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I work as web consultant (freelancer). I work basically from home at an hourly rate. In my contract which was mostly through email, I am supposed to charge in increment of 30min. If something takes less than in 10 min. to fix, a charge for 30min will apply. If something gets fixed in 40min, charges of 1 hour will apply.

My question is about email support. I often get email from clients asking about various questions and the work that I do. These are not tasks for me but something like, this is not working, the page is broke, it does not work on my pc etc etc. My question is, is technical support chargeable as freelancer?

One might suggest to just add up these hours. However it does not take that long to answer these email, something around 1min to 10min, but it does interrupt my regular work.

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

Yes email support should be chargeable. You would charge for telephone support also. Is it on your contract? Only you can answer that question.

When I had to support contracts like this the key was how quickly did they want an answer. If they expect a 24 hr turn around, then you can gather all the ones you receive that day and answer them in a single block of time. But if they want them ASAP, then you will have to treat them as separate jobs, charging a minimum of 30 minutes.

Try to be kind to them if they always follow up with a related question, answer a short email for free every once in awhile.

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For any questions regarding billing, it is of the utmost importance to go directly to your contract and verify:

  • the description of your services for hire
  • the rate of pay for each service you are contracted to perform

If your contract states that you are performing "consulting services" -- which can range from A to Z and anything in between -- at a fee of N per hour (calculated as you've indicated), then yes, charge for email consultation, phone consultation, and any other activity applicable to your work for that client.

Unless your contract states that you are billing very specific tasks at very specific rates, then anything you do that requires effort and thought on behalf of the client is billable.

I would note that mhoran_psprep brings up the good point of the occasional good faith freebies -- and those are always your discretion.

To recap: anything you do is billable unless you have signed a contract that locks you in to piece work or flat rate bid, and if your services and rates are not explicit in this contract, make sure they are in your next one.

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To your main question, yes of course you should charge. Anything that takes time, you should charge for. You might want to maintain a count of emails though and charge (say) 10 minutes or 15 minutes per email.

But I'm also struck by your remark that emails interrupt your regular work. This suggests to me that you have sounds or alerts turned on for email while you're working - something you should turn off to allow you to be more productive. Prioritize email down when you're doing project work - you'll be surprised at the difference in your ability to get things done.

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