and everything to gain.

Get the feedback loop rolling. It does cost time and it’s just one example of how non billable hours aren’t per se the most evil thing that can occur to your business.

Think of yourself as a startup for premium customers: focus on growth. You don’t need every single contract – you want good contracts. Take your time finding good customers and producing valuable work for them. Make sure they value you – instead of increasing your billable hours, increase your value and with it the hourly bill.

If you’re interested in some more advice about how to be a better freelancer, charge right (more!) and so on, I recommend watching this great talk:

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