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Charging for group conversations?

Normally, I do not charge for things like emails and phone calls. However, I am now working on a project that involves a large team of people - by "team" I mean a group of people that work together; they are not all working through oDesk. We collaborate through a group platform and people are frequently posting questions and asking for comments and feedback. For example, a designer might post a group of designs and ask for feedback on that or a developer might ask for suggestions on how a process should work. As team members are in different time zones and are freelancing so have their own schedules, this happens at intermittent times. I try to respond as soon as I can, so processes aren't held up, which means I am working with very small blocks of time. I have done this type of work before as an employee, where I would be paid for my time in the office, so payment wasn't an issue. However, as a freelancer all these tiny little bits of time are adding up to a lot of free work I am doing. I am not sure how to charge for this. It can take me less than 10 minutes to respond to something sometimes, so oDesk won't count it. (I have manual time enabled, so that's not a problem.) I also don't want to seem petty, like I'm nitpicking over a few dollars for reading and reviewing a message. This is an excellent client. I will charge if I actually have to do something that involves sitting down and taking a substantial amount of time to work on something, for example, if someone posted content for a page and I have to go throught the whole thing, edit it and make suggestions about layout and functionality. However, there are times when I am just making a short comment in response to something, where it takes me five minutes to work out my answer in my head. Not sure how to deal with this or if I should just let it go. I'm not in a position where I can raise my hourly rate to compensate.

I normally tell my clients before I start working on a project that I can give them an hour of consultation time free and if they exceed, I'd bill them for it. This helped me avoid this scenario and yes, I had a client who really wanted to meet like 3x a week so we simply run the timer as we Skype. IMHO, these clients don't really understand that freelancers don't work for them solely - that we have other clients too. But telling them so is like walking on eggshells. Just tell them straight that you run things on schedule and unless it's really super important, they can send you emails instead. Or, maybe - you can have like one big brainstorming session each week that's convenient for everyone.

The client isn't telling me I have to respond to everything right away. I'm used to working in a fast paced environment, dealing with different people and different deadlines, and that's how I'm most comfortable. I enjoy moving from task to task. It keeps me from getting bored. Maybe its a bad idea, money-wise though. I get paid for meetings, so that's not an issue.

The only solution I can think of is to keep track of all the time you spend, and once it adds up to one hour add manual time, if your client approves. [quote=Marcia Malory] I also don't want to seem petty, like I'm nitpicking over a few dollars for reading and reviewing a message.[/quote] I would have the same concern, especially since he's a great client. Have you figured out how much time you put in a week? Is it more than 1 hour? I think it really depends on much time you are working 5 minutes here and there, if it's no more than an hour I would let it go.

Pretty sure it's much more than an hour. I wouldn't care if it was a small amount.

I think depends on the size of the job too. I may let it go if i consistently log 20hour per week to that client, but would charge if i log only like a hour (and group conversations adds up to another hour or more ). Also are you expected to answer or no? How fast you need to answer? And you can log 10 minute to. May log 10/20 minute at the end of day if you answered 2 question, otherwise let it go.