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I recently completed a freelance job. The work was technical and very difficult, but I successfully finished the job within the given timeframe.

Now, the job took a few hours more than I was expecting it to take. So, should I ask the client for a bonus?

My potential justifications for a bonus are:

  • I did a very hard job, which many were unable to do.
  • It took a few more hours than expected.

Reasons not to ask that I've considered:

  • It would be considered unprofessional.
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    You want a bonus for taking longer than you said it would? – Rhys Aug 15 '13 at 9:26
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    If you agree on a fixed price, that is the price. If you agree on an hourly price then bill the hours you needed. If the job was harder than you thought, perhaps you did not do proper research before submitting an offer? – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Aug 15 '13 at 9:36
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    Comments removed. Please use the comments to help clarify or improve the question. For extended or unrelated discussion, please use The Workplace Chat. – yoozer8 Aug 15 '13 at 15:19
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    Does this not better belong to the freelancer stack site ? – happybuddha Aug 15 '13 at 15:19
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A "bonus" is generally something given by the employeer when they recognize the value of something that came out better than expected. Harder for you than you expected isn't generally the criteria used for this term. Everyone has a hard day - that doesn't mean that it's above and beyond the call of duty.

Estimation

What is an aspect of many short term contract jobs is reworking a change in scope. Contracting of many homeowner projects follows this model - your plumber, electrician, general contractor or other contractor will review the work that needs to be done and quote you a price factoring in whatever metrics that particular person/company uses for such things. It often includes:

  • price of equipment
  • estimated time to execute
  • difficulty of work

Difficulty of work is often the real selling point - I see everything from "this is really hard, and I'm the only guy in town that can do this type of thing", to "this isn't hard, but because of the factors involved it will be EXTREMELY annoying... someone else might do it for cheaper, but I hate this work enough to not care if I price myself out of the market". They are generally not that blunt, but it's not hard to figure it out.

Changing Scope

I use the metaphor of home contracting, because there's a real case that when they start work, and really SEE the problem, the problem will change. Most home projects involve opening wall board, or otherwise deconstructing the space in a way that would be inappropriate for an estimate. So there's a real chance that in the first 30-60 minutes, your contractor will be talking to you again about how the price has changed.

The key is that the scope of work is clear enough, that if it changes midstream, there is a basis for changing the price. That way there's a way to handle the "this just got harder" problem.

Skills

Typically, simply having to use a wider/better skill set is not grounds for raising the price midstream - presumably you have already factored that in, and can typically demand a certain rate based on skills you've already shown that you have. I have, for example, a plumber who is wonderful - anything he's fixed has stayed fixed, and I know exactly what he did and why so I can make better home decisions in the long run. That expertise is valuable, and I won't just hire some guy from Craig's list, even if that's going to save me 50% of my costs.

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Yes, that would be unprofessional. You agreed to do a job under certain conditions, for certain pay. If you mis-estimated (given that it took longer, I'd say you did), then that's on you.

If I were hiring you, my response to a bonus request would be 'No', followed by 'And don't come back here no more'.

If the job was harder/longer than you estimated, then take this as a data point for your estimations and move on.

  • Thanks for reply. Just clarifying in my case Job was like you have to make something work. Neither client nor I knows how many fixes will be required – user10125 Aug 15 '13 at 12:14
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    @VarunAgw When the actual effort can not be estimated by you or the customer, you should always negotiate to get paid by the hour. Everything else is gambling. – Philipp Aug 15 '13 at 12:31
  • @Philipp Yes, I am gambling these days. Because I have to quote just by reading a incomplete job description at odesk. – user10125 Aug 15 '13 at 13:51
  • The answer could be 'yes' as long as you don't care about future business. – user8365 Aug 15 '13 at 14:51
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    @VarunAgw - If the job description is incomplete, then you need to put something in your reply of "For the work described in this document my price will be X units, if there is other work outside the scope of this document my hourly rate will be Y units". Part of learning to bid properly is being able to recognize when there are traps like this. Chalk it up to experience, that's always worth something. – JohnP Aug 15 '13 at 19:11
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This is not asking for a bonus. It is asking for a higher pay than was agreed upon, which is unprofessional. Also, if you could do it in a day, there are problems much harder than that waiting for you.

This applies, even if you say yes without having ANY idea what so ever about what you are saying yes to. The normal way to handle things like this is being billed by the hour. For large project you do a pilot project to be able to know how to solve the project which can be kept within a fixed, small amount of hours, and then you can submit an offer for the actual fix.

You might be a bit inexperienced yet with the non-programming part of freelancing. You might want to consider not being alone in your venture.

  • Yes, I have started working two weeks ago. I don't much about professional life. Since this is a freelancer job, I don't have co-workers to take advice from. – user10125 Aug 15 '13 at 13:44
  • @VarunAgw which is a very good reason for a rookie not to start out as a freelancer... – jwenting Aug 16 '13 at 4:57

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