Billable Hour Insanity
The Billable Hour
The looniest tune in business these days is the billable hour. This is particularly true in public relations.
Let's ponder the question.
Is work really a forced march? I think not.
Do we really think in half-hour or hour-long segments? If we do, we are certifiably insane.
In reality, billing by the hour is impossible. Think about it as you begin your next billable hour-
(Ah, ha, I caught you daydreaming for 30 second about Cameron Diaz-or was it Brad Pitt?) . For Christ's sake-babysitting is done by the hour. If you're the sort, you rent hookers by the hour. But most work we claim to do should never be lassoed and billed in hourly segments.
If that were the case, we ought to do it for our fighting men in uniform. "Sergeant Drexel, you have precisely three hours to capture Hill 33."
Hmmm, maybe that's not a bad idea: General Petraeus, you must win this silly Iraqi war by close of business today, exactly five hours from now.
Billing by the hour is an outdated concept. I don't know when your most creative ideas for clients come-but mine tend to be 4 a.m., when thoughts spring to life, screaming for attention.
It's annoying, but I don't just turn off my mind at that point. I grab a pencil. Let's say I had an idea in the first 10 minutes of a creative session with myself-and it's a star-studded, rhinestone covered idea-and will sell a millions of better mousetraps.
Do I bill for 10 minutes? Horse pucky. I'm nobody's fool. Billing by the hour also gets ad and PR firms in trouble. In recent years, both Ogilvy and have had people sent to jail for exaggerating hours on time sheets.
They were doing what I call fuel-injected billing. And can you believe, Ogilvy did it on a federal anti-drug program aimed at kiddies. They just couldn't "say no." But that's what we in our business need to do: Just say no to the billable hour.
My name is Mike Willard, and I am the Ukraine Observer.
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