Don’t Charge Per Hour

time money balance



Hello, my fellow freelancers and visitors from the far corners of the Internet!

For a while, I’ve been trying to articulate why it is I’m not a fan of hourly work when it comes to freelancing.

I prefer to maximize my productivity by being paid per-project. Here’s why.

1. Slow, steady and bored.

Lindsay Van Thoen writes for Freelancers Union and makes a great point when it comes to hourly freelance work. Van Thoen says if you charge per hour, “you’re incentivized to work at a ho-hum pace.”
I couldn’t agree more; I don’t have the patience to work on something for four hours that I can complete in half the time.I tend to be hired for projects I can finish quickly and have a reputation for delivering work ahead of deadline (that’s not always the case, but more often than not, I beat the buzzer).
The faster I can complete a project, the more time I can devote to hunting for more work and to other projects in the queue.

simplicity quote

2. Simplicity is a win-win.

Charging per project or having a rate system that differs from a per-hour fee structure simplifies things in the long run.
When I prepare a proposal for a job that asks for an hourly rate and an weekly work hour limit, I never quite know what to say.
If we’re all honest with ourselves, it can be really difficult to quantify in hours how much time a given project is going to take. You might run into technical difficulties, the client may want changes or there may be some other issues that surfaces that prompts you to take more time than either you or your client would like.
Any way you look at it, charging per hour puts the final cost of the project in a fog. Charging per-project or something to that effect takes out the guesswork. It’s always in the freelancer and client’s best interest to complete a high-quality project in the most efficient timeline possible.
If nothing else, charing per project means you’re left looking confident in your estimate, the client is confident in you because you know how much it’s going to cost. Everyone can go home happy.

3. Are you working? How about now?

Let me ask you something: if you were to hire me on an hourly basis and we weren’t in the same building together and there was no way to monitor me, how would you know I’m working? I could give you my word, and my word is good, but maybe there’s that nagging, gnawing feeling in the back of your head that I just might be derping around rather than getting the job done.
I didn’t give an opinion about Elance’s WorkView system in my review of it a few weeks ago, but I’ll say this: that’s just about the only enforcement method I’ve seen when it comes to hourly freelance work.
I say why let that fear creep in? Why let that even be an option? You’re stressed enough and so is your client! Charging per project means not having to worry about being a potential liability to your client; it’s again in your best interest to complete the project as soon as possible so you can move right along to the next.


I’m sure there are drawbacks when it comes to charging per project rather than per hour, but per project is simply my preferred method and what works for me. I’d love to hear your thoughts either way in the comments below!

Thanks for reading and happy freelancing!

– Adam

Additional reading:

Miranda Marquit: Setting Freelance Rates: Hourly or Per-Project?
WAHM: What to Charge – Pay-per-project vs. Hourly Wage


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2 thoughts on “Don’t Charge Per Hour

  1. lauraleidner August 7, 2014 at 6:12 am Reply

    Adam, great post! I’m always struggling to figure out the right pricing model for freelance. What tends to happen to me is that I start a new project in a copywriting/blogging role, but it turns into editorial planning, editing, social media, PR, etc. And it’s easier for me to charge hourly so that I can do all of those things without feeling like I’m not getting enough money for the work.


    • Adam August 7, 2014 at 7:03 am Reply

      Hi, thanks for commenting!

      I’m glad hourly works out for you. I think it could work for people who have an assured, steady stream of work. As for me, I tend to like to quote clients per project.

      Liked by 1 person

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