When you travel to a client location each week and spend 40 hours on-site, the client sees you there; they have no doubt that you put in your hours for the week. Therefore, they have no problem signing off and approving the hours you put on a weekly timesheet. They may have an issue with the quality of your work or whether you accomplished enough during that time, but that’s a different issue.
With some clients, if they can’t see you working, they’re going to be a little more skeptical about how many hours you’re actually working. When I say skeptical, I mean they’re going to scrutinize a little more, because they don’t know when you start and stop working each day or if you take unacceptably long breaks.
As a result, if you do a significant amount of work remotely for any client, you’re going to want to do a few extra things to avoid issues down the road:
1. Get an understanding of their expectations before beginning the engagement. Be clear on the hours/daily schedule they expect you to keep. Do they expect you to work and/or be available Monday through Friday from 8 to 5, or is there flexibility to put in your hours over the weekend? Etc.
2. Clearly communicate if you have any potential conflicts with an 8-5 schedule. A specific instance comes to mind in which a remote consultant needed to be available to pick up their child from school each day. Doing so took only 15 minutes, which seems like a reasonable enough “break” in the middle of the day. However, the time of pickup conflicted with a regularly scheduled conference call in which the manager required several consultants to participate. In this case, it created a problem with a “flexible” remote schedule.
3. Write a weekly status report. As mentioned above, oftentimes a client will be a bit more skeptical regarding hours worked when they’re worked off-site rather than at the hospital. One helpful solution for this issue is to accompany your weekly timesheet with a log accounting for daily work completed and tasks accomplished. This way, the client feels that they have a visual of what you’ve occupied your hours with throughout the week.
With all of the above, the common denominator is . . . communication! Communicate expectations upfront. Discuss any issues regarding expectations. Give them a status report to clearly communicate work accomplished. All of this should minimize any potential issues surrounding billing hours for work completed remotely.