I'm working something for a client and I'm paid per hour. I created a tool to automate redundant tasks which basically lessens the time down to 10% (leaving 90% off to automation). I'm thinking I'm actually shooting myself in the foot because I'm taking all those money away by shortening the time.

My options are:
1. Don't mention it to the client and just file the time manually? I don't think this is fair.
2. Ask a raise for my rate per hour, this one I think is fairer since I actually built the tool myself and spent hours to develop it.

What do you guys think?


I actually thought of charging per project done but the problem is there are ad-hoc tasks for each project, like revisions or modifications so I'm not entirely sure how to deal with this. I find it more complicated if I do project base.

Also client doesn't have rights to what I build for myself, only the ones they explicitly want to be done by me; deliverables, assets, etc.

  • A decrease by 10% is not worth any fuss (unless you mean by 90%).
    – user4521
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 17:44
  • Yes I meant 90%. Sorry I'm not a native english speaker, feel free to edit my answer :)
    – JohnnyQ
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 23:10
  • I know you said 90%, but I still don't know if you reduced by 10% or 90%.
    – user4521
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 23:22
  • Sorry for the confusion. So, I reduced the work down to 10% taking 90% off on automation. I'll try rephrasing it.
    – JohnnyQ
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 23:28
  • This is a funny situation. You are indeed somewhat unfair towards your customer, but lowering your fee would be unfair towards you because you would earn less though you did nothing bad.
    – user4521
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 23:38

2 Answers 2


If I create a tool which makes it easier to complete my work, and complete it much faster than before, the client does not need to know about it. (Provided you aren't under a work-for-hire agreement).

How I do my job, the speed at which I do my job, the tools I use to complete my job, what hours I work and where those hours fall, are all my choice and the core of what freelancing often is. If none of these are true.... are you certain you aren't under a work-for-hire-agreement? (In which case, the client may own this new "tool".)

I'm 200% faster at completing tasks today than I was 5 years ago... but I should never make less money just because I can complete something at a faster pace. Never penalize yourself for being good at your job.

Where this gets tricky is if you are under an hourly payment agreement. If work took you 4 hours yesterday, but this new tool means it'll only take 30 minutes today, you're in a pickle - at least ethically.

You could keep your rates the same and just invoice for the 4 hours it would have taken you to complete without your new tool. Its ethically questionable, however, again, how you complete your work is your business. Developing something that the means you don't need 4 hours doesn't necessarily mean the client shouldn't be paying what 4 hours of time is worth.

You could raise your rates considerably and cut the reported hours down to 30 minutes - this may be problematic. If you start slashing your expected or anticipated work time, you may find that when there's a problem you don't have adequate time to deal with things and clients are harping at you because you've been so fast in the past.

Ideally, the balance would be somewhere in the middle. You raise rates to appropriately compensate you for your speed.. and you cut the necessary turnaround time down to allow the client to benefit from the new speed increase as well. Both you and the client get something this way. Client gets faster turnaround, you get more free time without any loss of income.

I tend to not work hourly in most cases due to this. I work on value-based pricing. I've quoted a price to my client. The client is happy with that price and will pay that price. How I complete my tasks is entirely my choice - whether it takes me 16 hours or just 1, the client doesn't care they will still pay the quoted price. If I come up with a huge time saver, the client still pays what they've agreed to pay... I merely may be working far less to deliver what is expected. Again, I refuse to penalize myself for being good at my job. It's my opinion that for most freelancers working for hourly pay is never a great position to be in. Fire your hourly rate if possible. It's holding you back.

I don't think this question could really definitively be answered without fully understanding any contract or agreement you have with your client.


This is tricky.

Don't ask for a raise, you are in a contract and building a tool doesn't dissolve that. You were hired to solve a problem, and that includes all the logistics of seeing the originally requested solution delivered.

I would bill as agreed and use the tool. Finish ahead of the anticipated date as you currently expect.

If the client asks how you finished so much faster than expected, then you can always explain how you found some areas where you were able to automate to reduce the time needed.

Note: Depending on the terms of your agreement, that tool "may" now be owned by your client. So you may want to review your agreement carefully.

Provided you own the tool and get to keep it, then you maybe able to use it on other projects.

If it the tool can't be used (for whatever reason), then you still maybe able to take what you learned to automate other processes which could be time consuming for other projects.

  • Now that you mentioned it, is it ethical to ask for a rate "change" if you are in contract? And based on our contract, no they can't it have this "tool" for themselves.
    – JohnnyQ
    Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 12:29
  • Typically for you to justify a rate change in contract, there has to be extenuating circumstances justifying that change. You contract may have rules for rate changes, most however do not. As far as excluding the tool, that is up to your contract with your current client and if the contract says it's their tool then it's up to them to let you keep it. Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 12:46
  • It makes sense in future contracts to explicitly exclude any tools developed for your own purpose of automating tasks or reducing work to complete a project except where such tools are an integral part of said project. For example build scripts are an integral part of a project. A tool which can builds an image tile set from sprites may not be. Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 12:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.