I'm an individual contractor (out of the US) and work on a Time & Material basis. I do knowledge work. My "problem" is that I do things much faster than the average knowledge worker. For example, a 20-minute email would take me only ~4 minutes to compose and send. This results in my hours being very little compared to others doing the same tasks as mine, and therefore me getting a much smaller pay cheque (but more praise and clapping!). Should I add some extra hours per week? If so, and if this was ethical, how much (%) should I add per week? Please keep in mind that I provide my own laptop, Internet, and electricity.

PS: Please edit the title. I'm not a native English speaker, and couldn't come up with a better title. I will delete this sentence afterwards. Thanks!

  • What you are suggesting is called padding hours and is generally not ethical. Search this site for this term for more information.
    – Brandin
    Apr 7 '18 at 9:48
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    Also your example does not make much sense. What is a 20 minute e-mail? Is it an e-mail that would take an average reader 20 minutes to read? Even an e-mail that takes 1 minute to read may take much longer if it requires research, cross-referencing, verification, spell-checking, etc. If it took you 4 minutes to do all of the work required for that e-mail, that is how long it took.
    – Brandin
    Apr 7 '18 at 9:51
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    @Brandin I think he meant the time it takes to write an email. The number of emails you write per unit of time is an important metric for some kind of jobs, such as customer service.
    – Masked Man
    Apr 7 '18 at 9:59
  • @MaskedMan If it took 4 minutes to type out the e-mail body, but 16 additional minutes of checking, cross-referencing, preparing attachments, etc. then that is 20 minutes of work to produce the e-mail. However, if you took shortcuts to reduce what "should have taken 20 minutes" to only take 4 minutes, then that is that. It took 4 minutes. If you used some macros, hotkeys, automation scripts, etc. to reduce the time to 4 minutes, then again, that is a 4 minute task.
    – Brandin
    Apr 7 '18 at 10:06
  • @Brandin Hi, that is 20 minutes to write the email not read it. I do use macros, shortcuts, outlook templates, and many more tricks to get emails and reports done faster. My colleagues don't and therefore spend more time and get paid more.
    – Haitham
    Apr 7 '18 at 10:12

Absolutely not. This is, at best, unethical. At worst, it could be considered fraudulent. If you are charging someone for your time, you bill them based on that time. Because you can do the same work faster, you can get more work done.

And no, it isn't ethical to deliberately work very slowly and bill people for that either.

Instead, consider charging based on the job or increasing your hourly rate. If you're working that much faster than average, you'll still likely be cheaper than competitors and you've probably earned a good reputation at this point.

  • Why can't you renegotiate your rate? Apr 7 '18 at 15:46

The ethics would require that you get paid for what you have done. If you are faster than the average, increase your hourly rate so that the end payment is comparable.

But do this before accepting a task. Doing it afterwards will only put you under a bad light.


No, you absolutely do not add extra hours. You are paid to do an hour's work for your client, so you charge an hour's work. Adding extra hours is not just unethical, it is fraud.

That said - if you're really as good as you say you are, then you can almost certainly up your hourly rate. Instead of charging $50/hour, charge $75/hour or whatever. You get more money (or more time off) and the client gets the work done for the same amount of money as they'd have it done for paying a "regular" contractor. Everyone is happy.

  • Thanks Philip. Unfortunately I cannot renegotiate my rate, but I can do this at the end of this year.
    – Haitham
    Apr 7 '18 at 10:20

You've claimed in several comments on answers that you can't renegotiate your rate. In that case, quit and get a new position or client that pays you reasonably (probably in the reverse of that order).

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