I've seen a lot of advice for freelance programmers which advocates quoting your rates in periods of a minimum of one day. That means that when someone asks your rate, you would say "$500 per day" rather than giving the equivalent hourly rate.

If I agree to do 10 days of programming work for a client at a particular daily rate, how many hours are expected of me per day? What happens if I do 6 hours of actual programming on Monday and then do 8 on Tuesday.. is that two "days" or "1.75 eight hour days" or what?

What's the standard?

closed as not constructive by ChrisF Feb 7 '13 at 9:07

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  • 1
    25 hours a day ))) – superM Feb 7 '13 at 7:40
  • In civilized countries, the standard is freedom of contract. – Ingo Feb 7 '13 at 8:57
  • It's difficult (if not impossible) to answer this question within the Stack Exchange format. Ultimately a "day" is whatever you and the person you are hiring agree on. The actual hours will depend on the country you are in and the culture and so on. – ChrisF Feb 7 '13 at 9:07
  • A typical work day in most of the world is considering 8 hours. This an actual problem you face? This means have you actually recieved a quote that gave you a price per day instead of per hour? – Ramhound Feb 7 '13 at 12:44

I would say that if you do not work for a fixed price, than you just charge the amount of time you spend, including fractions of days (maybe 1/4 day increments?). The 10 days is then an estimate. If you work fixed price, where the 10 days is an estimate, you charge the 10 days however long it takes. I would say that 1 day is 8 hours, but this is from a European standpoint.

  • 3
    charging time by the hour is more common when you are charging time. – jk. Feb 7 '13 at 7:09
  • In my region of the USA, when a salaried worker goes in for "1 day", 9 hours of physical presence with 0.5 hour of lunch is the typical expectation. – Brian Knoblauch Feb 7 '13 at 16:21

First of all, this is a difficult question to answer because each country has different laws/work habits.

Secondly, I don't think paying for a days of work makes sense for programmers.

Imagine, you hire a photographer. That job would perhaps take an hour or two, maybe more. But because the photographer has travel time to the client, he/she can at most do one or two jobs pr. day. Therefore it would make sense for a photographer to bill for half a day, or a full day. In that case it makes sense to talk about how much it costs to hire a photographer for a day.

The majority of work I perform as a freelance programmer don't follow this pattern, as is the pattern of most of the freelance programmers people I know. The jobs I get hired to do takes from a week to many months, and I sit regularly at the client's office (and I do not charge for travel time). Therefore it makes much more sense to bill by the hour. That way, it is much easier for you to work extra (and get compensated) if you are pressed for time, and you can leave early (and the client doesn't get ripped off) if there is little work to do.

Sometimes the client could ask you to take part in a meeting at different location, but that is in my experience not that common.

Generally, the contracts I have been presented with, would state that I should get the client's approval if the amount of work would exceed some monthly threshold (about 160 hours of work).

  • "Freelance programmers don't work that way" - have you really never had a client insist that you attend a meeting in person, etc? I've had many freelance projects where every now and then my transport time for meetings would exceed the time needed to effect a bug fix. It's irritating, because it's difficult to bill for it, but it nevertheless takes away your otherwise productive time; hence some people setting minimum limits. – Daniel B Feb 7 '13 at 9:09
  • @DanielB - Not really, as I normally work on projects, so I stick with the same client for some time. But I can see your point, and it is a valid one. But come to think of it I did have a regular client wanting me to fly to come to Bruxelles for a one-day meeting, but not wanting to compensate me for 6 hours of travel time (in excess to normal travel time to their local office). I'll change the answer somewhat – Pete Feb 7 '13 at 9:25
  • Agreed, it's not really the norm if you have long-term clients / projects. The minimum hours or billing per day mechanism is really just a way to nudge clients towards requesting meaningful amounts of work. I can't imagine having my week filled up with dozens of "1 hour projects" - it would be completely counter-productive, and my rates would eventually reflect that, I think. – Daniel B Feb 7 '13 at 9:47
  • @DanielB I've had the same problem. I've resolved myself to bill for any time spent incurred by my work (at a flat rate, to keep things simple). Work is work. There are exceptions, though, like when the client pays for my flight and provides accomodation :) – Rolf Feb 16 '16 at 19:35

If I quoted someone a rate by day, I would intend that cover however much (or little) work I did that day, which is to say it's so many dollars for 8 hours or any fraction of 8 hours.

I'd be really hesitant to quote by day, because mismatched expectations are likely.

Be clear about what your rate covers, and make sure both sides agree how to handle the example you gave.


In France, there are laws regulating the number of hours per day.

So it is common to quote by day and expect at least 7 hours.

Except for this, quoting by hour is not always the right solution because you're expected to prove what you did each hour, which looks like hyper micro management. It's ok for simple 2-days contracts, but definitely not for longer contracts.

By quoting per day, you expect some work every day, not every hour. And as we all know, we don't have the same productivity at every hour. Charging by day means we have an estimation of our productivity for every day. Not for every hour where it varies.


To answer the question "What's the standard?": Based on what experience i have gained through partnerships with freelance workers (one being my fiance') the standard is influenced by the industry, the client base and geo-locations (country, state etc). According to them the best way to determine the standard would be to see what is the general norm of other programmers using your languages and tools doing similar work in a similar area.

What other freelancers have suggested is to either quote per hour or per effort-day - a days worth of work (not a days worth of hours). But i don't think many clients would go for the latter.

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