I have a new client who was 4 days late getting me the information they wanted designed and dropped it in my lap the day before they needed it complete. It was chaotic and a mess to coordinate but I got it done and sent them the complete files. We never discussed a budget beforehand so I'm not sure how to proceed billing them. They are a non profit, so the pockets aren't deep, but they did pay me well for another recent job where they told me upfront how much they had to spend. How should I proceed?

5 Answers 5


Bill them your regular rate. They will either pay or they'll come back with questions. Worry about the latter only if it happens.

  • 5
    ^^this right here. If you kept track of your hours and the tasks, you can detail everything on the invoice to justify the amount. Since you've worked with them before and they paid you before, it shouldn't be a staggering shock. (And if it is, then it will teach them not to dump stuff on you without a budget limit.) Next time, obviously, either get a budget or figure out an estimate before beginning the work, or both. Apr 20, 2017 at 18:08
  • 3
    It can actually be ideal to have a client that asks you to do the work and then invoice them based on time you actually spent. If they don't balk at it, then you could be set up for this going forward. I typically add a bit extra if I have to spend time to create an estimate, because you are never 100% sure how much it will be with all the back and forth between you and them. Just be detailed in your description of the variety of items you worked on and any expenses you incurred.
    – ispaany
    Apr 20, 2017 at 20:48
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    I do this.. I charge everyone your regular rate.. then they complain... "Why are you charging me what DA01 charges??" :)
    – Scott
    Apr 21, 2017 at 16:31

Bill them your regular rate and add an amount for a rush-job and mark it clearly in your invoice. Be open to explain or even negotiate, as other users have already suggested. In your question there is a lack of communication, so you can make a first move towards more and detailed communication with a well written and fully detailed invoice. Once they realize that you note your hours and costs, they will less likely "drop" work on you like that. And do not forget that you accepted the job and also did not mention money, so tread gently.

I know such situations as a customer and as a provider:

I am working for a non-profit organisation but that does not mean that we do sloppy planning and last-minute hectic jobs. When we are late with a project, we cannot expect an external specialist to "catch up" for us. They need to learn to respect their partners even more than fully-paying customers.

What I like doing, when people are bringing work to us (not graphical, but typesetting for example) is telling them our normal rates per page.

And when they underestimate the amount of work and what time it takes to do a good quality job and they want it "tomorrow", then I tell them it normally takes several working days... "But you can have it by tomorrow, if you pay a bonus for a rush-job. Our team will gladly work all night for you, if you pay zzz (and then I name a very high rate, like four-fold price)."

We are non-profit, so we do not want to charge a lot. But we want to train our partners to never come last-minute and to respect our office-work flow. Same as we respect those people who do printing for us or other work by order, not excluding craftsmen.



  1. Bill them at a similar rate to the previous job. Assuming you and the client were both happy with that rate the last time and you would be happy with it this time then there's no reason to assume any different on the clients part.

  2. Bill them at your normal rate (assuming that's any different to the last job). I mean... that's how it works, right? You do the work, people pay you the price you charge...

  3. Bill them some other amount?

The fact is, you need to bill them and they need to pay you. That's just how it works. If they have problems with the pricing after you bill them then come to an agreement, but without any indication otherwise should just bill them. If people want to try and negotiate then that is up to them... but don't start negotiating yourself; just charge what you charge.

If you want to give them a nudge without actually billing them and without directly asking what their budget is (was?) to give them the chance to bring up any issues, just give them a heads up that you'll be sending out invoices at the end of the week (or something similar; I don't know your process). A quick friendly email or call or however you normally communicate. That gives them a perfect opportunity to bring it up...

But really you should just bill them.


If they told you the budget upfront for the last job, you could try and ask them again what they were planning to spend on this new one.


Compare this job with the previous and bill accordingly. If the previous job was X, and this new job was the same effort, charge the same X, 2*X for twice the effort or X/2 for half the effort and so on.

But generally, and especially with new clients with a tendency to drop urgent work with poorly organized content..

  • always have a contract or at least a written agreement (email is fine) on how you charge for your work (either fixed our hourly fee)
  • never deliver files without the client confirming some kind of budget beforehand

Judge situation and person according to your wisdom. It's only right to bill them your regular rate, its your right. Bill them more only if you believe they will bargain, which they most likely will. If they do not hesitate you should discount them the amount you charged extra. If client wont budge and if he is more likely to give you more work then better lose a little money than a permanent client.

PS : we faced same situation at early stage of our business, that cost us dearly back then. I sincerely wish you don't suffer same loss as we did. Good Luck.

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