When a client asks about time


Watch any social media venue for more than a week and you’re bound to see a freelancer bemoaning the idoicy of a client asking for an accounting of time.

On the surface we think that the complaint is valid.

You’re a professional and should be trusted. Asking for an account of time is the client strongly implying that they don’t trust you and need to look over your shoulder.

No one likes feeling that they aren’t trusted.

I admit that my first response is exactly that, I’m annoyed and maybe a bit offended at the implication I can’t be trusted.

Make a list

While my first reaction might be expected I work to overcome that and act appropriately. When a client asks for an accounting of what I did during billable time I make a list.

I was on their time and it is totally reasonable for clients to ask about it. I should be keeping accurate records of my time and who does it harm to provide that to my clients.

What’s more telling about a client is how they react to the accounting of time. In almost every instance my clients just say thanks since my accounting of time is detailed and sane. Even better the trust is vastly increased and years later they simply trust me.

In a very few cases clients want to argue every point. When that comes up I grit my teeth through it and don’t work with them again. Somehow this client got through my normal intake process and shouldn’t have. I work to learn from it and adjust so I can make sure I don’t take similar bad clients again.

I don’t keep great records though

In all honesty if you don’t keep detailed records that’s you’re fault not your clients. Don’t get annoyed with them because you run your business poorly. You got caught doing something dumb and only children get angry and treat others poorly. Adult business people should admit it and learn from it.

If I’m looking back through my records tabs find some time that doesn’t have notes and I can’t match with code changes I tell the client and then remove it from the bill. Every time I’ve done that the client has been amazed at my honesty and guess what – trust is increased.


The real question is value though. If the client felt like you did 10X the work they expected for the money they spent they would be asking how much more time they could book with you.

If you don’t want to provide an accounting of time make sure that you provide a huge amount of value with every hour.

So the take away is account for your time and increase trust with your clients. Don’t whine like a child act like a professional and provide so much value that when a client sees your time they are blown away by how much value they got.

photo credit: Βethan via photopin cc

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