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The Asshole Fee

Taking into account that not everyone you work with will be nice

by Caitlin McDonald  |  12958 views  |  9 comments  |        Rate this now! 

Yes, you read that right. The Asshole Fee. What, you might ask, is an Asshole Fee? I developed it after I had been consulting for awhile. I will start by saying that 99.9% of my clients are fabulous. But every once in awhile, I work on a large project in which I work with multiple people outside of my regular client pool. And some of these people are assholes.

It all began one day when I was working on a large project. I was responsible for writing multiple letters, and had received names of people for these letters over the telephone. We had a very very short time allotted to this project, so I wrote the names down and wrote my letters, and neither the person who told me the names nor I verified the spelling of the names. So, I sent the letters around for review to the fifty other people working on this project. And the Asshole sent back an email to me, cc'ing everyone else on the project, correcting the spellings of the names. He couldn't just quietly do it in track changes in his versions of the documents. Oh no. He had to ridicule me in front of a cast of dozens. My first reaction was that I was angry. But then, I simply opened my excel document in which I was tracking changes, and added an extra hour to my tally. I thought, "That was a very expensive email, Asshole, and I hope you're happy now." After that, I was able to get back to work, without my focus being interrupted by the Asshole-ness of his behavior.

Yes. I really do charge people for the privilege of being assholes. The fee is exactly what it sounds like.

I have used The Asshole Fee only one or two more times, but I love the fact that I have it. I have talked to other consultants since then, and I have discovered that some people actually have a line on their invoices that is something like: TAF: $100. They say nobody has ever questioned them about what TAF is.

I mentioned TAF to my uncle once at a family dinner. He own his own company too, and we were talking about clients who have difficult personalities. His wife laughed and told me, "You never want to say no to people or to garner bad will. You raise their fees until they either won't work with you anymore-- and what can they say except that you are too expensive? Or you raise them to the point that you don't mind working for them."

I have a friend who does freelance graphic design work. She had worked with a particular client and not enjoyed the experience, so when they contacted her again, she quoted them twice her original fees. And they still wanted to hire her. So, she worked with them, but she didn't mind nearly so much working at that rate of pay.

9 comments so far...

  • This is a great concept! I am sure you are not the first to implement such a fee. It does make you feel good and helps you to move on to better clients who don't hold that title. Some people just have no other way to release their own frustrations and use us hard working people as the scapegoat. Kudos!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by travelmom07 on 17th December 2007

  • i use the **** fee too...altho i call it the PITA fee (pain in the ass) or the hand-holding fee for those who always seem to need to be walked thru step by step.
    and yes, for clients i didnt enjoy working with or who were a PITA, i always raise my rate. then at least, i'm getting paid well while dealing with their issues.
    loved this article!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by melek on 18th October 2007

  • Oooh. I like it!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Lorna Doone Brewer on 4th October 2007

  • I wish there would have been a line for a TAF when I was a mortgage broker! I would have made a fortune. Good for you!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Heather C. on 13th September 2007

  • Brilliant! There will always be some people who are difficult for difficult's sake. You can't take it personally, but you can work with the fact that they exist. Great article. By the way, I call it the "potential pain-in-the-ass factor" when creating estimates. I also don't charge for hours I don't work. If they are a pain and waste time, they get charged. If not, I cut them some slack. In the end, the estimate is either paid in full or slightly under (and you know clients love that!)

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by L.T. on 11th September 2007

  • I think this is a great idea - the cost of doing business, you know, and there's a lot more "cost" to you and your business in dealing with the ultra-high-maintenance client. I think Mandy's reversal of the idea - the discount for clients that are especially pleasant to deal with - is great too. And even if your clients talk to one another and discover the difference in charges, that makes total sense if what you do is highly customized to each job. All's fair.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Florinda Pendley Vasquez on 10th September 2007

  • haha, I'm going to rewrite my invoice templates right now! I'm guilty of a little up-charge when clients are difficult, padding time a bit. And I've also over quoted and had them come back for more anyway. It certainly makes me feel better to know I'm getting paid what I feel I'm worth to deal with them. I also give a good-guy discount so what goes around, comes around.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Mandy Nelson - Dandysound on 10th September 2007

  • This is hysterical - and SOOOO smart. I'm not sure I see an application to my present work, but I'll certainly store this away for my future career!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 10th September 2007

  • That is an awesome idea. Great post!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Donna Schwartz Mills on 10th September 2007