How to Charge Clients for Travel Expenses
Amazing, is it not? The amount of people who travel, both on land and in the air, to meet with clients and yet, they end up paying for those expenses out of pocket. While there are instances where that might be warranted, more times than not, individuals definitely are due a reimbursement for the fees that they obtained while providing a service to someone else.
Still, sometimes it can feel a bit awkward to approach the topic of conversation once the trips have already been made. That’s why it’s a good idea to know just what you should do when it comes to charging clients for travel expenses beforehand. Speaking of that, we have a few things that we would encourage you to consider below:
Create your own travel expenses policy. If you are someone who has to either drive or fly to other cities on a fairly frequent basis to meet with clients or customers, it really is a good idea to have an official travel policy in place that itemizes your expectations. For instance, do you expect to fly first or business class? What kind of hotel do you prefer to stay in? Do you want a rental car available at the airport? Are you expecting some kind of per diem? As you’re talking with the client about making the trip, email them your policy (a few weeks in advance) and let them know that you are open to discussing any revisions in order to satisfy you both.
Get clear on reimbursements. Many clients have absolutely no problem with paying for your travel expenses; however, they would prefer to receive receipts and be reimbursed on the back end. If it’s a client that you know and trust and you’ve been doing business with for quite some time now, that is doable. The challenge that a lot of people tend to run into is that once a person has what they need from you, they are not always as proactive about getting you what you need. In other words, you could be waiting months to get your money back from your weeklong hotel stay or bargains on Southwest that you found flying back and forth. Therefore, it’s a good idea to get in writing that you will be reimbursed and to also set a time frame of when the monies can be expected. In most instances, 30 days is more than fair (just make sure that they sign the document stating so and that you invoice them immediately upon your return).
Spend wisely. Of course, once you do have a travel expense budget that has been approved by your client, it’s a good idea to remember that the operative word is “budget”. This means that five-star resorts and luxury rental cars are not things that you should feel comfortable with getting simply because you’re not the one who is going to have to pay for it. When thinking about what the right things are to get, think about words like “modest” and “professional”. It also doesn’t hurt to apply the Golden Rule of doing unto others what you would want done to you. No one wants to see a $2,000 bill from a five-week business trip if it can be avoided at all costs. Make sure to be respectful of this fact by spending wisely.