man-1246277_1280The figures are taken from a poll of 1,000 creative freelancers across 13 industries, including graphic designers, developers, copywriters, video editors and photographers. Each freelancer was asked to estimate how many hours per week they carried out work for clients for which they didn’t or couldn’t charge.

Graphic designers and copywriters spend the most time doing non-billable work, each racking up 38 days’ worth of time over the course of a year. Photographers are most likely to spend more than 10 hours per week on non-billable work, but on average spend less time on non-billable work than designers or writers.

Developers spend the least time doing non-billable work and are least likely to put in 10 or more non-billable hours per week.

What’s driving this?

Freelance creatives spent the most unpaid time dealing with ‘scope creep’, which is a project management term for when clients request changes or additions to an agreed project, without paying for the extra time. Scope creep accounted for 60% of all non-billable time recorded.

Other common non-billable tasks include chasing clients for feedback, performing last minute changes and chasing clients for payments.



Charlotte Whelan, project manager at believes communication and clarity are key to freelancers cutting down their non-billable hours.

“The amount of time freelancers can lose throughout the course of a year is actually eye-watering. But due to the complex nature of most projects freelance designers and developers work on, it’s quite easy for scope creep to happen.

“One minor amendment becomes a slightly larger amendment, which triggers a change elsewhere in the workflow and before they know it, freelancers are putting in hours upon hours of extra time to get the project over the line.

NPW3“It’s quite possible that clients are unaware of how much extra work their suppliers put in for them. Freelancers are project focused by nature, but also need to maintain good relations with their clients, so it’s not surprising that many of them will go the extra mile to ensure the client is happy. But there’s a balance to be had.

“We developed specifically to tackle this issue, by ensuring freelancers, agencies and their clients can capture meaningful feedback in the quickest way possible to avoid wasted time. By centralising feedback and keeping it highly contextual, we’re hoping to reduce the need for emails and phone calls – another reason freelancers end up putting in unpaid hours – ensuring that both supplier and client get maximum value from the project.”