Before the Planning (and initial) phase of a project, there is obviously going to be some time devoted to an analysis of the client's requirements. I know this might be hard to answer, but is this time typically billable?
Example: I'm dealing with a complex software project - a client has an Excel spreadsheet with a million rows and around 25 columns. The data populated in the cells is based on complex calculations between each of the columns (or fields).
The developer and PM (me) go into a conference call and spend an hour estimating the scope of work. I decide that the developer and myself (as I have a technical background) will require another 10-15 hours of work to figure out the mechanics of the Excel file, which will include providing documentation that contains the suggest approach for building the app (framework to be used, hosting environment, etc.)
The client feels that this "digging into the analysis" (the 10-15 hours) should not be billable as no real development work is being done (i.e. converting the Excel file into a web based app).
From your experience, how much time do you give away for "free" for estimating the actual work of a project?