Charging for telephone calls to providers

Tricky one, this. Do you charge for the time you spend on the phone to providers if you're on an hourly rate with a client? Due to the extended waiting times, I've been spending a long time waiting for providers to answer their phones. I'm normally quite happy to charge for this, as from my point of view, if I'm on the phone, it's taking me away from doing other work.

The problem is, the fees have gone much higher than they would normally be as a result of the wait times. It's a bit of a lottery when calling as I could call back later, but I could still end up waiting for what seems like forever. The upshot is a refusal from the client to pay the invoice, and have asked me to 'revisit' it.


  • You need to figure out how to carry on working while you're on hold :smile:

    I always have a medium- /long-term project available to work on when I'm on hold. Then I bill the hold time to my business development project, not the client. Or, if it's a client report task, there is always something else on that task I can be getting on with whilst I'm on hold and billing the time to them.

    I'd have gone crazy years ago if all I did while I was on hold was be on hold!

    Benjamin Fabi 
  • I agree with Ben, I used to have a headset so I could do something else whilst holding!

    I know it's probably not much help in this case but does the client have admin support that could do the calling for you, or is it usually something really techy only you can deal with? It is likely to be far more cost effective for them and you for them to deal with general info gathering in house rather than you do it at an hourly rate.

    If the queue times are longer than usual, you could always give them the option of you or them doing it before you call, at last that way they have a heads up and are less likely to ask you to 'revisit' your invoice, and is hopefully fair all round. Again, not helpful to you now, but for clients who I work on an hourly rate for, I tend to check with them first if they are happy for me to ring, and often they prefer to get it themselves where they can.

    I guess it boils down to the client's expectations of what the work is going to cost - did you give them an estimate before hand and is it massively over it? I don't think there's an easy answer unfortunately and it may mean an element of compromise on both sides - unless you can bill the provider of course!

  • I work for an accountancy firm and I they do charge for their time on the phone to 3rd parties. You are working for the client during this time (if they did it themselves it would cost more, unless they did have someone to do this for them as Caro mentioned).

    However, the manager's will review this time and reduce the fee if it's evident a lot of the fee was accumulated from being on the phone.

    So perhaps a compromise would be a cap on the length of time you would bill? Maybe 20 mins per phone call no matter how much longer it was?

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