Finishing a freelance job early

My freelance work often takes two forms: either I'm working for my own clients, or I'm working for an agency; helping out with a particular project.

The latter has thrown up an interesting question, one which I'm still not sure the answer to: what happens if I finish the job earlier than planned?

Let's say a company has booked me for 10 days to help their in-house team with a project, I get to work, run through all the tasks, and hey presto! All done in 6 days.

This is an ideal situation for the agency and their client, but as a freelancer I'm left with a 4 day gap. 4 days I won't be getting paid for, and unless something immediately becomes available; 4 days without anything else to switch on to.

Now, one solution is obviously to examine how long things will take before being booked for a set number of days. This is fine, it's something that I'm constantly working on from project to project. Sometimes however, it's only when a project has been started that you realise how long things will actually take to complete, and by that time I'm already booked in for a set number of days. There's also unknown variables to deal with, client feedback pretty much always takes longer than has been planned for, and it doesn't really make sense for an agency to have a freelancer just hanging around while they wait for a response.

So what's the solution? I'm still not too sure! Perhaps some form of contingency clause for early finishes? If a project finishes 4 days early for example, the company could agree to pay for 2 days (half of the time remaining). Almost like a bonus for finishing early.

It's still something I'm trying to figure out and I'd love to get some feedback on it, any other freelancers out there had this issue? What about from the agency side - what do you think? Let me know via Twitter @TEDavis

Freelance