ALUMNI IN ACTION: TIPS FOR BEING A CONTRACTOR:
We asked alumni and other associates to share their tips on moving from employee to contractor. We especially thank Teresa Nichols, LSSBB and Pamela Wallace, PMP for their contributions. Here’s what we learned:
1. Treat becoming a contractor like a project. Understand your goals, complete a SWOT analysis, identify the resources you need as a contractor, and establish a budget for your business.
2. To identify clients, consider past contacts, industry groups, and placement services. Google local listings are free and very search engine friendly. A successful PMP contractor told us “In the beginning you may need to take on almost any type of work to get the chance to establish yourself with a client. Once clients get to know you, trust you, and like your work, then additional projects start flowing. I’ve been asked to take on more and more projects. Each project grew in scope, size and responsibility.” On the other hand, shares another freelancer, don’t be afraid to say “No” if a project is not the right fit
3. Find referral partners and people who can do work that is outside of your “wheelhouse” but close to what you do. For example a writer or marketing consultant might work with a graphic designer so they don’t have to turn down graphic design work.
4. Always have a contract (statement of work) for each project.
You can find free on-line contract templates that have been vetted for legal considerations, such as www.rocketlawyer.com/contractor/agreement
forms/service forms. Both allow allow users to fill in details and then create a state specific contract to download. The site docsketch.com offers a variety of sample templates (for various services) for free download. Customize the template for each project and be sure to include project deliverables, key dates, payment terms (hourly or by the project) and schedules, as well as how “project creep” — work that is out of scope of the contract — will be handled including impact on cost and schedule.
5. When negotiating a contract, be specific and direct with the client about your availability and understand how you charge for your services. And be sure the client’s expectations are also clear. You both deserve to know this up front. While these contract conversations can be uncomfortable and awkward, they are essential when establishing yourself as a contractor. Here are some examples:
- If you don’t work standard hours, be sure the client knows that and determine any time when you must be available for project meetings or tasks.
- If a client schedules a meeting with you for an hour and is a no show, let the client know if you will charge them for time.