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Is it common for freelancers to have a minimum number of hours they will bill? If so what is the minimum number of hours?

I bill hourly in 1/2 hour increments, but I have not set a minimum number of hours. The issue is I get many small support projects/requests (for example lets 5 requests, that take about 20-30 minutes each) on a weekly basis that usually interrupt my work on a long term projects (lets say 1-2 week project). I may only work on the small project for 20-30 minutes, but the loss of effort/productiveness on the long term project is greater than that. The interruption breaks my flow from getting things done on the long term project. So I'm thinking a 1 hour minimum or maybe a 1.5 hour minimum is not too much to ask. Or is there some other common practice to cover the loss in productivity caused by small support projects/requests.

If it help here's a little background. I'm a freelance web developer, and have been working for myself for 10 years. Most of the requests are to support sites I've built. Many requests are for software upgrades. Some requests are just to add content. Some request are for site enhancements (install, configure, and/or stylize a plugin).

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Yes it is common, any you just delivered the reasoning why.

Although, I think you need to separate between two different problems here.

  1. The immediate productive loss / switching time between tasks. Your increment of 1/2 hourly seems about right for me - but of course you need to determine for yourself what fits.

  2. If it happens often, scheduling of your other work gets difficult. Now this is a little bit tricky, because sometime those little support and maintenance jobs may be necessary to keep your client happy. So just rejecting those could be impossible.

You should try to formalize those incidents in a way that you can keep some concentration time for you. There are several possibilities for those situations:

  • A ticking system could help collect the requests and let you deal with them once you are ready.
  • Support contracts could give you a certain, paid time you can plan with, for these cases.
  • Special telephone hours you negotiate with your clients could help you get some quiet time to do the other tasks.

I also had my "special" clients who would for example pay double my normal rate, because I ended up always working double the billable time for them etc. So if you have clients you feel you are not making a fair amount of money on, feel free to introduce individual rules.

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