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I'm new to freelancing, and I have doubts on how to correctly bill in time increments.

While researching about how to measure the time spent on each client, I read that some people do time-dependent billing on 15-minute increments.

Nowadays, I split the work on 25-minute increments to do tasks. Can I use this increment for the purpose of billing on a time-dependent basis like the 15 minutes increments are used to?

NOTE: I split work by a 25-minute increment, since I use the pomodoro technique.

  • should migrate to productivity.SE – Ali Jun 6 '13 at 16:53
  • @Ali Are you sure? I thought I asked a concise question about freelancing, related to billing, on the last line. – laconbass Jun 6 '13 at 17:12
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    @laconbass Hmm... I'm not sure. If the crux of your question is "can I bill in 25-minutes increments?", all that stuff about Pomodoro seems largely parenthetical. It's only a mildly interesting footnote to the question. – Robert Cartaino Jun 6 '13 at 21:40
  • @RobertCartaino maybe you are right and I extended too much the background situation rather than going directly to the question. I'm going to edit it, thanks for the feedback. – laconbass Jun 6 '13 at 23:34
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    Aren't you mixing your own time arrangement and billable time? They are essentially different. As a comment, 25-minute pomodoro intervals nicely fit into 30-minute billable chunks. – bytebuster Jun 7 '13 at 2:29
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A few things to note.

Billing at 25 min is difficult because it is not easily divisible by 60.

I bill in 30 min increments for remote work and 1 hour increments for on-site work. I have a 15 min "keep in touch" period which is unbillable if used to alert me to problems and seek advice on whether tech support is needed or not. In short if you are my customer you can call me up with a problem and I will spend up to 15 min figuring out if you need to buy services from me and if so what. Then we can talk. On-site I offer last 15 min free but the increment is hourly (and for longer trips there is a minimum billable). The idea is that if I am there for up to 1:15 I bill for an hour. If I am there for 2:05, I bill for 2 hours. If I am there for 2:30 I bill for three hours. This is in part due to travel time, and customers are aware of this up front. I also offer to spend a little more time answering questions so there isn't a lot of time they pay for that they aren't using (it's a nice way to upsell too where appropriate).

you want your billing to be easy for customers to understand. If you are dividing your time into 25 min increments, you should still consider billing on the half hour and tracking those separately from how you bill.

For example:

  • 1 25 min time is 1/2 hr
  • 2 is 1 hour
  • 3 is billed at 1.5 hrs
  • 4 is billed at 1.5 hrs
  • 5 is 2 hrs
  • 6 is exactly 2.5 hrs.

So you can cycle groups of 6 this way. Moreover it is symmetric. After 1, you owe your customer 5 min, after 2, 10 min, after 3 15 min. After 4, you pay back 15 min, and return on the other side back to 0. So if you do a lot of short tasks you make a little extra, and if you do a lot of longer tasks, you pay it back. This can be a nice incentive to use more of your services instead of a little bit here and a little bit there.

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    Nice idea! Just for note, this technique includes a 5 mins break on each time increment (the indivisible time unit called pomodoro). Your proposal makes sense for me, those "pay back" can be the compensation for the breaks that I was worrying about. – laconbass Jun 7 '13 at 17:58
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It doesn't matter with what times you work. If you want, you can use 7.4 minute increments, or pi^3. However, it isn't that useful always.

25 Isn't a divisor of 60, which makes it slightly harder to work with a per-hour price. However, when your price-per-hour is dividable by 12 (=60/ggd(60,25)), that won't be an enormous problem.

Yes, it is possible, but looks weird, so it's better to avoid it or don't put it that way on the invoice.

Things you could do:

  • Take 10 minutes break per hour and bill per hour or half hour.

  • Use a 1:5 ratio for contact-with-client:working-on-project, so that you can bill 25 minutes as 30 minutes.

  • If that technique is flexible enough, just increase the time to 30 minutes - or decrease it to 15 or 20.

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