Charging for Experience, Not Time

Here’s one of my favourites stories. I bore everyone with it when there’s a query over an invoice.

One of the most important machines in a factory breaks down one day and production grinds to a halt. Nobody knows why, so they call an engineer out.

The engineer arrives, looks at the machine and hits it with a hammer. The machine springs back into life and the factory is saved. He drops his bill in at the accounts department and leaves as a hero.

The next day he gets a phonecall from the owner of the company.

“I’ve just had this invoice passed to me. I think £1000.00 is a bit steep for just coming and hitting something.”

“OK,” says the engineer, “I’ll have a look and send you a new bill.”

The next day the factory receives an amended invoice:

“1. Hitting machine with hammer:……….£1.00

2. Knowing exactly where to hit it:……….£999.00″.

Why do I like this? Well, it’s mirrored in our work all the time. I was reminded of the story just now, which is why I wrote this post. I needed to change two links in the footer of a WordPress site and re-jig things so the extra two words didn’t fall off the end of a line. The work was easy…but it was only easy because I knew how to do it. That tweak required expertise in WordPress content management, templating, CSS, HTML and mobile responsiveness. If I hadn’t known about any of those things, the job would have taken me a week as I would have had to have gone away and learnt them all.

The hours / days / lifetime spent learning something allows you to achieve specialist tasks quickly and (seemingly) effortlessly. But you (and your clients) need to remember all of the work that led up the the task being completed rather than just the task itself.

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