Billing a Customer: Programming job


Say a client wants to add something to their extranet webapp which I'm renting out to them. For any customization, I charge an hourly fee. Do I just give them how many hours I worked?

New feature X added to intranet webapp

Billed time = Total 3 hours and 5 min
Or do I need to break it down and list:
New feature X added to intranet webapp:

1) Changed database schema - 30 min
2) Optimized 5gb databse file - 5 min
3) Edited PHP files - 2.5 hours

Billed time = Total 3 hours and 5 min

How does everyone else do this type of billing?


asked Oct 29 '10 at 14:07
Level1 Coder
113 points

3 Answers


I used to do this type of work and I suggest itemizing what you did, but only at a high level. These are usually the points that you discussed with them in detail. That is, you didn't say I am going to change the database schema, but you would have said something like I will implement feature x.

So your bill should be more like:

New feature X added to intranet webapp

Billed time = Total 3 hours and 5 min

It is likely your customer is only interested in what they requested. Only go into detail if they ask you for it. For most customers they are either too large to care about details or don't understand the details, especially when it comes to the invoice.

If it's a small business and you have regular contact it's more likely you can go over these points in discussions either before or after implementation..

answered Oct 29 '10 at 14:15
1,257 points
  • Itemize it. But make sure to charge them a little bit extra for pizza money! When i itemized i would always round up to the nearest half hour. So SQL Updates, 30 minutes (when it only took 5), IIS backup 30 minutes when it only took 7 mins. This is standard for my clients. They bill their clients the same way when i was freelancing (my clients were mainly professionals, lawyers, accountants, fin planners) Make sure to value your time, the actual time you spend phsyically and the time you spend learning, planning, and caring about a job. – Frank 13 years ago
  • Franky, should be important to note that rounding up to the half hour should only be done with the higher level tasks. Otherwise you could decompose a 1 hour task into 6 ten minute tasks, which each round up to 30 mins, giving you 3 hours charged. It's important to also not burn your bridges :) – Adam 13 years ago
  • Great point, I usually used to do low level tasks as a bucket. And make the client understand the billing process so they dont ask for small 2 minute changes. Always support and consulting was free – Frank 13 years ago


5 min? You carrying about this short things? Get only in hourly rate like 2,3 or 4 hours not 2,5 or 2 minutes.

answered Oct 29 '10 at 20:15
188 points
  • I agree. I would round that down. I normally bill in 1/4 hour increments. – Martin 13 years ago
  • Same here. Rounded up to 15 minutes. – Net Tecture 13 years ago


It's an hourly rate.
In your case I'd put 4 hours.

answered Oct 29 '10 at 18:20
Vergil Penkov
141 points
  • really? Charge 4 hours for 3.1 hours of time? That sounds like a bad policy. – Tim J 13 years ago
  • Remind me never to send work your way. If you charge an hour for 5 minutes of work, I'll question your efficiency and accuse you of wasting 2 hours for the purpose of increasing your billings. – Elie 13 years ago
  • At least it adds some time to do some extended testing. Everyone knows there are better ways to do some procedures and usually there's time only for the quick solutions. Plus, I usually work for corporate clients so it isn't a big deal for them. – Vergil Penkov 13 years ago
  • Vergil, the ethics of this are extremely questionable. If you need to do more testing, then do it and bill accordingly. But if you only actually worked for 3:05, then you have not done that extended testing, and therefore are over-billing. Also, even if it "isn't a big deal" for the customer, that still doesn't change the ethical correctness of what you're doing. – Elie 13 years ago
  • By not being a big deal, I actually meant any of my customers would prefer paying for an extra hour just "to make sure" they get exactly what they want, bug-free. While the ethics might be questionable, did you see any mentioning of "testing" in the first post? Because you'll usually see a "quality assurance" person involved in your contract, and testing is a part of his work. So his activities should be mentioned as well. – Vergil Penkov 13 years ago
  • Interesting to see all the negative comments. Although this looks terrible in writing, I think this is quite common practice. – Xiaohouzi79 13 years ago

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