Billable Vs. NonBillable


Is it a good practice to bill everything towards projects in an 8 hour day? Is everything billable; ie. project research, office meetings on all projects, code research, uptime/downtime?

I'm trying to figure out if it's common practice to be 100% billable vs. non-billable.


Sep 13, 17 12:40 pm

1 Featured Comment

All 16 Comments


it's a progression, cad monkeys are 100% billable, owner is 20-30% and everything in between. billable factors are a science.

Sep 13, 17 1:18 pm
won and done williams

When in doubt, ask your project manager.

Sep 13, 17 1:41 pm

There should be some office ruling.  My first office insisted that everything be 100% billable.  No exceptions.  Current office says there is no way to be 100% billable.  They expect non-billable time. 

Sep 13, 17 1:45 pm

Same here.. We use to have non-billable time.. and now they are looking to switch it to 100% billable. I was just wondering if that is the norm.  It's either that or any time I spend beyond is on my own for non-billable I assume.

Sep 13, 17 2:09 pm

It depends on if one knows what fraud is

Sep 13, 17 3:22 pm


As far as the architect is concerned, it's all billable. As far as the client is concerned, none of it is billable.

Sep 13, 17 5:22 pm

I bill all my time spent at work.

Sep 14, 17 1:14 am
Non Sequitur
Time spent writting snarky archinect comments is totally billable.
Sep 14, 17 7:39 am

It's a special category on my timesheets


Yes, but Archinect refuses to pay.

Sep 14, 17 8:10 am
won and done williams

There's probably good basis for a class action lawsuit against Archinect - "Distracting Architects Since 1997" ;)


I have a snark jar like some people have swear jars. Everytime I make a snarky comment I have to put a quarter in the snark jar. That's how you make snark pay off.

Sep 14, 17 10:07 am

100% is not realistic in any scenario, but I've been in offices where that was the 'goal'.  Typically staff is higher and it drops somewhat as it goes up the food chain as the higher ups are tasked to bring in the work.  In the places I felt were best run from a business standpoint, all hours were tracked, with non-billable hours broken down.  Large part of the consideration is to make sure the target total billing is met - whether that is due to having a higher rate or higher percentage of billable hours is a balancing act the accountants and decision makers have to decide.

Typical non-billable items: marketing, clean up, organization of in-house materials, staffing meetings, billing meetings, meals, down time (personal internet time, chit chatting with colleagues, taking walks, errands), touching base with contractors and clients, continuing ed.

Billing items: direct project related tasks includes research.  This sometimes feels weird when working in some place new or new project type as the amount of research can be far more extensive than projects one is used to working on; but it's part of why more experienced staff gets paid more (less research and general figuring things out).

I've tried to keep 35hr/week minimum billable time as an average - based on hourly rate and multiplier this has been more than adequate. Typically shoot for 40/wk, which tends to mean 50hrs working as I take a fair amount of down time.

Sep 14, 17 1:10 pm
won and done williams

All firms I've worked in have distributed weekly projections. That's where all the firm project managers meet and assign projected hours to each employee. These hours may or may not include non-billable time, such as marketing, proposal creation, etc. You really shouldn't be in the dark as to what you should be billing and what you should not. There may be some management issues going on if you are uncertain. 

Sep 14, 17 1:36 pm
Featured Comment

There are published rules of thumb for billable % for various typical architecture firm roles. The general consensus from sources like the AIA, PMI, etc. is that a "production drafter/modeler" and a "designer" would typically be somewhere between 85% and 95% billable (but of course this is going to vary if the firm also puts production drafters on marketing tasks and such), while PMs are expected to be lower - anywhere from 70% to 90%.  There isn't really an industry standard norm for partners, because in some firms some principals are in the 0% to 50% range (when their primary role is marketing and/or administrative) while in other firms principals act as PMs and/or production at least part of the time and might be as billable or more so than their product and design staff.

100% billable is pretty much impossible in reality - which isn't to say that some firms don't bill that way.

When I was an employee I worried less about the firms that wanted to pretend that all my time was billable, and more about firms that had enough free time on their hands to assign staff to things like standards development or organizing the product library for more than a few hours a week or a "slow" week or two while waiting for new projects to ramp up.  When you've got that much slack in your workload it's not sustainable for long, and the people being assigned to those filler tasks are the easiest to cut with the least disruption to billable projects.

Sep 14, 17 3:05 pm

I write down when I do something and then I bill for it.

Sep 14, 17 5:53 pm
Sir Apple Chrissy

the real trick is to make services emerge and bill for them, I'm still learning...

Sep 14, 17 9:09 pm

What do you mean make services emerge?

Sir Apple Chrissy

Clients come to you with a brief. You fully advise on possibly services to the best of the teams knowledge. But about 6 months into it unknown conditions arise whether municipal or physical or your client has a tendency to abuse minor changes and additional services or your initial scope was merely a performance piece to a larger project that the client is avoiding let you in on (old guys can read this, us young guys get abused) or its a museum and Koolhaas convinces you you need to raise more money. Even with new construction nothinf ia ever A to Z and quite often things change or services no one knew they needed inclusing arises,the ability to bill for that is a serious skill.

Sir Apple Chrissy

emergence by definition cannot be defined prior to the project starting. usually what happens is the client will say "why didn't you know about this?" and the best response is "can you read the future of mankind?" or once the project is fleshed out the client has a concept paradigm shift (that's what I mean by a performance piece). You put the project together as everyone including client assumed and then have a major a-ha moment politically, again client may say "why didn't you know about this?" and the best response is "The Jews didn't know Jesus Christ would start a religion called Christianity, and man look at how it grew, I need to bill you for this." That's the best explanation I can give.


That's what I thought you meant. I wanted to hear the in-depth with examples. Thanks. Jesus saves.

Sir Apple Chrissy

Slayer \_/ ?


While your question focuses specifically on an 8-hour day, when you look at the work year as a totality, there's a theoretical upper limit to utilization. Starting with (52 weeks x 40 hours) = 2,080 annual available hours, one must then deduct paid vacation time (usually 80 hours) and paid holidays (usually 6 days = 48 hours) and paid sick leave (say, 5 days = 40 hours) -- already, that's 168 hours that cannot be billable. Then, you have to account for periodic staff meetings, mandatory continuing ed, office celebrations, etc. and you're really lucky if anybody can charge even close to 90% of their time to projects. And, the higher one rises in the firm the lower that theoretical level sinks.

Sep 14, 17 9:24 pm

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