Charging for travel time

February 9, 2010

A question from the STC’s Consultants and Independent Contractors discussion list a while back prompted a response from me — and was the inspiration for this blog post.

The question

Here’s a question for those of you who travel for your clients: I am bidding on a contract that will require me to travel for several days at a time. The client will pay for the airfare, hotel, and meals. How do you charge for your time? Do you charge your regular hourly rate for the number of hours you work those days, or do you charge a daily rate. What is your daily rate based on (e.g., 12 hrs x hourly rate, etc.)?

My response

Typical technical writer answer: “It depends!” And mostly it depends on who has made the decision to have you in their office — you or them.

I no longer live in the city — I’m some 3 to 4 hours drive away (no flights). So if the *client* wants me in the city for meetings, handover days etc. they pay for my travel time. If *I* decide to go to the city, and then offer to spend time in the client’s offices while I’m there, then I usually ‘eat’ the travel time.

I have one client on the other side of the country. They have a good philosophy for contractors. They see the payment of my travel time as a ‘opportunity cost’, meaning that if I wasn’t traveling to get to them, then I could be earning money working for them or another client.

So, if they want me in their office, they pay for the airfares, accommodation, meals etc. PLUS the travel time for me to get there — that’s my 3-4 drive to my capital city + the 4 hour flight to their city. Sometimes it takes me 10-12 hours to get to them (downtime in the airport waiting for a flight mostly), but I only charge for 8 hours (normal work day that I’ve ‘lost’ while traveling for them). This is charged at my normal working rate. [BTW, my 3-day a week contract with this client finished in 2008 when they replaced me with a full-time technical writer.]

For other clients at other times, I’ve charged 50% of my hourly rate for travel time.

[Link last checked January 2010]

One comment

  1. Exactly what I do. The idea generally is if I’m travelling (especial driving) then I’m wasting time when I could be earning money. Plane flights I try to get client work done anyway.

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