Counting Hours

I recently received a contract from a research firm to do a series of photographs. They asked me to photograph shoppers in stores. I am going to be paid on an hourly basis, but am not sure how to count my hours. Do hours only count as time actually spent with the camera to my eye in the store, or does time getting to the store, finding stores, and editing images count as well? If I spend an afternoon leisurely wondering around my city looking for good stores to use and then shooting them, does the whole day count? How do other people count freelance hours like this? Thanks.

The way I do it…

If I am actively DOING something that is directly related to the outcome of the project, it is billable.

If I run out of sketch paper at home, running to the store does not count. For some it might. I figure I should have enough, unless it is a big project and part of the proposal includes purchasing new materials, such as large format paper, for example.

If I am running over to REI to look at competitive products, and don’t find anything, that counts. I might then drive over to another outdoor gear specialty store where I find what I was looking for, that counts.

There are trade offs. If there happens to be an accident on the highway on your way to one of these stores, and it puts you in stopped traffic for 3 hours, I wouldn’t bill that. You don’t get paid to drive to work if you are on a salary, but then again, you are getting a salary.

Some things are worth billing, some art not. Its a personal call you’ll learn to make, fairly, and intuitively.

Some things are worth billing, some art not. Its a personal call you’ll learn to make, fairly, and intuitively.

… and keeping a log, or daily journal, would be a good idea. Not to the nano-second, but to a reasonable degree; I always tried to keep track within .25 hours (15 minutes). It’s a great way to rationalize/justify any questions that might arise about your billing practices; it helps you learn to discipline yourself (time = money); and it’s great tool for sharpening your quoting skills.