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I work for a client for a few hours a week as a freelance web developer. I'm a mid level developer, but sometimes I make easy stupid mistakes, like spending around 35mins wondering why the addon I created is not working and start debugging to find out I didn't activate it in the first place. should I charge on easy stupid mistakes like that?

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  • Would I charge my clients for time I spent working for them due to my own lack of being thorough and my inattentiveness? No, I wouldn't.
    – joeqwerty
    May 28, 2020 at 17:06
  • @joeqwerty Most of freelancers advice to not charge per hour but for product and or service. At least in my experience it never works out with me.
    – Jorge Luiz
    Sep 28, 2020 at 0:35

4 Answers 4

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Delays which are due to your business/working practices are typically not the clients responsibility.

Let's look at the situation with a similar scenario.....

You're working along on a client's project and mistakenly close a file without saving it. Silly error, but I'm sure it's happened to most. This error means you have to redo what you just did for the past hour. That's an additional hour of your time.

If something, in the middle of a client's project, incurs time not directly related to the completion of the project, then it should not be invoiced. If I made some silly oversight which adds significant time to working hours in order to correct, I wouldn't feel right invoicing the client for time spent correcting my oversight. I'd not invoice for time spent on my error.

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    Okay but here's the thing, the client knows that I've never work on the platform he provided before, and sometimes my mistakes are lack of experience with the platform's logic, not coding itself.
    – Cayenne
    May 28, 2020 at 20:47
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    And that's the nature of our work, much of our time is spent on patching stuff together and debugging issues, it's not always coding
    – Cayenne
    May 28, 2020 at 20:50
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    I guess that's your call then as to what's inexperience and learning and what's simply an error. I don't think anyone else can answer that for you.
    – Scott
    May 29, 2020 at 7:24
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    Inexperience is often built in to the rate, so if a client is getting "cheap" resource, then they can expect a bit less productivity than a more experienced, higher rate freelancer. As I said elsewhere, the alternative is a fixed price contract, where the freelancer will have set the price based on the real time to do the task, not the time someone better than them might be able to do it. Thus, fixed price contracts have some "fluff" built in, why can't hourly charges too? That said, I would reduce the hours worked if I'd wasted a lot of time on something I should have known. Dec 17, 2021 at 9:37
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I couldn't help but leave my own insights on this matter as two existing answers are all implying a client shouldn't be charged for his employee's mistakes.

If this question is about the right of getting paid when delays have been made due to a freelancer's inexperience, low-level skills, or working practices - as opposed to his/her hidden features like characteristics, inattentiveness, or negligence - the client still has to pay for it. Errors and mistakes happen everywhere, every time. There's nothing guilty about it.

The reason is clear: The client shouldn't have hired his employee in the first place if his/her skills didn't meet up his expectations. That's what employers do. Most importantly, he should be responsible for his choice of choosing whom he is working with, and what his employee's mindset looks like.

Refusing to pay for the mistakes can only happen when the client thinks he has hired a working robot, not a human. Otherwise, any hours spent on the work that is (even slightly, let alone directly) related to the client's project are subject to the regular payment, even when you are working on an hourly basis.

If it was like 5 or 8 hours, you might want to discuss, but heck, it's like 35 minutes, not even one hour. Nobody would claim confidently that he/she always makes every 35 minutes in his workplace super-productive, would you?

As long as you have materials that support your claim you didn't idly spend time for those 35 mins, you have full rights to get paid.

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  • Employees are quite different than freelancers.
    – Scott
    Jun 18, 2020 at 5:37
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    You got a point but the very topic we are currently involved in is about the basic work ethics - which shouldn't be differentiated by contract types.
    – Nick Song
    Jun 19, 2020 at 2:49
  • I agree with the sentiment of this post (although maybe not the middle paragraph about employees). I'll add that the alternative is to charge a fixed price for the work - which in most cases the freelancer will have calculated the real time to do something, not the most optimum time a super-human could do it. As such, fixed price charging includes some "faffing about" time, so why can't charge-by-the-hour? That said, if I've wasted time on something stupid, I'll reduce the quoted hours on the task, because that seems the right thing to do. Dec 17, 2021 at 9:33
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We would not charge our client on stupid mistakes. We commonly subtract the estimated time from the final hours if hourly pay was required for their project. Of course, any developer will probably spend time figuring out things and testing things trying to get it to work properly. In this case we might take a few minutes off that make sense. It's all about reason.

If you were hiring someone to do something, and you found out they charged you $100 extra because they did not do what they should've known to do (press the apply button before running the new code) how would you feel? Would you happily pay them or feel this would have been all avoided if they simply pressed the apply button instead of trying to edit, and reedit the code for 30 minutes to an hour over the course of the project?.

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Up to a point the issues that surround freelance (contractor)work are part of the work effort, especially with software that is new or is an unknown quantity. The contractor is not an employee and should not expect the same leeway or treatment. The point becomes shorter when the software is a known quantity or the issue is a personal mistake such as forgetting to hit a button at the appropriate time. The bottom line is that a contractor needs to be more disciplined and self-disciplined than an employee.

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