Questioning the Billable Hour Part 1 – The Sketch Artist, a Parable About Pricing

by AVA
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Paris, France, 1948: A young woman strolls along a downtown street and notices a man busily sketching a bowl of fruit. She stops.

"Do you sketch portraits?" she asks the man. "Yes, I do," he replies, not looking up from the paper.

"Will you sketch a portrait of me, for me to take to my father? I am on my way to him now."

The artist looks up from his drawing. "Yes. Have a seat."

Three minutes later, the man presents a portrait to the young woman.

"It's very good," she says, not noting the signature: Picasso. "How much do I owe you?" He replies, "Three thousand francs."

"Three thousand!" she exclaims. "But it only took you three minutes!"

Looking into her eyes, the artist retorts, "No. It took me all of my life."

The final line in this story: "No, it took me all of my life," is the perfect direct response to any suggestion that the amount of time taken to perform a task is a good gauge of the value provided.

Although a few readers may conclude that the fame of the artist determinates his billing rate at 1,000 francs per minute, this is not the point.

Rather, a very good portrait drawn quickly can be worth a lot of money. If you question the price based on the short time spent, then you bought to consider that developing the talent and expertise that enable a very good portrait drawn quickly takes a much longer time than the time spent performing the task.

This shifts focus from time space performing to value provided in the result of the performance.

When services are performed that depend on talent and expertise, the time spending performing is only an arbitrary gauge of the value provided. What's worth it to you to have a talented expert fulfill a need prompt?



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