The question is based on the following: should freelancing be considered somewhat like a full-time office job or not.

If yes, then you are free to charge clients, when, for example, you are preparing for the project, you are going to the loo, or when you are making a cup of espresso and etc.

If no, then it is expected that you only track time when you are working. And always stop when not.

I'll give a practical example:

Before now, I was only tracking time when I either write code or thinking over the architecture. Or whatever related to that. I did not track time when was getting ready for the work and so on.

Now I think that it is legit to basically track any time of your activity that is aimed at the work to be done, etc:

  • I will track time when setting up VirtualBox, opening PhotoShop there
  • I will track time when opening folders, running terminal, running GruntJS, text editors, documentation
  • I will track time when going away for 5-10 mins etc to have some rest or listen to music.

So basically will be tracking NOT ONLY the time when I directly do the job, but any activity that I do because of I am working.

So am, is my thing something legit or I am just ill and drunk?

2 Answers 2


Usually when an employer is employing an employee (on-site), they are usually obligated to maintain certain workplace standards (bathroom facilities, reasonable working hours, etc).

Since you are self-employed, you are both the employee and the employer at the same time. So you are responsible for the above*, not the client. The client is paying you for your time applied to their project**.

This means that you should be billing the client for only the time you spend working for them. Usually I ask myself: "would I still be doing this even if I was not working on this project?" For example, making coffee, rest time, and bathroom breaks are not work time but things I would be doing in any case. So I don't charge for them. This is within reason. I'm not going to discard a whole 10 minutes just because I got up to go to the bathroom for one. However, billing for the entire 10 minutes spent making coffee/resting/in the bathroom is dubious. Time spent on client-specific tasks like software installs and setup, or anything else that you are only doing because you have this client paying you, is billable.

Charging a higher rate compensates for these small amounts of time here and there. With the increased rate, you can pay yourself for the time spent in the bathroom and during lunch even though the client only paid for the time spent on their work.


* This responsibility may or may not be regulated, depending on where you live and what kind of entity you are operating under.

** This is assuming that your contract is a standard one (work x for pay y). If it includes bathroom breaks/whatever else then that's a different story!


There are two situations: A) Quoting for a job, B) Doing a job for which your are under a paid contract to do.

In A you do work at your own risk and at your own cost. Until you are under contract, you cannot bill any time.

In B you have to employ yourself as if a full set of Health and Safety and Environment rules were in place, whether you have formal rules or not. So if you bill by the day "per diem", this fee includes your normal break time and lunch hour, etc (e.g. on site 9 hours with one 0.5 hour break and one 1 hour break is billed as 'one day').

If you bill by the hour then you have to exclude the lunch hour (non-work time) but 'comfort breaks' are within the other hours. If you abuse the times for billing then your customer may cancel your contract.

  • "Health and Safety and Environment" <--- this assumes the OP is in the same location as you.
    – Xavier J
    Oct 22, 2014 at 18:41
  • @codenoire yep mate. Here in Antarctida it's quite a task to setup a healty and safe environment xD
    – fyndevogel
    Oct 23, 2014 at 0:18

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