How much should a freelancer be compensated for project-related travel?
April 24, 2011 5:35 AM   Subscribe

I'm being asked to travel to a 3-hour meeting as part of a freelance project I'm working on. How much time should I be compensated for?

I am a freelancer in a field where travel is usually not involved. However, I've agreed to work on a project where the end client wants all project participants to attend a meeting that will involve an afternoon plane flight, hotel overnight, morning meeting, then return flight in the afternoon.

The initial offer is that the end client will book and pay for the flight and hotel, plus per diem and 8 hours of my hourly rate. I feel like this is a little bit on the low side due to the fact that it will be essentially disrupting a day and a half of my normal schedule.

This feeling of dissatisfaction is probably also colored by the fact that the meeting in question is taking place in a city that I've been to several times and dislike, and my involvement in the project is only about 2 days' worth of actual work. If I were getting a big paycheck out of it, I'd feel a little more generous about literally "going the extra mile" here.

However, if this is a pretty typical amount of compensation for a freelance/consultant request for travel, I will just suck it up and try to appreciate the opportunity to sleep on a fluffy hotel bed and not have to cook for a couple of days.
posted by SomeTrickPony to Work & Money (8 answers total)
You could work whilst travelling? So you could look at it as being paid twice for the same time and very few people get compensated for actual travel time so the fact that you get 5 hrs over and above the meeting for your trouble sounds quite good to me. I am not a freelance consultant of cours - just somebody who has tried to work out what exactly the phrase "assumed sleep time" in a travel policy I was held to actually means...and no, I didn't get paid for actual hrs worked either, this was about time chargeable to fee paying work.
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:51 AM on April 24, 2011

I'm a freelancer/consultant and I charge for travel; I charge half my rate during that time. I do, however, post this policty along with my rate on my webpage l and also have it added to the contract at the start of the project.

I do it as lost time that I can't work with other clients, and people will not decide to have a 1 hour meeting that requires 4 hours travel if they know that they may pay a bit more $. It is your own business, and you should set it up in terms of however you best feel comfortable (for example, I don't do any in office work other than initial meeting with the client). YMMV. Good luck.

Also, I see a potential red flag in the wording. If they are using the word "paying for your day rate" be very, very careful because to some clients, it means 1 day = 15 hours. I would have the wording per hour on your contract and make it clear that you charge if it goes above that. I know a few contractors who learned this the hard way.

You know how you mention dissatisfaction? If I feel that I am not being paid accordingly, I don't take the project and/or drop the client. I do think that it can impact the work and your interaction with them.
posted by Wolfster at 6:05 AM on April 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

As other posters have noted, hardly anybody can bill 100% for travel time, and nobody can refuse travel from time to time if they want to have a robust business.

If it's twelve total hours of travel time plus a two hour meeting they are paying you 50% rate for travel, which is actually pretty decent. Some people eat it altogether these days, which hurts even if laptops and cell phones can give you some productivity while on the road.

The client obviously has zero responsibility for your ordinary routine or what cities you like or don't like.
posted by MattD at 6:35 AM on April 24, 2011

I feel like this is a little bit on the low side due to the fact that it will be essentially disrupting a day and a half of my normal schedule.

Let me think this through:

- Afternoon flight, which is either short and leaves you the evening to work, or is long enough to work on.
- Morning meeting.
- Afternoon flight again, same scenario, either way you slice it, you have workable time in the afternoon and evening.

In this time, you'll be compensated 8 hours, plus whatever work you do on other projects you can bill again. How is this not fair compensation?
posted by dflemingecon at 8:10 AM on April 24, 2011

I don't have an hourly rate--I have a day rate, which is an 8 hour day. Travel time is the same as my regular day rate. It's time I can't spend earning other money, so the client pays.
But not liking the location? Who cares? There's no combat pay for having to go to Anaheim, etc.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:32 AM on April 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

This isn't the best deal you could get, but it's not all that bad, really. 90% of the time you'll be in a hotel room or airplane, which most people can do their jobs from, at least in some capacity. So, no it's not taking away a day and a half of your productive life.

It sounds like you're mostly complaining because a project that you thought would be a quick buck is more complicated than you anticipated. 90% of your gripes have nothing to do with compensation, they're just grousing. I'd work pretty hard to get over it, or I'd walk away from the contract. If this job is making you that cranky you're better off not doing it and they're better off not having you do it.

Lots of good advice up thread. I'll add that you should raise your rate. In my experience clients will, more likely than not, pull something out of the hat that isn't covered by the contract and it would be awkward to argue. Your rate should be high enough to cover this "client is crazy" overhead.
posted by Ookseer at 12:39 PM on April 24, 2011

I did a consulting job last year that required a trip to England. I got paid at a 50% rate for up to 8 hours of travel time each way, plus all travel costs. Travel time was defined as door-to-door, home to hotel. I thought it was fair. And I got to go to England, which was pretty nice.

You can also work on other client's work while in the air or in a hotel, not a bad way to double bill legally.
posted by JohntheContrarian at 7:31 PM on April 24, 2011

I just finished up a 3-year patch as an independent consultant and I charged for travel as actual hours spent on the plane and to the destination hotel. I did not charge for travel from my home to the airport. While on location, I only charged for time spent with the client. None of my clients complained. I was up front with the arrangements though. I would go anywhere the client wanted, even if it sucks, like Omaha. :)
posted by reddot at 7:56 PM on April 26, 2011

« Older Family friendly to visit the black hills...   |   Melancholy loners Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.