Time and Materials Contract

Today we will discuss the time and materials contract in project management. 

This contract is used when the buyer, lacking the skills required for a project and needing it completed quickly,  requests services and/or hires consultants. Here, the buyer will recruit experts through a time and materials contract.

In a time and materials contract, the scope of work is not well defined, hence the hourly rate is higher.

Let’s dive further into time and material contracts.

Time and Materials Contract

Time and Materials (T&M) is a type of contract where the buyer pays on a per hour or per-item basis. Frequently used for bespoke services, this contract has simpler terms and conditions compared to other contracts to help work start quickly.

T&M contracts are a hybrid of fixed-price and cost-reimbursable contracts used to hire temporary staff, acquire experts, and recruit outside support when a precise statement of work cannot be quickly created.

A T&M contract does not incentivize the seller to perform better.

To ensure the costs do not overrun the budget, the buyer may add a “Not to Exceed” clause to the contract, limiting the total contractual cost. The contract must end once it reaches the “Not to Exceed” value. 

If the buyers want to add additional work, they will have to manage the assignment, replacing the original work with new work. Work should be closely monitored as allocated hours reach their limit. Also, additional contingency hours could be built into the maximum budget if requested.

Another alternative is a shared financial risk approach. In Agile, the quality criteria are one measure defining project completion. Therefore, the supplier can be rewarded with a higher hourly rate when the delivery arrives earlier than the contracted deadline. Conversely, the supplier would suffer a rate reduction for late delivery.

Example of Time and Materials Contract

100 USD per hour plus expenses/materials cost of 100 USD per hour plus materials at 5 USD per meter of wood.

How Does Time and Materials Contract Work?

  • Time and material contracts are popular contracts used for hiring experts or consultants. 
  • It can be used to buy standard materials needed for the project.
  • Vendors will be selected based on their capabilities and experience. 
  • There will be a negotiated price (or rate) for such supplies. 
  • The final price paid will be for the number of such resources consumed or purchased.
  • The buyer has a reduced risk in time and materials contracts compared to cost-reimbursable contracts.

Advantages of Time and Material Contract

  • This contract can be created quickly because the Statement of Work (SOW) has fewer details.
  • The contract duration is brief and limited.
  • This is a good choice when you are hiring experts and equipment for specific purposes.

Disadvantages of Time and Material Contract

  • There is profit for the seller for every hour or unit billed, tempting them to take longer than necessary.
  • The seller has no incentive to control costs.
  • This contract type requires a great deal of day-to-day oversight from the buyer.


A time and materials contract is a hybrid of a fixed price and cost-reimbursable contract that works well when you need to hire experts and temporary staff. In this contract, the seller has no risk and therefore no incentive to control costs.

Choose T&M contracts if the duration is relatively brief, and you are prepared to monitor seller performance, and the scope is not clear.

This concept is important from the PMP exam point of view, understand it well.

Have you used time and materials contracts in your organization? If yes, please share your experience using it through the comments section.