I recently entered into a consulting/contracting deal with a local company to do ASP.NET development work and also consult with their local developers with questions they may have about development. I have a full time job so its basically a side-gig. The contract specified around 10 - 15 hours average per week. It was originally a 4 month contract contract with an option to extend. We're now approaching the end of the 4 months. The company would like to extend and are now drafting a new contract.

However I do have a few concerns. First off, for the first 3 months I had a healthy amount of work, averaging 11 hours per week. However recently it has slowed to as little as 4 hours per week. I'm fine with the lower hours however if it continues to slow or possibly go to 0 hours some weeks, I basically lose my incentive/enthusiasm for doing the work.

Basically worse case scenario I turn into an "oncall consultant" getting nickle and dim work every once an a while. Not something I'm looking forward to. Basically my idea was to incorporate a 2 hour minimum per week. So if they didn't provide me with at least 2 hours per week I would bill them a minimum charge to "keep me on contract" so to speak. So if the provided me with no hours, I will bill 2 hours that week, if they provided me with 1 hour of work I would bill 2 hours for that week, if they provided me with 3 hours I would bill 3 hours for that week.

Anything less than 2 hours per week and I think I'd rather just not extend the contract. My question is, how exactly do I word this into the contract? Since I'm changing the terms midway into already starting work with them.

I can't exactly call it my "price to keep me on contract" clause. Or the "on call minimum fee". I want to call it something like a minimum retainer hours, but that doesn't seem correct either since there not really paying me a retainer they're just paying me the hours I work.

Any help would be appreciated or examples people have used in their contracts to incorporate a minimum hour threshold. Or is a minium hour requirement something that is typically just not incorporated into development type work. I would have to imagine someone who is contracting full time would have to have some type of minimum hours per week to have a stable full-time income for example.

  • 3
    I would ask in the freelancing SE, as this question might be a better fit there. Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 2:54
  • 1
    The phrase you're looking for is a 'Retainer' contract.
    – PeteCon
    Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 15:56

2 Answers 2


Why not sell them a block hour contract that they can use at their discretion?

You can sell them however many hours they want (0-100,etc.), over whatever period of time they want (1-12 months, etc.). You could stipulate a minimum and maximum number of hours per week. Any unused hours at the end of the time period would then be forfeited. The benefit to you is that you're getting paid for whatever block of hours they purchase, whether they use them or not. The benefit to them is knowing that they've paid for these hours and that you're obligated to them for these hours, rather than finding out you've lost interest and have moved on. As a further incentive, you can offer them a discount on your hourly rate depending on how many hours they commit to.


How about "minimum billable hours per week"? This would reflect the cost of remaining "on call", if you feel that this is going to be a hardship. It would also make it clear that you aren't expecting to be paid for anything other than your work (as the word "retainer" might do)

If contract programming is all you were doing, I'd say don't worry about it. There is no nickle-and-dime work there. You charge for the blocks of time that you spend on the program, and that includes ramp-up and clean-up.

However, "consult with their local developers with questions" does run the risk of becoming a problem. If you are functioning as their on-call go-to guy, you could get called up, spend five minutes answering a question and then how do you bill for the amount of time it takes for you to mentally disengage from their work and get back to your own? Or for the danger of having your FT bosses wonder if you are moonlighting to the detriment of your FT job? Unless you specify "not during working hours" and then you become much less useful for them.

If you are worried about being called about small problems, you might want to specify a "minimum billable time per call". That way they would be more likely to call only when there is a substantial problem.

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