I agreed to help a new client refactor a piece of code. This is a simple task that should not take more than a couple of hours. He agreed to pay me my hourly rate.

He didn't come to the meeting, sending a message after 30 minutes apologizing for not being able to come due to unforeseen circumstances.

Usually, in these cases I don't make the client pay for the time, and if the client is a recurring offender, I drop him. However, I came to reevaluate my actions.

Should I grant a client a max number of "free" small absences, or should I take an assertive approach and charge him with a fee right away?

8 Answers 8


I think your usual approach is the correct one. The vagaries of busy clients are an unfortunate obstacle to our making the best of of our freelance time. If you don't already, I would say it's good practice to send a courtesy email confirming the meeting on the day, just to ensure that it's still on the client's radar. It could be the most important meeting of your day but may well be a long way down the client's list of priorities.

From a client's perspective, if a freelancer attempted to charge them for not attending a pre-arranged meeting, particularly if there is no contract in place that allows for time to be charged in this manner, I imagine that they would walk away. You'd find it very difficult to enforce the payment and would irreparably damage the relationship. If this is a first offence then you would be well advised to just take the hit and move on. If they are a repeat offender then they probably aren't worth pursuing. If they repeatedly fail to turn up to meetings then they are likely to be equally difficult to extract requirements/payment from.


This is a double edged sword:

Your business needs cash flow, so charge him, but your business also needs client relationships so forgive him.

Personally, I would strike the balance between the two. If you incurred costs (milage etc), then recover the costs through fees, but no, don't charge him for your time.

  • I'd consider charging if my time involved an opportunity cost. If it took away time I could have invested in some other revenue-generating activity, I'd consider charging.
    – jmort253
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 4:37
  • Some clients are great, some clients are arseholes - but as long as they pay their bills the only thing that matters is that they are your clients - politely explain the situation to him and let it slide.
    – web_bod
    Commented Oct 30, 2013 at 18:47

I think you will have hard time trying to charge him for "this". Ask yourself, what are you charging him for? Did you have to travel to meeting point, take a night at the hotel, and he bailed on you? In such case, it's logical you charge him for your costs.

But if you just went to a nearby coffee bar or you waited for him in your office, then you cannot charge him for your costs. What are the costs?

I think you somehow got offended by this client and being a freelancer means that you do not have privileges to do that. IMHO if the client so much offended you and you cannot afford letting him go, then I would charge him any minute I worked for him - meaning I would turn my "anger" into "sorry no free work for you".

But either of these ways will drive you to losing a client. So I guess, the smartest way is to swallow it and move on like nothing happened. After all, your main goal is to keep your business alive so you'll have to learn to swallow the larger things.


Wow, this thread really does strike the cord of all freelancers, doesn't it? Hot button issue: the cancellation!

Anyone who endorses a "slap on the wrist" is automatically, and immediately, weak in the eyes of the client. YOU are manipulable....you are the lower hand to his upper. You don't understand human psychology and you will get trampled if the client -- and this is a gargantuan IF -- if the client hires you, and...trust me....he probably won't, but IF he does ----> he will take advantage of you.

I charge a full lesson fee for anyone who cancels 48 hours before a pre-scheduled lesson. In the summer, I make everyone pay in advance. From that day I started working freelance to today, I've grown more successful but I never, and I mean, NEVER forgave anyone for canceling within 24 hours. Full $225.00 lesson fee. If you doubt what I am saying and aren't in complete agreement, you don't understand human psychology and you don't understand business strategy.

YOU determine your worth, freelancers! Don't you get it? Picture this: You're a character animator, the last of a dying breed. You got a big blank week of no appointments, no prospects, no nothing in front of you... and then suddenly, boom! DREAMWORKS CALLS!

They say they need you in right away, claiming Steven Spielberg needs to meet you! And if you don't come right now, they will find someone else for the job. What do you do? Those who race to Dreamworks are the same chumps who grant freebies to flakes.

On the other hand, those who are busy today but politely make arrangements for Thursday morning, charming the receptionist with their phone manner and getting Stephen to see VALUE in waiting for YOU... Mr. Awesome Freelancer... well, those people charge for their time, no matter what, come Hell or high water!

