If a client needs a small change made to their website (e.g. a phone number needs changing, a user profile needs to be updated in a way the site doesn't allow, etc.) I usually will not charge my clients. I see it as a small courtesy to them.

But if the client is sending about 10 of these every month, I need to charge for them, and the question is: How much? If they were all given in one go, it'd be easy: I'd just charge an hourly rate. But when they're given one at a time, randomly, across the month, it's more difficult.

While a job (like updating a phone number) may take 5 minutes, it also disrupts your workflow from other clients, as you have to open the project, dig out the right file, make the change, connect over FTP and upload the file, etc.

If you try and calculate something based on your hourly rate (which seems like a good place to start), what's the smallest unit you charge for? An hour? Half an hour? 15 minutes? 5 minutes?

  • 3
    For customers like this, a monthly retainer is probably the answer... a standing fee for a designated amount of work.
    – Andrew
    Commented Nov 2, 2013 at 3:16
  • 1
    This question is similar to this one: freelancing.stackexchange.com/questions/3/…. Is it just me or is this a duplicate?
    – jmort253
    Commented Nov 2, 2013 at 7:04
  • 2
    @jmort253 yes, it similar thou Django asked a single question more directly. The reference link is much broader.
    – Peter MV
    Commented Nov 2, 2013 at 20:22
  • @PeterMV - Yes, if I closed one, it would definitely be the other one.
    – jmort253
    Commented Nov 2, 2013 at 20:24

4 Answers 4


If I intend to charge at all for a minor thing, I charge a minimum of 15 minutes. Like you, I traditionally won't charge for anything exceptionally minor. However if the requests become more frequent, then I can't allow my workflow to be interrupted repeatedly for many "minor" things.

In my experience, there's no such thing as a "30 second" or "1 minute" change even if a client thinks that's all there is to it. It always entails navigating to files, changing things, updating server files if needed, then the communication back and forth with the client. This easily takes 15 minutes for even the smallest thing.

A retainer is also a good idea. Average the time needed for these changes and approach the client with a monthly fee which allows for XX minor changes, or XX hours of work.

  • 9
    And, if it's been awhile since you've been in the filesystem, you may need to review notes to re-familiarize yourself with file structure, database structure, or other aspects of the project that you've forgotten about.
    – jmort253
    Commented Nov 2, 2013 at 6:59
  • @Scott See my reply. If you ever thought you may sound like "being cheap (hungry for money)", then my reply may help you as well.
    – Peter MV
    Commented Nov 2, 2013 at 20:21
  • @Peter. your answer is essentially the same as my answer.. but ... okay.
    – Scott
    Commented Nov 2, 2013 at 20:50
  • I do the same. I round to 15mins. You need to stop what you're doing, communicate you're starting the task (sometimes you can skip this step) do the task, verify/test? and then communicate the task is done, that's usually 15+mins. If the client is asking you to split hairs, I think you should drop the client. Also nitpicking your time tracking is a waste of time. Maybe hire someone else to do your invoicing if you feel like you're getting hung up on small details like this.
    – Jay Brunet
    Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 22:15
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    I would just like to add that I do a 15 minute minimum increment for billing (so agreed here) but I keep a short concise log of each change request, even on a retainer/monthly maintenance contract - and I include that log with my invoices, so that the client is aware of the value they are getting. These small 'changes and requests' add up!!!
    – NivF007
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 21:31

Don't charge him for a small task. But if you can accumulate multiple small tasks done in 1 month into a couple of work hours, then notify the client, explain to him how much time those tasks took you, and ask to be paid.

If those tasks are really happening once a month, and obviously it would not be "nice" to charge your client at the end of a year, set a retainer agreement with him. Let him know that you cannot charge him for such a small tasks, but since those tasks are being repeated from month to month, he can buy a "pack of support work hours" from you. He pays you 5, 10 or 110 work hours for the year 2014, and both of you are happy.

Most of us still did not learn how to utilize retainer agreements properly, while big companies support themselves via these agreements.

  • 1
    Hi Peter, the client doesn't have a problem with paying for lots of small tasks in a month, the question is more about how much to charge them. Good advice on the retainer system, though. I think most freelancers miss it. Commented Nov 2, 2013 at 21:32

I find it convenient to charge ahead of time for support services like this. That way I can make the change immediately, and there is no extra paperwork burden on my end.

My units have evolved from converting hours and minutes to fractions of hours. 15 minutes is the smallest fraction that is easy to math:

5 minutes  = 0.08 hours
10 minutes = 0.16 hours
15 minutes = 0.25 hours
30 minutes = 0.50 hours

Unless I move to 6 minute units:

6  minutes = 0.1 hours
12 minutes = 0.2 hours
18 minutes = 0.3 hours
24 minutes = 0.4 hours
30 minutes = 0.5 hours

But I agree that 15 minutes is a sensible minimum unit to charge for.

  • 3
    6 min?! Come on :). If you were my contractor and you report back 24min of time, I would pay you half hour like 99% of good clients.
    – Peter MV
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 10:25

I also had to start charging 15 minutes for small things, it's due to interupting the work flow randomly and they usually want it done right away. So even if it takes me 4 minutes, it stops what I'm doing for another client, and that's the price they pay for having me "on call" essentially.

This is usually for my small only 5-10 hour a week type clients that have sporadic work.

For my bigger clients, which I've had a few over the years, and I always like to keep one big client... I just do it. I need 20 hours minimum retainer a week to bill like this though.

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