When you travel to a client location each week and spend 40 hours a week on site, the client sees you there; they don’t have any question as to whether or not you put in 40 hours for the week. So they do not have any problems signing off and approving the 40 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 is 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 are actually working. When I say skeptical, I mean they are going to put in a little more scrutiny because they’re not going to know each day when you start and stop working for the day or if you take unacceptably long breaks during the day.
Because of this, if you do a significant amount of work for any client remotely, you are going to want to do a few extra things to avoid any issues down the road.
1. Get an understanding of their expectations before the engagement begins. Be clear on the hours/daily schedule they expect you to keep. Do they expect you to be working and/or available Monday through Friday from 8-5, or is there flexibility to put in your hours over the weekend, etc.
2. Communicate clearly if you have any potential conflicts with an 8-5 schedule. A specific instance comes to mind where a remote consultant needed to be available to pick up their child from school each day. Now doing so only took 15 minutes, which seems like a reasonable enough “break” in the middle of the day. However, the specific time of pick up, conflicted with a regular conference call that the manager required several consultants to participate in. In this case, it created a problem with a “flexible” remote schedule.
3. Write a weekly status report. As mentioned above, often times a client will be a bit more skeptical with hours worked when they are off site rather than at the hospital. One way, we have found that helps with this issue is to log daily work completed and tasks accomplished to accompany your weekly timesheet. This way, the client feels as though they have a visual of what you have filled your hours with throughout the week.
The common denominator with all of these… Communication! Communicate expectations up front. Discuss any issues with expectations. Give them a status report to clearly communicate work accomplished. All of this should minimize any potential issues around billing hours worked remotely.