Case closed!

  • Good answer! I edited to remove the "cruft" and the profanity though. Good job though
    – Canadian Luke
    Commented Jun 29, 2014 at 1:51

I really can't agree with the other posts here, not a bit. The whole underlying thing here is that you are being paid for your time. Your time, not your good will, not your demeanor, not anything else.

This situation is no different than if you went into a restaurant, ordered a meal, but didn't eat it. You'd still have to pay nonetheless because resources and effort went into getting your order, preparing a place for you to sit, having a clean restroom, transporting the food, powering the stove, and eventually getting a plate of hot food onto the table.

If you don't value your time, nobody else will. That's what you're selling. That time that you spent setting up for the meeting, and waiting, cannot be recovered. You could have spent that time working for another client. So with this client, I'd make it known that you're going to charge for the time. Even if it's just an hour or two, it trains your client that you're a businessman and not a pushover. If the client balks, then you know that this is not a client that you need to be working with for very much longer. At that point, you might continue the job but make a quick exit plan, and get outta there as soon as you can.


Did he know up front that you would charge him if he did not turn up? Was your agreement verbal or written? If it was only verbal, then you may find it legally difficult to extract the payment from him. The fact that they will have to pay for a no show is obvious to most of us but it's surprising how many clients don't get this fact. It's worth making the point clear to them, and preferably in writing.

That raises another important point: If a client knows there is a financial penalty for missing meetings (i.e. they pay for your time regardless of whether they show up or not) they'd be much more likely to turn up (or at least make more effort).

They'll also more likely contact you sooner to let you know they can't make in the hope of either avoiding the need to pay by preventing you turning up or, if you are already there or on your way, apologising in the hope of obtaining your grace and favour by way of not charging them or dropping them.

  • Disagree. The contract is for time, it's already stated.
    – Xavier J
    Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 16:40
  • @codenoire I agree he should pay for the time and I was careless to write that it would be "legally difficult to extract the payment" without qualification as I don't know if it was a written agreement or just verbal. I did misread the question so I have changed my wording to reflect that. I intended mainly to say that it is worth making these things crystal clear. They should understand, but not everyone does, that time paid for includes a no show even though it's obvious to most of us. And get agreements about payments in writing otherwise it does make things more difficult. Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 16:56

I would not charge him in your case because you did not explicitly outline the terms of the agreement, including what happens in the case of a cancellation. In the future, you can include things in the contract such as minimum hours worked, and minimum amount of time needed to cancel. For example, you must be notified of a cancellation by 8AM of the day in question, and failure to do so will result in the client being charged for 1 hour plus transportation costs (or perhaps travel time).

Also, you would benefit from the advice of a attorney who specializes in contracts and serves consultants in your industry, both to get wording right and to learn what the standard terms are for consultants in your area.

That said, the leniency you have with clients probably depends on your workload. The assumption is that there is a certain opportunity cost you paid for the late cancellation. If you're not fully booked or close to it, I would let it slide in the interest of good will.

At the same time, if you do have it in the contract and are explicitly ignoring it, make sure you still put it in the invoice as a "good will discount" or something to that effect. Never give a discount without making it clear to the client that you are doing so.


If you are a Freelancer and a client does not show up at an appointment or calls in late after the fact and cancels, here is what you should do:

1) First time: Be very courteous, cordial and understanding. Send them a follow up email. Let them know a) not to worry; and b) while it is your regular practice to do so, you will not be charging for this missed appointment. Ask when would they like to reschedule.

The idea here is to be very nice and understanding, set the tone and move your business forward.

2) Second time: Again, be very cordial, but charge for the missed appointment and reschedule.

If the client balks at payment, let them know you will waive the charge, but that your general practice is charge for missed appointments.

Often they will just accept that your time for set appointments is billable and pay without any objections.

3) Third time: Charge the client and be firm about it.

Your time is money. If you are dealing with a client who habitually misses appointments that's one thing. If they don't respect that you are to get paid for your time, that's entirely another.

Three missed appointments is sufficient to either begin billing for your time for those missed appointments or to lose the problematic client.

You want to build your business on clients who respect your worth and professionalism - sometimes that means letting problematic clients go.

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.