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I recently started a new job as a contract developer, and my non-developer boss of about two weeks ago gave me the task to re-create an app from another language and developer that he will reuse with multiple clients (replacing the front-end), that I estimated would take longer than his estimate of 12 hours.

Two weeks later, I'm 230% over-budget. I admit this was my 2nd web app, I had been a wordpress developer in the past, so I am somewhat new to code igniter, but not shabby php by any means. My boss hired me knowing this and I was clear that it would take longer than his 12 hours. He's seen me in the office on task for 2 weeks, he should be somewhat prepared for this bill.

Do I expect the full amount of hours, or do I filter against how much of learned? Can I bill for research as a developer?

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If you are a contractor, why is he giving you the time estimate for the project? It should be the other way around. – GrandmasterB Mar 20 '12 at 6:44
This is your 2nd web app and you've been tasked with a complete rewrite? – Jim G. Mar 20 '12 at 13:48
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Just about any application is unrealistic to do in 12 hours, no matter how simple it is. This was an unrealistic estimate given by someone who does not understand the process. This is fine as long as they can accept and learn what the actual process is about.

Do you charge the full amount? Of course you do. It was your time that you used to accomplish a task for someone else. You learned in the process which is good, but programming is a learning process. If all programmers charged only for code written, and excluded learning and research time, all of us would make almost no money.

Many projects in many professions are over budget all the time. If you don't charge the full amount for your time, you will end off out of pocket.

Don't feel guilty about it. Explain to your client. Give him the bill.

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If the language in the contract he signed with you includes any language such as "not to exceed X hours at Y rate" then you can only charge what you agreed to charge.

However, if it was an estimate and the contract states that you would be paid for hours worked, period, then you charge the hours that you worked.

If your concern is that it took you an unreasonable amount of time (for some value of unreasonable) to get up to speed with something you had no control in using -- note that I don't know if this is the case here at all but am just throwing it out there -- and you have mixed feelings about charging someone for what you perceive to be time spent not wholly focused on their project, then don't. But that's your decision, not "right" or "wrong" or anything beyond what you feel is best.

Bottom line: if you worked on this project for 30 hours, bill for 30 hours unless the contract says you'll only bill for 12.

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