Update June 12 10 AM: Many thanks to all who wrote in. I believe we have agreed upon a sum that I find acceptably lucrative and Fortinbras probably finds either flattering or intriguingly ambiguous. I’d like to keep him hooked, of course, but even if he never sees me again after this, he’s paying good money for a thrill and a fantasy, and I am going to do my best to give it to him.
Details to follow.
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I have a very tricky situation with a client, and I would very much appreciate anyone’s advice on how to handle it.
Fortinbras has stayed in contact with me via email. His letters are clear, concise, and charming–flirtatious, but the tone is appropriate.
He wants to have an extended appointment with me which involves a trip to an art gallery and a home-made dinner (he intends to do the cooking). Eight hours. Eight hours! He politely inquired about what I would charge for such an event.
GOOD QUESTION! Gosh, I wish the Department of Labor kept stats on wages for my secret job, but it doesn’t.
It is common in the business to reduce one’s usual hourly rate for extended appointments–say, if one was charging $200/hour for an hour, it might be $350 for two hours, etc. But, not everyone does that. And professionals in other industries sure as hell don’t do that. If I asked my old lawyer for a discounted rate because I was throwing so much work his way, he’d laugh in my face. When I edit manuscripts freelance I always charge by the page. My domme friend C. at the Studio probably charges more for additional hours–I can hear her now: “I need to be compensated for having to look at you for so long!”
I do not have a set policy. I give clients whose company I truly enjoy a break all the time. Others, I never do. The ability to make my own rules is one of the luxuries of being self-employed…but it also means that I am at the mercy of my own business sense. And when it comes to business, I am epically retarded.
Let’s pretend that my fee is $200/hour. Now, it does not seem fair to me to charge someone $200/hour to eat dinner with him. I’ll definitely still be working at dinner, because I’ll be in Professional Charming Company mode. I won’t be regular Margo. But to my mind, this labor is not comparable to locking a dude in a cage and covering him in ants for an hour. It’s just not.
On the other hand, it is reasonable to say that my fee is my fee, and the client is hiring me for my time, and he can spend that time as he chooses. We can watch The Price is Right together or I can wash his mouth out with soap and give him a swirly, whatever.
(And why am I even asking myself if it matters whether or not my fee is “fair?” This is my academic idiocy at work. “Is the price fair?” like I was John Rawls or Adam Smith or someone. FFS. PATHETIC!)
With this case with Fortinbras, though, I feel like I’m playing chess. He is attracted to me. He is going to try to have sex with me. I need to expect that and be prepared for it.
I like him a lot (which is extremely inconvenient), but I don’t know him, so it is imperative that I not trust him and keep my boundaries up. For all I know, this is a big sport to him, like a game. A conquest and seduction game, where he is thinking: How much can I get her to do? Can she be taken advantage of? He gets what he wants, and I never see him again–he’ll move on to the next one.
I think that I handle men well, but after the Mathematician I no longer have faith that I cannot be manipulated. That calculating asshole played me like a fiddle. Fortinbras is more intelligent that I am and he’s been running around Spaceship Earth more than twice as long as I have. I am outgunned and I forget that at my peril.
My priority needs to be that I get what I want out of this business relationship.
1) I want to maintain his respect for me–or, at minimum, make him feel that he can’t take advantage of me.
2) I want to keep him around as a client. He’s good business.
That means keeping him interested.
And finally, if I blow it or this 8-hour appointment goes wrong and ends up being a one-shot deal and I never see him again, I want to get the most out of it that I can. This is a huge business deal for me. Like, “earn enough money to pay off the last of your student debt” huge.
If I don’t handle this guy right and screw myself over, C will fucking break my hand with a hammer. “You let him do what, Red? You only charged him what? Do you know what you could have gotten? Do you think he didn’t know that? YOU CHUMP!!!”
Any advice? Ideas? You can leave them in comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Help me not be a chump. I can’t grade papers with a broken hand.