The Ruby Freelancers Show 015 – What to Charge For

by woody2shoes on May 19, 2012



  • Charge for almost everything
  • Sometimes the estimate – if you negotiate that
  • Coding
  • Meetings on the phone
  • Are you adding value?
  • Learning new technologies doesn’t count unless the client specified that technology
  • Try to only do one risky thing at a time
  • Do the risky stuff first
  • You can discount time if it wasn’t well spent
  • Tell your client that you discount time
  • Tell them about time you saved
  • Should we bill for time managing subcontractors?
  • If the task requires a team, then bill for the additional time managing people
  • If the task is delegated to a subcontractor when you would be able to do it all yourself, then don’t bill the client
  • Make sure the client understands the terms of hiring you and having subcontractors
  • Don’t violate client expectations
  • Do you bill for travel time?
  • Look for opportunities to make the client’s life better by coming out and meeting in person
  • Bill for travel time if the travel is obligatory
  • Working on the plane can be a way for billing for travel time
  • Do you bill for invoicing?
  • Don’t bill for the cost of doing business
  • Bill for email when it adds value
  • Bill proportionally for lunch meetings or social interactions
  • Assets vs Services (one-time vs recurring)
  • They should pay for materials
  • Recurring expenses (services) should be paid for by the client
  • Don’t pay for and expense hosting to the client – Make them sign up
  • Bill for research that adds value
  • Bill for time prototyping the app to get things right
  • Services mean
    • Domains
    • SSL Certificates
    • Monitoring
    • Error Reporting
    • Hosting
    • Code Repository Hosting
  • New Relic
  • Missed calls
  • Be understanding!
  • Varies by the relationship
  • Client smells
  • Compensating time when sick
  • Get enough sleep



Book Club

We are reading Get Clients Now by C. J. Hayden and will review it sometime in June.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Flaviu Simihaian May 22, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Great episode!

Had a question: Would you bill at different rates for meetings/phone calls/managing subcontractors than you do for development? If so, what are the relative rates for such services?

Thanks and keep up the good work.


Eric Davis June 1, 2012 at 9:14 am

Flaviu Simihaian:

I don’t but I know some places do (called activity rates). The way I see it, my customer is getting all of my knowledge each hour so my rate shouldn’t change. I’m also really upfront about my skills and limitations so they know I can produce better results per hour with Rails development than graphic design.

I don’t hire enough subcontractors to have much of an opinion about billing their time. Jeff, Evan, and Chuck have more experience there.


John McCaffrey June 7, 2012 at 8:30 am

Really good show!

I think its important to think about the long-term relationship and keep a reasonable balance of what you charge for. Eric mentioned how he might not charge for extra effort required to learn a new library/gem (that goes beyond what you considered reasonable).

In general I think its ok to value your time and charge if the client is ‘wasting’ it via a missed meeting, or similar delays that they cause, but to be reasonable about it, and give them a break sometimes.
It dawned on me once when I committed some code that made the app fail, and 15 people couldn’t complete their task. If we took the “I charge when you waste my time and prevent me from doing other work” as a two-way street, you could imagine getting an invoice for any time you release a bug or regression that blocks users. (downtime * number of users * hourly rate = OUCH!)


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