How can I get paid for extra work?

A friend asked me recently what to do about clients adding more work to an existing contract. They’d already done a couple of changes for free but it was becoming a bit too much. They were worried that asking for more money would upset the relationship and could potentially ruin the contract. It’s an understandable concern – but there is a good way to handle these situations.

First of all, some extra requests you will need to do for free. That just falls under good customer service. Perhaps they sent you the wrong picture or noticed that the phone number was incorrect. You don’t want to leave them in the lurch.

For anything else, get into the routine to charge. It takes a small psychological trick on your part – assume that the client is expecting to pay you for the extra work. You might need to fake this at first but it will get easier in time, trust me.

A simple email will do the trick:

Dear John, yes, of course, I would be happy to carry out the additional changes. I estimate that it would take no longer than 2 hours. At our agreed rate that would come to £100. Please let me know whether you would like me to go ahead and I can get started straight away. Best regards, Susan.

How long would that take you to write? Perhaps 2 minutes? Easy! And you’ll find, as time goes on, it becomes easier and easier to write this kind of email, especially as they will bring good results. The next time the client asks for changes, they will probably ask for your estimate straight away.

If you’re interested, read on to see why this works:

  1. You’re leading with a positive, affirmative sentence. “Yes, of course, I would be happy…” You’re telling your customer that there are no problems here. Contrast that with something like: “I can do the changes but I would need to charge” which introduces an obstacle straight away.
  2. You launch straight into the estimate. There is no question about whether any¬†extra money is due. The moment you start asking questions you sow doubt in the client’s mind. No questions, no doubt.
  3. The words ‘our agreed rate’ reminds the client that you have an existing contract and that you’re not introducing anything new. It also emphasises that you have a business relationship.
  4. The email ends with a call to action (“Please let me know”). The call to action asks only for confirmation to go ahead. You’re not opening doors to debate whether or not you should charge for the extra work – that is a given.
  5. You finish with a positive “I can start straight away” to show that you would like the relationship to continue and are eager to help the client solve their problems.