Pricing work that is unfamiliar

I had an interesting conversation with a colleague yesterday about pricing. It is one of those niggling topics that I am betting all of us knowledge workers that sell our time deal with individually and we don’t talk about much.  The issue was how to price work when part of that time is “figuring out” how to do the work. As a new business, this is something I am constantly struggling with.  So many of the things I do I am doing for the first time. So if I am learning as I go.  When you learn as you go, things simply take longer.  But, it certainly makes no sense to charge more to do something because you are inexperienced with delivering that service.  By that calculation, the guru always charges less to do something than the newcomer.  A challenge right?

On the other hand, to some extent aren’t we always learning something new?  Isn’t every project a different set of objectives, a new challenge and something new to figure out? If I discount all learning then every job falls into that category?

The answer I have arrived at for myself is that learning that is regularly reusable should be discounted. If I am learning something for your project that I will be reusing regularly, you shouldn’t pay for me to learn. But, if what I am figuring out is unique (or unusual) to your project, that is part of my paid service.

This isn’t an issue that is unique to me so I would be very curious how others priced learning things for clients. Tell me.