Should I Charge for Travel Time and Expenses?

As a professional organizer, you probably spent a fair bit of time figuring out how much to charge for your services, whether to bill by the hour or the project, and whether or not to offer free consultations. An equally important decision is whether to bill for the time you spend travelling to your clients’ location and any expenses you occur doing so.

Professional organizer driving to an organizing appointment

There are many different ways to approach this, but as a business owner, there’s one thing you must always keep in mind:

Time is money!

If you have a fixed service area, it’s probably easiest to build your travel time and costs into your regular rates, but if you’re willing to drive greater distances, you need to make sure you’re still making a reasonable income once you factor in the amount of time you spend on the road, as well as the cost of gas and other expenses related to owning and maintaining your car.

You may wish to charge a set amount per mile (or kilometre) and add it to your invoice. You will, of course, need to include this in your agreement with the client. The problem I have with this method is that it is too precise, and it can get complicated if you take a wrong turn or need to run an errand on your way to the client’s location.

When I was operating my organizing business, I developed a system that ensured I was fairly compensated, without worrying about taking the shortest possible route to my clients’ locations so they wouldn’t think I was gouging them. Here’s how it worked:

  • Anyone within 45 km (approx. 30 miles) fell within my local service area and did not pay a travel fee. I made a list of the cities and towns that fell within those boundaries.
  • I also listed the places that fell within 50-74 km (approx. 30-45 miles) and 75-100 km (approx. 45-65 miles) and decided on a set travel charge for each of those areas. If the client was farther away than that, I would refer to job to another organizer who was closer.
  • I had a higher travel charge for downtown Toronto, which technically fell within 100 km, to cover the inevitable high parking costs and time I’d spend in heavy traffic.

I included all of this information along with my rates on the printed sheet I kept on hand while speaking on the phone with clients, so I could quickly, easily, and confidently tell them how much their travel charge would be.

This system worked well for me, but it’s not the only option. If you have a different approach, please tell us about it!

Comments

  1. I tried doing a per kilometre rate but in all honesty, it was too much paperwork!
    Since most of my clients are in rural/small town areas (longer distances-less traffic), I’ve found that the flat rate fee works best for me. It also allows my clients to easily work out my fee. The clients that live further away are booking me for more hours per appointment because I charge $X per trip.

  2. I also find that mileage is unpredictable, because very often in the outlying areas beyond me, a 30 mile trip might take one across mountains or through 30 mph zones or stick one behind a tractor driving more slowly than I could walk.

    For the cities within about a thirty mile radius, I charge no fee. Beyond that, I charge a per-hour travel charge–in one direction. (The way I see it, the clients are paying to get me to come to them; clients don’t care if I actually get home…or move in a block away.) I always GoogleMap the directions, anyway, so if a client doubted the distance, I’d have it printed out, but there’s never been a problem.

    In the olden days, I was willing to drive up to 90 minutes to a client; then it was 75 minutes, then 60. Nowadays, I very rarely am willing to drive more than an hour to a client. There’s about a 90 minute span between the center of my service radius and that of my colleagues in other cities, so this works out quite well.


  3. Twitter:
    Jimmy, you should check with your local tax office to find out the going rate in your area. You’ll want to be sure that you’re adequately compensated for wear and tear on your vehicle, gas, and other expenses such as car insurance, in addition to your time. Speaking of insurance, make sure that you have business coverage, especially if you’re using your car to drive clients to errands.
    Janet Barclay recently posted..Basic Guide to Networking on TwitterMy Profile

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