This explains why the 'you act like an employee, just easier to fire' in-person contracting gigs usually only pay 25%-50% more than the same gig as a salaried employee, while my experience has been that off-site, work-when-you-can freelance work more often commands two to four times the hourly rate you'd expect as a salaried employee.
First, a full-time consultant has to spend time getting work, and he doesn't get to bill that. That's part of why the 2-4 ratio exists. I've heard that you can expect to spend an hour looking for work for every hour that you bill. Also, being a consultant is riskier, not only in the short-term financial sense, but also in the long run: if you're unsuccessful as a freelancer, you've got nothing to show other than the fact that no one wanted to hire you, and you're probably too burned-out/exhausted by searching for work to do any interesting side projects.
my experience with the 'hour here and there' consulting that I did a few years back was that the marketing time is more like 1 hour marketing to 30 hours work, or better. But then, I charged closer to 150% what I would expect salary (vs. 200-400%) It would have worked swimmingly if I didn't have a capital-intensive side-project. It was a pretty easy way to support myself while working two days a week or so, leaving lots of time for self-improvement.
I dono... maybe I would have gotten rejected more if I charged more, but I usually enjoy the technical stuff more than the marketing, so it makes sense to work two hours on technical work rather than one hour marketing and one hour technical work, if that is indeed the choice.
I have had the occasional client willing to pay me 4x what I would expect from a salaried gig, but I mostly lucked into those. Some clients offered me more than I was asking, so maybe I would have done OK insisting on the higher rates.
Install RescueTime and you might be surprised how much it changes your attitude. They have this nice productivity score that really makes you want to improve, just to see that little number go up and feel proud of yourself. It's almost like karma! Ooh better stop writing or that score will go down.
You just have to be careful that you tag things correctly and are honest about it. The default tags and categories are pretty good, but you have to decide for yourself if hacker news is really that productive ;)
I'm not sure that I buy the billable/not-billable distinction as a useful measurement of productivity and progress. I spend a lot of time reading up on new concepts and programming languages, and it gives me a lot of new ideas. It's probably not "billable", but it's work because it makes me better at my job.
I'd say that I average 45 hours of actual work per week, discounting the time I'm "at work" but goofing off, while including the time I spend working at home, even if that "work" is studying or discussing programming languages with other hackers to trade ideas.
The billable/non-billable distinction isn't the only one, nor always the best. But it is useful: being able to crank out a lot of them is immensely useful at crunch time. On the other hand, an organization entirely filled with people who primarily value billable hours could well be pathologically unimaginative.