spidertools.com has an interesting little story with some great steps you should use whenever you engage a consultant. The author using a forest fire analogy to make his points about how you should protect yourself and your company from what I would call “Brain Drain”. When you hire a consultant you should also make sure part of your contract includes documentation and training. When I was consulting I always tried to get customers to understand and where possible actually be able to fix the problems they encountered. While not every problem or solution should be attempted by a novice user of any OS there are plenty of situations where this is an option. If you don’t put it in the contract you will never become familiar with any troubleshooting or solutions leaving you tied to the Consultant to update the server or fixing the problem in the future.
This article on the Infoworld Site titled “Fixing independent programmers’ no-win scenario” talks about how hard it is to be an Independent Software Developer because of changes to the tax law that attempt to force them to become employees of the companies they do work for. The flaw I see with the article is that most independent contractors, both System Admins and Developers, protect themselves with either LLC’s or S Corporations. From what I can tell, remembering that I am not a laywer so by no means authoritative, either would let you side step these new rules. Most companies I have dealt with in the past dealt with me in one of two ways. 1) Hired me as a temporary employee or 2) contracted with my S Corp which of course I already worked for. The start of the article talks about a poor developer who smashed a plane into a building in Texas. He blamed these laws for all of his problems. While they may not be helping him the article points out that they probably do not have the effect that he talks about in his suicide note. So to avoid any of our readers deciding to take any drastic measures becuase of a lack of work remember the following:
- The economy is improving and skilled tech workers and managers are always the first to recover. So hang in there the worst should be over.
- Starting both an LLC and S Corp are relatively cheap and offer you a lot of protection legally. With either you can get Errors and Omissions insurance which will help cover you if someone does decide to sue you for a mistake with your work output.
- Read every contract carefully. I understand they are boring and difficult to read. After you have read it pay a lawyer to review it for you. Your options on this are spend the money now or loose everything later. It’s a much cheaper option to spend the money now. Get a standard contract off the internet and have it validated by a lawyer. Then use it if your clients don’t have one they want to use.
- Communicate, Communicate, and when you think you have done it enough communicate again just to make sure. The best way to keep a customer and keep them happy is to talk to them.
- Follow through on your promises and communicate with your customer if an adjustment needs to be made to anything schedule or output wise.
I hope these help. If you are reading this have have any additional tips for independent contractors please leave a comment below.