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Ask HN: When freelancing, how many hours work is a standard "day"?
12 points by grinnick 1267 days ago | hide | past | web | 13 comments | favorite
I've seen a lot of advice for freelance programmers which advocates quoting your rates in periods of a minimum of one day. That means that when someone asks your rate, you would say "$500 per day" rather than giving the equivalent hourly rate.

If I agree to do 10 days of programming work for a client at a particular daily rate, how many hours are expected of me per day? What happens if I do 6 hours of actual programming on Monday and then do 8 on Tuesday.. is that "2 days" or "1.75 eight hour days" or what?

What's the standard?




If you work on a day, you bill for a day. A major reason why you switch to day rates is, by construction, it will get you away from dealing with clients who think that the value in the engagement comes out of counting hours instead of looking at what you're delivering to them.

Bonus points: the exact same reason works well for charging weekly rates.


My main client is an IT organisation who are trying to entrench Scrum as their method for all projects they handle; regardless of whether the projects are done with "internal resources" or by hiring freelancers like me.

To help them out, I've started quoting per-sprint. I take an underlying hourly rate, multiply it by the working hours, then give them the big scary amount. I mention the underlying hours I'll work and as of my last contract I've added an overage rate (to discourage fixed-cost shennanigans from creeping into a timeboxed method).

So far, so good.

One other nice thing: since I quote per-sprint, it makes it natural to invoice them per-sprint. That's fortnightly. Huzzah for better cash flow!


Could I just clarify (I like the invoice per sprint idea)

Do you still contract to work say 40 hours per week (at say 100/hr or 8,000 per sprint). Or do you say I will complete the stories in the sprint ? I take it from the overage rate that you are prepared to say well, this is taking longer than I thought - so I am charging more.

But does that not mean you cannot complete the work in 20 hours then go look for some more clients?


Their billing process requires my invoices to show hours, so I still officially base it on that. 70 hours per sprint.


Sorry for the late follow up but ...

do you "get creative with the truth" on those 70 hours - or are you still just working for one client at a time, full time?

if you do get creative - how do you feel about that?


It says 70 hours, so I work those hours. If and when I can switch to a different unit of billing, I will. Per-hour basis is not without its flaws (the main one being that the last 2 hours are decreasingly productive).


There are three modes of contracting

1. Bums on seats - you are just a slightly easier to fire employee, and you are seen as an hourly cost.

2. Day rate. this is just 8 times the above.

3. Value rate - you own a chunk of work that you can really really link to delivering extra revenue (or saving lots and lots of time). This is usually quoted in a per project or per weekly deliverable.

There is always always some low hanging fruit in every organisation that can have 3. applied to it. Look around you for a day. Ask your bosses boss what his three biggest worries are. Why does the QA step take 2 weeks and hold up each release?


One strategy is I heard is, just make sure they balance out to something reasonable and the job gets done. A 2-hour day is fine, as long as its followed by a 10-hr one.

Another strategy is the 4-Hour Rule. 4 hours or more constitutes a day. If a partial day is worked, then add up the time and when it crosses 4 hours, charge them for an extra day.


I see a lot of comments quoting 6 hour days etc. I work for very large (fortune 100) clients onsite and even though I bill daily, I don't really have a lot of control over number of hours especially less than 8. Sure, there are days when I can leave early or there are days when I work 10-11 hours, but it really depends on your clients at the end of the day.

In general, for me, it has been 9-10 hours for a day of work if I bill daily. Of course, I ensure that my price accommodates that (I usually multiply my hourly rate by 10). So YMMV.


On a related note, what do moonlighting freelancers do? Can't really go for the daily rate method...but not having to fiddle with hourly invoices would be nice.


I get paid by day, but negotiated 6 hours as the definition of a full day. Plus it's flexible time, I can spread the hours around, 10 on one day, two on the next.

I bill every two weeks, but consider time in week blocks. So if there is a day that I have 3 hours and do not make it up on some other day, I'll just bill for a half day. I don't bill for overages of time, but that's because I like what I'm doing and the people I'm working with.


I don't bill by day or hour, just by project from a web development point of view. When I send an invoice out it's just for the actual work that's been done. This might be as simple as "updated the web site", "added a photo gallery feature", etc..

I feel like it's out of scope for the client to know exactly how many hours I worked or how many days I really worked on the project. I do keep detailed hourly logs on my side though.


When working freelance I bill by the hour, but for the purposes of creating time estimates for clients, I consider a workday as 6 hours.




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