Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Knowing your worth

I have to admit, Dear Reader, that a recent episode has left me scratching my head. I'm not sure whether I should be morally outraged or justifiably pleased with a job done well.

I'll let you be the judge.

I received an international enquiry from company seeking to use my services in the straightforward matter of service of some legal documents on a woman here in town.

No problems! I quoted my standard rates and this was agreeable to the Client.

He emailed the said documents to me and, although the woman had vacated the given address, I was able to serve her at her new abode the day after receipt.


In a surprising display of magnanimity, I didn't even charge any extra for tracing the new address as it was rather easily obtained at hardly any extra effort.

I notified the Client and was told that payment would be made the following working day.

Great! It's not a large sum. Hell, it's hardly even qualifies as a small sum, but it all counts, eh?

Then I thought I'd check out my client's website and read with indignation interest his charges to his clients for service to my part of the world.

Depending on whether the documents were to be served urgently, or not, he charged his client 18 or 36 times what I'd charged him!

Yes, that's right. My $70-odd job became either $1350 or $2700.

The rationale behind this is that, presumably, getting things done internationally is less than straighforward - which it isn't - and therefore higher charges are applied. Actually, the little blurb describing this part of the world made it sound like we never get anything done and it's only the promise of a bonus for job completed promptly that gets us out of bed. Seriously, a touch patronising and even offensive, but I might have been still in shock at his prices at that stage.

So, now to my question. Given his charging structure, in the future:

  1. Should I charge him something more 'appropriate' and in line with his own charges - say $500 (remembering that I'd charge locals $70 for the same service)?
  2. Should I charge him the $70 and be content for having completed another job satisfactorily, knowing what he charges his clients is none of my concern?
  3. Should I have a separate chargeout rate for international clients, more than I'd normally charge domestic clients but not too outrageous either? 
I believe that many who deal with international clients may favour '3' as there is always the risk of not being paid when the work is completed and, obviously, chances of recouping monies owed slim. In my own personal experience, I've had more issues (percentage-wise) with receiving payment from international clients - particularly from those considered neighbours.

This is probably going to be weighing on my mind a while.


  1. Option 3 mate, option 3. It seems like you've thought of this already.
    Awesome blog btw!

  2. Option 3 is definitely one I have decided to take in regards to international work from now on.

    Glad someone's enjoying reading my blog!

  3. We use the billing model in #2 and our rates are the same whether the client is an individual or an off-shore agency.

    The logic on that is fairly simple: for every high-rolling foreign agency that might have a client willing to pay him enough that he can pay 5 to 10 times your normal rate, there are a few dozen other PIs with clients of modest means.

    Waiting around for that "one big score" while a dozen other potential jobs go elsewhere is bad economics especially as your referral network grows at a much slower rate.

  4. That's a valid point.

    For the most part, I have charged international clients pretty much the same as I would charge any local client. It has come back to bite me on the arse a few times though, I'd have to admit.