TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:Travel Time & Charges Answers From:rivka <rivka -at- DIRECT -dot- CA> Date:Sun, 31 Jan 1999 21:44:39 -0800
Thanks to all who responded! I'm most grateful for your
I've put all the answers below in the order received.
I will pass them along to the startup company that is
presently contracting me. They will greatly appreciate
your collective wisdom and experience, as do I.
We long ago learned to negotiate a portal-to-portal
deal. Just as with lawyers and consultants, the client
outside of a certain radius pays for both time and
expenses, from the moment we leave our front door to the
moment we show up at the jobsite or hotel in the
client's town. We do this because in that time we can't
really work on other stuff very productively...files are
left behind, it's hard to juggle laptops and other stuff
on today's one-bag-limit flights, and so forth. Or we
just charge enough to cover the travel time. In any
case, any client who expects you to eat the travel time
isn't in the big leagues.
There are exceptions, of course. If we're setting up a
large production staff out there, for example, we'll
foot our own travel expenses. And if we're stuck in an
airport due to unforeseen circumstances, we may talk
with the client about it and split something. But the
problem with splitting with some clients is that it's a
slippery slope...they get you walking backwards a step
or two, then the bean boys start salivating. Not every
time, but often enough.
The centerpiece of all this is that you've now learned a
valuable lesson: Do whatever you want to do in your
contract, but make it explicit and cover it up-front.
Include a short paragraph that says something like
"Client agrees to pay for all time and expenses incurred
for and during unforeseen events including, though not
limited to, flight delays, ground delays, or other acts
of God, unless such expenses are paid by others,
including but not limited to, airlines and taxi
I've never charged for travel time, and long delays are
part of the flying game. And I haven't run into a
situation of two clients and conflicting times, so can't
offer guidelines here.
This comes up with our consultants all the time. Here is
my answer: It is not the client's fault (either of them)
that the weather was bad and your plane was delayed.
Charging them for this time is like a "punishment" for
putting you in a position of not being able to work.
That is not really fair to the client. Neither the
client nor you can control the weather and plane delays,
therefore it seems unfair to bill them for that.
Since you were not working during the delay, you should
not bill the time. This is one of the little joys of
being a consultant. You are only paid for the exact time
you are working, not for the mere presence of you. I
always try take some client related stuff to edit or
read on the plane that way I can bill at least the
Time is money. :-)
Andrew Plato President / Principal Consultant Anitian
Consulting, Inc. www.anitian.com
I'm not a lawyer and have never faced this situation, so
this is just my common-sense-based opinion; but I don't
see how Client A is in any way liable for the loss you
suffered due to a delayed flight. IMHO you just have to
eat the loss and charge it to operating overhead. The
airline and Client B are not responsible, either.
Frankly, I'm surprised you are able to charge clients
for the time you spend traveling. In most arrangements
I'm aware of, the client pays expenses but not clock
time. The exceptions to this that I've seen have all
involved equipment repair personnel whose travel time
was billed at 50% of the repair time rate.
I'm curious. Why do you feel that every minute of your
time has to be paid for? Did you come from the
management consulting industry, perhaps?
Travel-time is just that ... the time it takes you to
travel on the client's behalf. To me, this means
door-to-door. If you were delayed eight hours while en
route, the client you were travelling for is obliged to
pay for that time. His fault? No. Yours? Nope. Act of
the dieties? Probably. But still, for those eight hours,
you were unable to earn your buck-twentynine.
HTH, Anne Halsey wrdfinesse -at- aol -dot- com
You will have to buy insurance against such mishaps. I
wouldn't expect to pay any subcontractor for more than
the work specified and completed to my satisfaction.
All the best
Roger Jones, Publisher Publishing -at- rjpc -dot- demon -dot- co -dot- uk
I charge for any travel time exceeding an hour, so if I
drive 3 hours to the client site, I charge them. I
charge them travel time when I fly, as well (and that
includes Europe, when I fly out from California).
I would not charge for delays that weren't my client's
fault, though - the time lost is one of those things
that as a contractor you have to expect once in a while.
You might lose more in your relationship with your
client than the extra for which you bill.
Do you specify in your contract exactly what you charge
for? In the cases of my clients that are really far or
really short duration, I usually charge a flat "per day"
fee, which covers the days I fly, too.
I know it's too late to help you now, but it's something
to keep in mind.