You can base your price on the inputs, outputs, or outcomes (aka value). Declaring anything to be “the most ethical” way of doing things is automatically controversial, but hear me out:
The more time you spend doing the work, the more you can charge._
- this is how you get micro-managing clients from hell who got “burned” by paying for a whole lot of nothing to someone else and will be damned before they let that happen again._
The more deliverables you create, the more you can charge.
– that is how you get 60-page reports that tell the client very little of the consequence or meetings that could have been an email.
And yes, there are exceptions, and there is professional ethics. There are also all sorts of regulations, rules, and relationships aimed at stopping full-blown conflicts of interest. But that doesn’t change the fact that both concepts are based on misaligned incentives, which makes them dubious until proven otherwise.
However, when you charge on value, the only way you get paid is for the client to get their problem solved, not simply verifiably worked on. And if you accidentally create even more value, you can get paid more for something that really benefits the client.
I understand that pricing on value is not always practical or possible, and it’s simply not worth the effort for low-yield jobs. But when it is possible, it’s probably the best way to charge.