Getting clients to pay for you to learn, and when not to charge them for it

When you are working with the changes that are constantly going on on the web, you have to keep updating yours skills. The best way  to do this is to take on jobs where you have to learn these new skills. One of my clients, who I do sub-contract work for, is doing that right now. He is a designer, and wants to know more WordPress. So, he has taken on a small job with one of his clients what will force him to learn how to design in WordPress. This will make him more valuable, in the long run, so, he is rather happy about this. He is not charging the client much for this job, since it is a non-profit, and they don’t have that much money,  but it will be enough for him to be paid to learn. I think this is a good use of both their time and money. In fact, I have a blog that I keep around just to do experiments like this on. It helps to keep me aware of what is going on out there.

I bring this up, because I had an incident with a sub-contractor who was learning on the job and did want to charge me for that. She admitted that she had had to teach herself to do some of the things I had asked for, but was good enough to at least say, oh, some of this time was spent on learning. I asked her to estimate how much time was spent on doing, and take out the learning time, as that was not what I was paying her for. She did.

The way I have learned to handle this, how much do you charge to learn, and how much to do, is I will stop the clock while I figure out a problem, be it in WordPress or TypePad, or some new control panel thing. Until I have figured it out, I don’t feel I can charge the client. Once I have figured it out, I go back on the clock and do the task. If it is something that I feel would have taken just as long if I had known from the get-go, I factor that in as well.

And that, to me, is a fair way to learn by doing.

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