are finding that short-term contracting assignments are an excellent
way to pay the bills while waiting for that perfect job to be offered.
Others have decided to explore their options in self-employment.
If you're taking a contracting assignment, these tips should help.
be an actual contract involved, and it should document the agreement
between you and your temporary employer. Don't just sign the contract
offered, read it carefully. Even if it is "non-negotiable"
(and few contracts really are non-negotiable), reading it will help
you understand what is expected, how much you will be paid, when
you will be paid, and other extremely useful information.
help or hurt you.
A contract is
an AGREEMENT between 2 parties. Don't sign it if it doesn't represent
YOUR understanding of the agreement you have with the employer.
And, don't sign it if you don't understand it. Don't be afraid to
A good contract
clearly explains what each party expects to give and get, and what
happens if either party fails to perform.
contract increases the chances that you'll be paid for the work
that you perform. A badly- written contract, or one that you do
not understand, can hurt you.
It's a good
idea to include how you will handle changes that may be necessary
as the project evolves.
have a way of expanding in scope. So, beware of "flat fee"
projects. Your agreement needs to specify the initial scope and
be clear that you'll be compensated for additional work
Not as scary
as it sounds, and better than accepting a term you cannot, or do
not want to, meet. Think of the negotiation as setting the stage
for a long-term relationship that is beneficial to both sides
- If you don't
like a term, propose a modification ("counter offer")
that is acceptable to you.
can drop my rate by 10% (or whatever) if we you are willing
to commit to an additional 30 days [or whatever] on the assignment."
can't complete my section of this project unless the [whatever]
is completed. Let's change the contract to indicate that I'm
not responsible if [source] does not supply the [whatever]."
normal fee for this type of work is $XX per hour, not [lower
number]. Let's change the hourly rate, or modify the requirements,
- Give yourself
some room to maneuver.
expect to negotiate. So, if you propose your lowest rate and
best terms, you may be stuck if the other party expects to play
"let's make a deal." You could end up with a price
much lower than you want, or no deal at all. So, don't start
with the deal that is most beneficial to the employer. Begin
the negotiations by offering the "deal" that is most
beneficial to YOU (but not unfair or one- sided).
- Don't assume
that price is THE issue!
is NOT the issue. Something else is. Explore other options -
timing, hours, location, etc. Ask questions. Then, shut your
mouth (this is the toughest thing to do when you are in make-a-sale
mode, so bite your tongue if you must!). Listen carefully to
the answers. Price is easy to drop but very hard to increase,
so drop it only when absolutely necessary.
- If price
IS the issue, offer to change some other term that helps you (or
the employer) reduce another expense before you drop your price.
you could justify maintaining for a HIGHER rate if you work
from home since that can reduce an employer's expenses, too
(no desk, phone, etc. needed for you).
from home (if appropriate) should reduce your commuting expenses
and time, making a lower hourly rate potentially more acceptable
on the situation, what is important to you AND to the employer,
and on the way you present your idea.
- Don't make
a concession without getting a concession in return.
you may agree to work at their location in exchange for getting
paid at 50% of your rate for travel time. Or, you'll agree to
their timeframe if they will agree to pay your invoices every
week, within 5 days of your invoice submission. Or, whatever
else is something you want that you don't have yet.
- Know when
"the deal" is a bad deal for you, and be prepared to
walk away from it.
to something you know is going to carry too large cost for you,
either in money or in lost opportunity. Prepare yourself mentally
to WANT the contract, but NOT to NEED the contract. Desperation
shows, and weakens your negotiating position.
- Go for a
"fair" or "win/win" outcome so that both sides
are comfortable with the final agreement.
contracts get extended (or converted into "real" jobs),
so it's usually a good idea to keep the goal of creating a long-term
relationship in mind. It won't be long term if either side feels
ripped off. One-sided agreements usually plant the seeds of
the need for revenge for the party that "loses" -
not the basis of a good relationship. But, watch out for people
who play games with you on this, too.
- A contract
with broad non-compete and non- solicitation provisions. They
can seriously limit your future employment options. The problem
usually does not show up until something goes wrong, and then
it's too late.
provisions, or verbal assurances that a clause or provision you
don't like will never be enforced. These statements should send
up yellow (or red!) flags. If something will not be enforced,
then it should NOT be in the contract. If it DOES apply, it should
following when entering into a contract:
- Purpose -
Does the contract include a clear statement of intent, scope of
work, and project description? Can you do it, as specified? Are
you comfortable with it? Is everything defined correctly?
- Terms - Does
the contract list a timetable for performance, deliverables, payment
schedule, deadlines, and penalties for late delivery? Are payment
terms set for the initial contract and for additional work beyond
the scope of the contract?
Property - Does the contract state "work for hire?"
You may want to add: "Consultant [you] retains all rights
in methods, techniques, and tools used by Consultant before the
date of this Agreement or developed by Consultant during the term
of this Agreement."
- Is the contract clear, reasonable and reciprocal in addressing
confidentiality? You may want to add: "Consultant performs
services for other companies. Nothing in this agreement precludes
Consultant from accepting other employment as long as Consultant
preserves the confidentiality of client information."
Limitation/Indemnification - Does the contract include a "hold
harmless" provision if performance is impossible due to events
beyond your control?
- Does the contract use industry standard performance criteria?
- Does the contract have a clause "contingent upon receipt
- Does the contract list requirements for notice of termination
and opportunity to cure?
- Dispute Resolution
- Does the contract include provision for mediation/ arbitration
and stated location?
It is good business
practice to have a written agreement for every project, even if
it's just an email confirming your conversation. Being clear about
billing and payment, and the project scope and milestones, can save
you from a "misunderstanding."
Jean D. Sifleet,
Business Attorney, CPA and 3-time entrepreneur, provides practical
advice for business challenges based on her first-hand experiences.
Her book "Smart Fast, The Desktop Reference Guide for Running
Your Business" is a great resource for learning how to avoid
legal pitfalls in business. For more information, see SmartFast
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce,
Job-Hunt's Editor and Publisher, spent 10 years negotiating contracts
with the U.S. Federal Government before founding her own Web development
company, NETability, Inc.
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