In my freelancing; I am currently working on a project where I need to upload files so i'm sitting here waiting for the files to upload so I can continue to work on the project.

As a freelancer; is it ethical to charge the client for idleness (the waiting game)?

I'm a web developer and always ensure the customer is satisfied with the service; I like to be 100% honest at all times however; I charge on an hourly basis and no contract is set on this current project but it is verbal. What should I do in this situation?

By the way - this is my first question on this SE so please let me know if i've missed something and i'll make changes. Many thanks! :)

  • 2
    I've heard of contractors charging for the time while sitting there and waiting for programs to install.
    – dfundako
    Commented Mar 5, 2017 at 22:43
  • If the waiting time is significant, you could do other parts of the job, e.g. writing documentation
    – Simon
    Commented Mar 5, 2017 at 22:46
  • Yes. I certainly am Commented Mar 5, 2017 at 23:16
  • Oops .. I just re-read the question and saw where you said you did charge by the hour.
    – Peter M
    Commented Mar 5, 2017 at 23:16
  • 1
    First thing I would be doing is getting a signed contract, that spells out all the details of the project, including many of the delays. like wait time for downloads. Without that contract, you will spend more time hashing the details of the project with the client, as the client will always want to change things and you will need to have that time be chargable by already having specified the details in the contract. Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 17:58

1 Answer 1


I do contract work and also charge by the hour. What I charge for is my time to complete the job given the tools that I have, and if that includes waiting on a file to up load then so be it, it gets absorbed into the billing.

I also bill on a per hour basis and don't bill on shorter time units, (although YMMV for your field of work) and the client already has an estimate of how long the job will take - in which I also include time for contingencies such as slow network connections etc.

However with that said I do try and fill my time productively with other tasks needed by the client for a job - unlike those slacker employees I know who happily spend a 1/2 hour at the water cooler discussing their weekend activities.

  • when working in a group, time spent at the water cooler and/or at another persons' desk is time well spent for improving moral, motivation, exchange of ideas, discussion of how to approach a problem, etc etc. I.E. it is not wasted Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 17:53
  • 2
    @user3629249 So does that mean when I am working at home in my office that I can also bill for the time I spend playing with my cat because its also improves my moral, motivation and exchange of ideas?
    – Peter M
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 19:53
  • 'water cooler' and 'at another persons' desk' implies a company, not a single person at home. Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 1:51
  • @user3629249 But your rationalization of "wasted" time was that it improved overall productivity. That does not just happen in companies.
    – Peter M
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 2:24

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