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Do you bill for lunch?

When you put in an 8 hour day does that mean you worked for 8 hours or does that mean you worked something less than 8 hours and took an hour for lunch during your 9-5 work period?

Right now I'm on an hourly contract. I subtract 30 minutes for lunch off of the time I spend at work and bill for that. I'm just wondering how normal that is. MAny of the other consultants here spend less time in the office and it seems a few of them bill during their lunch time to get an 8 hour day.

Previously the only hourly jobs I did were fairly low-skilled manual labor and you didn't get paid during your lunch break.

Friday, September 19, 2003

As a contractor, or a person who is forced to enumerate their time, I would bill for lunch only if I did work during lunch. And, yes, talking w/ co-workers about the stuff you're going in order to get some feedback and assistance is work, even when code isn't involved. Bitching about the boss is not, however. :)

Brad Wilson (
Friday, September 19, 2003

This is why it's a better idea to bill by the day, perhaps with some overtime provision.

Then you don't have to worry about irrelevancies like this. Whether you're out for 15 minutes or 90 minutes is not going to affect the amount or quality of work you do. Being out for 90 might contribute to team development. It might let you tackle problems better.

If you work through a recruiter, you will have to put with irrelevant crap like this because it's easier for them. Another reason to avoid them like the plague.

1. Upfront agree with the employer that you're working per day, and that time after 6 pm will be billed as overtime.

2. Or if you're working through a recruiter and have to pretend it's hourly, have lunch at your desk, or just step out for short periods and don't record it as time away.

Friday, September 19, 2003

I am contracting through Volt and I do not bill for lunch unless I'm meeting with clients or discussing the project with fellow developers during that time.  So, if we go out for an hour to eat, I don't bill for that.  If I spend 15 minutes in the company cafeteria, I don't bill for that.  On the days I have a lot of e-mail, I bring the food back to my desk and I do bill for that as I'm syphoning through it all.

Friday, September 19, 2003

It depends on whether you want to retain your client.

I've always found that the best practice is to visibly UNDER-bill.

When we are working on time-and-materials work, we provide the client with weekly timesheets. The start- and end-times are scrupulously accurate, because this is the easiest point at which you may be challenged. Thirty minutes are allocated to breaks (coffee, lunch, etc.,) or more, if more time was spent away from the client site.

Our rates are quoted on a daily basis, at eight hours per day. At the end of each week we divide the number of hours worked by 40. If we have worked more than 40 hours, we bill five days. If less, we bill to the nearest (lower) half day, ie. if we worked 34 hours, we bill 4 days.

We don't normally expect staff to work week-ends, but if a project problem requires it, we tend not to bill for this work. It is a great client relationship builder, as we are seen as "sharing the pain" if there is any to be experienced.

Having said this, we prefer to work on a fixed-price basis. When doing fixed price work we have a few simple rules which are signed in our contracts before we commence work. If on-site work is required, we will be at the client's location between 11am and 4pm, with other times completely at our discretion. We don't do meetings for the sake of meetings, ESPECIALLY the 8:30 stand-up nonsense currently in vogue. We bill on the completion of previously agreed deliverables. If the client is unsatisfied with any deliverable, they can choose not to pay the bill, but we immediately terminate work for that client until the problem is resolved to our mutual satisfaction. All bills must be paid within 14 days of date of invoice, or we will immediately terminate work for that client.

And with these policies, the only problem we have with getting paid is with Accounts departments. I've found that the best way to address the problem is to have the Accounts Payable manager (or other person directly responsible for paying invoices) to sign in the contract the clauses related to terms of payment, and to have a letter from that person incorporated as an annex to the contract stating their agreement to those terms. Even then we have clients whose accounting practices fall behind, but we let the client project manager sort 'em out the first time we down tools and walk away from the job when prompt payment is not received.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Bill for the time you work. Don't steal from your client.
Some days I work long hours I bill every second, other days I've been a slacko  and I bill accordingly.

Swings and roundabouts.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

I asked my superior about this once during a time when there wasn't 40 hours a work a week to do.  He gave me a funny look and replied, "Always bill 40 hours!"  E.g., this is Microsoft.  No one cares.  It ain't coming out of THEIR pockets.

So, I do. 

For this client, just being responsive to email and IM is much better than being physically if not mentally in the office for 40 hours in a week.  I put in an honest week's work when there is work to be done.  As long as the client is satisified with your work, no one is going to chase you down with a questionable timesheet.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

I always bill for two things: productive time, and on-site time.

I think even asking whether you bill for lunch is insane. Answer: of course not, except under specific circumstances.

If the client presses me to work onsite and I have nothing to do, or if the client wastes my time by not having facilities or resources set up, I bill anyway. If I am where the client asked me to be, I bill while I'm there, period.

If I am working offsite, say out of my office, I bill for productive time on their project.

Bill for lunch. *NO*.  Not unless:  Lunch is eaten while I am working.  Or, if the client *tells* me to go to lunch for a specific purpose. A social lunch taken voluntarily with a client employee doesn't count.

The kind of lunch where you get a mild headache trying to eat while someone peppers you with technical discussions related to the current project - yes. My "threshold" for billing under this circumstance would be - was lunch "tiring" because I had to engage my brain throughout for the purpose of the project? If so, I bill, and I'd call it a meeting instead.

Now, the definition of "work" being extended to include non-implementation "thinking" about the project: I'd like to, but I also know that this looks very fishy. So probably not. What I may do, if the downtime brainstorming was particularly productive, is to be more generous in considering other, marginally productive time where I am physically "at work", to be billable.

Now, the one comment above about not billing on weekends or overtime, to "share the pain". I'm sorry, I depart ways there. Just as I will not steal from the client, I also will not steal from my corporation. If I am working the hours, then the hours *must* be paid according to the compensation schedule in effect.  I think the principle of visibly underbilling is a great one. I just don't believe in giving away substantial value.

Bored Bystander
Saturday, September 20, 2003

do you bill for time in the shower?
i know that's when a lot of my productive thinking gets done.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

On the other side of the fence, I once queried a contractor over the cost of a big taxi fare she had claimed. That was early in my management career when I thought I should be trying to clamp down.

She rang me up and asked what the hell I was doing, and she was right. I've never queried contractor's bills since, and never had cause to either.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

BIll for the time that you work. That includes time that you spend designing  and solving problems away from your desk/computer.  This could include lunchtime, showertime or anytime as long as you are making progress by think through things that need to be thought through.

This is less of s client perception problem than sitting at the computer and not typing.

fool for python
Sunday, September 21, 2003

I've billed a client for figuring out a problem while I was sleeping.  I woke up in the middle of the night after thinking about a problem that I had been struggling with, wrote down some notes from my dream, and went back to sleep.  The client had no problem paying for this time.

That said, I think hourly billing is a bad practice, but is something that almost everyone works under.  The problem with hourly is that is encourages you to take as much time as needed to solve a problem, while it would be in everyone's best interest to have you work as efficiently as possible while still doing a high quality job.  Of course, the theory is that more efficient and competent people get paid more per hour, but as a consultant, I find clients are much happier paying what is effectively 3-5x the hourly rate for the same work when they know they are only paying for the result, and not the time you are there.  You need to be careful with people who place unreasonable demands upon your time, but by shifting the emphasis from the time you are there to the value of the work you are providing, you're building a better rapport with your client while possibly working less hours and making more money.

Monday, September 29, 2003

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