Rush fees

I’ve always been bad about factoring in rush fees. I’m either bad about imposing them in the first place, or adding them in when - through client delay or last minutes revisions - a project suddenly becomes a rush to make deadline. Any ideas or suggestions about how and when to impose them? How to make it clear in the first place? When you completing a job means you have to drop everything else and immediately bump it to the front of the line, it seems there should be a value to that.

Here’s a current example (and you knew I had one, right?):
A new client contacted me about an ad design on Thursday morning with a Monday midday deadline.

They got the materials to me late (after 5pm) Thursday evening.

Friday, I bumped the project to the front of the line. (It included included wading through a confusing mass of materials they sent. There was very little advance sorting on their part). I had an appointment midday I couldn’t break but other than that Friday was all about the ad.

I sent two versions to my primary liaison at the company by 4pm Friday evening.

I received an email from the liaison early Saturday saying he loved the ads. He thanked me for the quick turn around and said he would send them on to his superiors for final proofing and editing.

Sunday at noon I received an email with new image source files from the higher ups along with edits and changes. They asked me to make the changes and resend for “further nit-picking”.

This is Sunday at noon. Again, the ad due tomorrow, Monday, at noon. I did some very initial edits but, well, it’s Sunday and I have a day planned.

Is this now a “Rush” situation? Was it a “Rush” situation to begin with? One wants to advocate for oneself, but one doesn’t want to be difficult either.

Thanks for any input you might have.

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I think it’s best to anticipate these kinds of problems on last-minute projects. It doesn’t always happen, but based on experience, I know the odds are good that it will.

So when it comes to jobs with a high potential for spilling over into long weekends, I always mention that possibility and the rush charge that will occur if client changes and complications turn the project into a Saturday or Sunday thing. In other words, I make it clear to them that rates double for unanticipated, last-minute weekend work, so it’s best for them to do everything possible to avoid it.


Ditto what B said.
When something comes in as a 24 or 48 hour turnaround, always state up front that rush charges are likely. Even if it doesn’t involve a weekend. If you have to push other jobs off to do the rush and those go into overtime, the onus for that overtime goes on the rush job.


I state my standard turnaround times in the initial quote so they have a frame of reference for what constitutes rush.

“Standard turnaround time for ads is 5 business days for the first proof, and 2 business days for each subsequent proof. Rush turnaround is available at our hourly rate, plus 50%, and guarantees delivery of the first proof within 48 hours, and subsequent proofs within 24 hours.”

I did some business with a company that had 3 rate categories. Standard, Rush, Super-Rush. Super-Rush was if you needed it back immediately, and they would charge you 3x.

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First off, any work required to be done after hours or on a Saturday is charged double. No work at all is done on Sunday. Easy to explain, easy to understand, make sure your client is aware up front and you should have no problems. :smirk:

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Working on a Sunday is a personal choice.
With most of our work, any job that is requiring work on a Sunday is already paying adequate rush. If my time is required on a Sunday, my pay rate is doubled. I’m good with that.
It’s a really good argument for not being salaried.

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This is a very typical situation. I lay out my pay schedule in advance for clarity.

My weekend hourly fee is 1.5x my normal fee. Anything over 16 hours on the weekend is 2x normal hourly fee. That gives me customer approval at the highest cost - so I can reduce it as a “favored client bonus” in the end to give them a warm fuzzy feeling.

But this is a feast or famine business so whatever you do, get it done on time. If anyone is going to be unprofessional, don’t let it be you.


Thanks folks. Of course, everything you’re saying makes sense. I’m getting back into the swing of freelancing and acquiring new clients after years freelancing only part time with old, well-established clients. I’m a little rusty. And the excitment of picking up a new client - and one I think may be a conduit to more work - kind’a made me forget, well, everything… :slight_smile:. Hopefully lesson learned. I won’t be charging this client a rush on this job as I wasn’t clear up front. But I will be composing a “Going forward…” kind of email. Thanks again.


I agree with charging extra for weekend work. It sounds like the liaison is the problem here. There’s a old saying, never time enough to do it right, always time enough to do it over - even on a weekend… I would have responded first thing Monday morning, but maybe that’s just me. Sending major edits Sunday at noon for something due Monday at noon is unreasonable. If it’s a client you really want to have as repeat business, it might be worthwhile, otherwise you’re setting a dangerous precedent for future expectations.

So… by way of follow up. After the job was approved and sent to press I emailed the client and said: “Since this was our first time working together and [client name] was in a jam, I waived any rush fees for this project. Going forward, please know that the standard turnaround for ad design is 5 business days + 48 hours for revisions. Ads requiring shorter timelines are subject to a rush fee of 1.5x my usual rate. Weekend hours are always billed at 1.5x my usual rate.”

The liaison wrote back immediately thanking me again for my quick work and saying he completely understood the rush fee. A few days later, another member of the organization requested a couple re-configurations of the ad, again last minute, but he added “We understand this will require a rush fee.”

The end result: I have both an appreciative client and a clear understanding of terms. Thanks folks for all your input and wisdom.


I think you presented it to them in the right way. You acknowledged your appreciation for them and their needs by waiving the extra fee and going the extra mile. Second, you politely informed them that these kinds of rush requests would normally be billed at time and a half.

In other words, you demonstrated your commitment to going the extra mile when needed while setting some boundaries. Perfect.

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It’s all about communicating and being as professional and RELIABLE as you can.

Simply, artists are all weird. We are. People in the corporate world think we are oblivious or not serious simply because they don’t get that we work as hard, if not harder, than most of them. A lot of that work is necessary because EVERYONE has had a “bad artist” experience. The work was late, they were resistant to changes, hard to contact… all the weirdness that a lot of us artists have. So if you speak their language and do the work THEY WANT, you become known as an artist “but he/she’s not really like a “regular” artist…”. They will bring you back because no one wants to be responsible for bringing the next guy in.

THAT is corporate middle management. Keep the head down, don’t speak up, collect a paycheck. I wear shorts and a t-shirt every day. That makes me happy. But if I go to meet a big $ client, it’s full suit and tie and presentations…

“Design is not art in the sense that you are creating for a client instead of yourself.” - Chuck Long

“Be like water.” - Bruce Lee

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