I have had two very disconcerting experiences in business relationships with contractors lately. The first was a contractor who I have worked with for some five years and when he invoiced on three jobs, he had suddenly gone from his quoted rate of $25/hour (handyman) to what looked like $200/hour. Clearly this wasn’t acceptable and I opened a discussion, while reducing the invoices to my clients. He claimed that he had done so much “free” work for me over the years, that he never billed for, nor mentioned, and I was not grateful. Hmm, well since I had never asked for “free” work, nor was I aware of it this seemed very inappropriate and unprofessional and I sourced a new handyman of integrity and quality.
In the second instance, I had an agreement with an editor to edit a book in process. She had completed a couple of chapters and I had reviewed and requested a completion date. The date given was a month+ ago. The deadline had passed and I wasn’t getting replies to queries on completion. When I finally heard back, she said she couldn’t complete the project, other priorities had come up. When I requested a refund of my deposit, she said that over the last couple of years she had done so much “free” work for me that she had not billed for (and subsequently I was unaware of), that she felt it fair to keep that and also that I was ungrateful.
I looked hard at both of these and realized that the idea that anyone in business would “give away” their services and then anticipate the recipient to be unfailingly gracious while unaware and had not requested services given, seems wholly inappropriate. This creates a tremendous false expectation on the part of the service provider that somehow giving their service away when not requested will bind them to the recipient. Business is business, it is not about giving it away but about making clear agreements for fair compensation. When ever I have comped hours in design (very rare) I make it clear in my invoice what I am comping for and why. There is no expectation of extra gratitude from my client as the only reason to do this is to either rectify a challenge or build good will. This is a decision on my part with no expectation. When there is no charge, there is no perceived or real value. Charge fairly, with integrity, and don’t give yourself away.
CAVEAT EMPTOR: I won’t use either of these individuals again and can’t recommend them either! The false expectations created ill feelings and unprofessional results.