What Does Per Diem Mean for Consultants

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Per diem simply means “for each day” or “per day” (wikipedia).

As a consultant you’ll run into this word all the time. It’s most often used to describe the amount of money you’re given or allowed to use per day.

Let’s say you’re attending a consulting conference. Your organization may offer you a $400 per diem to cover your hotel, meals, travel, etc.

Instead of expecting your client to pay for your meals or travel, you can simply include it in your proposal as part of the project fee.

To clarify, if you’re an independent consultant you won’t be finding much use in a per diem. This is most common when working for a company or organization as an employee.

That said, some larger companies, government and organizations do offer contractors and consultants per diem in some situations.

Consultants sometimes wonder whether their client will offer them a per diem to visit the client site.

The answer is, yes, some will. However, I’m not a big believer in this model.

Instead of expecting your client to pay for your meals or travel, you can simply include it in your proposal as part of the project fee.

Probably because I believe you have to eat anyways and it’s not my clients’ business to cover the cost of me eating.

If you’re visiting your client’s site, they’ll often offer you lunch or take you to dinner anyways.

Regarding accommodation and flight that is almost always covered by the client. Though it’s not usually referred to as a per diem.

It’s simply listed as the project fee + accommodation, flight and transportation.

You can find many complicated calculations and rules about when and how to charge a per diem and how it’s classified for tax purposes. I’m not an accountant and don’t deal heavily with these, yet many detailed resources are available.

What is your experience dealing with Per Diems? Share in the comments below…