How Do You Bill For Projects That Take You Out Of Town?

I have a long time client who will be flying in engineers and marketing people from all over America, and Europe for a new product planning meeting early in November. He has asked me to attend as the “designer” to help.

The meeting is out of state for me (about a 4 hour drive), and I would be there for 4 days. I am just not sure how to bill for something like this. My client and I have worked together for 8+ years, and he likes me to bill by the hour for the work I typically do. Obviously the scope of this is a bit different.

So my question is, for out of town work is there a standard number of hours you bill a day, how do you handle expenses, etc…
Any advise on how to handle this would be appreciated.


Hi Red5; I don’t do this, but I hire photographers to fly with me to do photoshoots. Traditionally, I get quoted a rate for the time they’ll actively be working (2.5 days shooting @ $1,500 a day= $3,750). I also pay for their flight, hotel and food. Some photographers will charge a fee for traveling time, depending on the photographer. If you’re driving there, you could at least charge your client the standard mileage reimbursement rate of $0.565/mile and that covers gas and wear & tear on your car.

I basically think you need to get paid for the time you’ll be actively working. If that’s 30 hours over 4 days, so be it. Don’t charge for going out for drinks :wink:. Charge for your hotel and food, and definitely at least get reimbursed for the gas on your drive there. You could also instead of charging for gas, charge a “travel rate” of 1/2 what you usually charge or something like that. If he’s flying people from all over, your travel bill will be nothing compared to others.


Travel time is billable. Unless flying, driving from home to the airport or from the airport to home is non-billable. Flight time is billable. All driving at the location is billable.

As soon as you hit the hotel, you are off the clock.

Considering it is a long time client, you could offer a lower hourly rate for travel. Personally I am against that practice. If I wasn’t traveling for that client, I could be doing a job for a different client at the full rate.

I charge a “day rate” + travel expenses. When a client wants you on-site, they’re basically using up all your time for that day–time that you might be splitting between this client and another client. So having you “captured” has an opportunity cost that you need to account for. Travel time is part of that as that too takes you away from other paying clients.

Never apologize for charging your client fairly for the services you’re being hired to provide.


Excellent suggestion, and something I have done recently. We gave the client this exact explanation, too, when they balked at the cost and after hearing it, they accepted. Once on site, we were able to hash through many scenarios quickly that would have taken days/weeks over email/phone calls. Seeing that advantage made them very comfortable with the cost and they’re anxious to do it again.

Yes, I try very hard to not make such visits a “social call” (although it’s always a good opportunity to build that relationship with the client) but rather a time to make the kind of progress that can only be achieved face-to-face. I actually try to delay that visit or time it out such that we’ve already done a fair amount of work and have a lot to talk about and react to. It’s less efficient if you go right at the beginning of the program, but some clients like that “kick off” meeting with everyone in the room.


As said, if you are traveling, you aren’t doing other work. They buy your days, even if not full. More often then not, they are more full. “Social” dinner, is still working and talking shop, even if beers involved.

I charge day of my rate x 10 hours for each travel day, including days actually in travel (ie. in a plane, car, etc. that day is essentially a write off, unless it’s <4 hours travel). They pay for all expenses (food, hotel, airfare, etc.).

IT can indeed add up (ie. 14 days in China = $$$$), but you do get a lot done quickly you wouldn’t otherwise. You are paying for experience and problem solving and the costs are much cheaper to avoid the mistakes then to make them and have to fix later.


Some great advice in here. This is why I love coming here. Honest input from people who have encountered the same challenges.

Thanks to all who have offered their advice here. I’ll keep everyone posted as to what we agree on.

I do find that the money end of freelancing is the most difficult for me, so it’s nice to see other folks standards so as to know I’m not being unreasonable. Or worse, giving my services away.