I am a designer with a previous background in software development, and I'm currently working on projects for two clients as well as side projects. Both of the client projects are hourly.
One of the projects has a variable number of hours per week. Some weeks, I will be close to full-time on this project and working evenings on the other one. Other weeks, I will have just a few hours per week of work on this project.
Both the client and I have a background in development, and we are using a Scrum-like process - where we hold regular stand-up meetings (although we're not co-located) and answer the standard 3 questions:
- "What did you work on yesterday?"
- "What are you working on today?", and
- "Are you blocked on anything?".
I'm wondering about what to do about charging while I'm blocked and unable to do the next task.
(For those unfamiliar with Scrum, imagine that you need direction from a client about what to do next. You ask them a question and need to wait until you have heard back from them before you can resume work on the project. This could take a few minutes, an hour, a day, or longer.)
What I usually do while blocked on a task
In a regular job with relatively the same number of work hours every week, I would continue to use the time to study technical skills. (Some of my co-workers would have used this time for idle conversations or surfing the web.) But now that I work independently, I also work on side projects to help the future of my business.
Since my other client's project needs to be done at certain (and different) times of the day, I could use this other time to study or to work on my side projects.
- I believe it's unethical to charge clients while I work on side projects. The value I generate from side projects would ultimately go to me rather than them, although my side projects were instrumental in helping me land one of these two clients.
- Study time is more of a gray area, especially if it's for skills that I can use in their project. But I'm not sure how to handle this when the project's hours per week are variable.
Is there an established best practice among freelancers for whether or not to charge for this blocked time?