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Hello, I’ve recently begun being an hourly contractor working remotely for a company doing software development. I’m wondering if there is any unspoken agreement between employers and contractors for what they will be billed for? For example, if I was onsite, I’d probably take a 10 - 15 minute break every now and then as well as checking email but still be on the clock, as a remote contractor I can clock-out when I take a break and clock back in when I’m ready. Is that the expectation? In truth, maybe this is a moot point since nobody really knows how long the work I do will take, nobody is going to be able to distinguish an hour or two per week that are me relaxing a bit.


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    I structure my contracts as though I’m on retainer ($x/w or $x/mo, regardless of hours worked) and keep “office hours” (eg. I make myself available between 7am and 3pm M-F), but when and how long I work for each day is completely up to me. I find this completely eliminates the ambiguities you mentioned and also makes it clear that I am a contractor and not an employee.

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      Great question. I did contract work for more than ten of the past fifteen years, and I’ve tried several different methods of counting my time and hours and billing. The example you give (“do I bill for taking a ten minute break”) is a good one, but there’s an opposite question that is worth considering: “do I bill for the twenty minutes I spent thinking about this problem while in the shower”?

      What I started doing was billing for all of the time that I was prevented from doing anything else. That means that the coffee break I took is billed for. The walk around the block because I had a difficult problem to solve is billed for. The shower, probably not: I would have showered anyhow.