Counting hours is the worst. Architects do it. Attorneys do it. Accountants do it. It requires a tremendous amount of effort and places the client and consultant in a precarious position wondering about how many hours have been spent.
Fixed fees are better, but they are typically based on completion of work and billing is based on a percent of completion. Retainers are often given, but if the project is delayed or just doesn’t happen, the retainer doesn’t matter much. I’ve had to give back retainers because the project didn’t get off of the ground. That’s not fun.
Instead, we have created a new format. I call it the “concierge architect.” Based on a defined scope and understanding the value of a long term contract, we provide that scope and more, within reason, for a pre-determined monthly retainer and a minimum one year contract. This provides cash flow for both parties, ours in and theirs out, removes any question of hours spent and gives the client an opportunity to get more than just the projects discussed. We are available “on call” in a way and our clients love it.