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Freelancers: 8 things to look out for before accepting the contract

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If you’re about to sign on the dotted line for your next gig, then here are 8 things to look out for that might make you think twice!

  1. “You’re our first ever freelance contractor” Clients who are new to working with contractors almost always get it wrong the first time. You don’t want to be their guinea pig, unless you’re absolutely sure you can manage their expectations (they might not even know what to expect.) Some clients tend to expect miracles from you, especially as they will be paying much more than a standard employee.

    What to Do: Be sure that the client has clear contracts that they actually understand. Run through some ‘what if’ scenarios with the client to test whether they really have thought through how they will manage you during the duration of the contract.

  2. “You’re replacing somebody who doesn’t know they’re about to be replaced.” This will become a very tense situation, soon enough. To replace somebody, you’ll need knowledge and a clean handover – you won’t get this if the outgoing employee is hostile and won’t share information. There is also a chance that the person who will be replaced pleas a stay of execution – what then?

    What to Do: Ask the client what measures they will put in place if a clean knowledge transfer doesn’t happen, and who is responsible for making it happen. ‘Picking it up as you go along’ is another way of dealing with it, but it’s a big risk to you. If your client suggests this approach, then I would proceed with caution.

  3. “The project hasn’t started yet.” You have to ask why you’re starting now. In some cases, you’ll start to help the project get off the ground – and you’ll know exactly what your role in that is, should that be the case. Otherwise, you might find yourself diverted onto work that isn’t in your area of expertise, and never get off it.

    What to Do: If you’re desperate for the income, you might not like this, but I would ask to delay the start of your contract until the project is starting. This might appear to be crazy, but I say this from experience. If you do decide to start, go in with the expectation that your gig might change, or be canned.

  4. “The scope of the role is quite open at the moment” A smokescreen that is really saying ‘We are still deciding what you will do, and therefore this could be anything, anywhere.’ It smacks of a lack of organization, or worse still, you’re being set up to take on work that is already doomed to failure.

    What to Do: Depends on the type of person you are: If you’re flexible and open to doing whatever, then you have an opportunity to shape the role you will take on. However, it might not go the way you choose it to and you get stuck doing something you hate; If you prefer to know exactly what you’ll be doing, and have very particular strengths to deploy, then you might wish to reconsider if this is the right gig for you.

  5. “You’ll be paid when the agency is paid” If the agency can’t guarantee your payment, then you could soon be chasing payments and diverting all your attention into arguments.

    What to Do: Change the contract so you will be paid on an agreed schedule. Or failing that, avoid this gig. Walk away. Nothing to see here.

  6. “You can’t use company facilities” You should ask yourself Why? You’re walking into a ‘Them and Us’ situation here.

    What to Do: Do nothing if it doesn’t bother you. Accept it. Be ready to be treated like a second class citizen. Or, consider if this is the right client for you.

  7. “Your desk phone will be blocked for outside calls” demonstrates a lack of trust that you’ll use a simple device as a phone for genuine company business. You need to be able to speak to people outside of the walls of the workplace to do your job, right?

    What to Do: Check the job description. Could you conceive a scenario where making an outside call will be necessary? If so, then challenge this policy. How will you do your job? Also, do you have kids or someone in your care? Will a lack of telephone cause you increased anxiety or stress? If so, then challenge this policy.

  8. “We lock down internet access for contractors” is like the above point. If your client can’t trust you to get on with the job without loafing on Facebook then you’ll find yourself under constant supervision and scrutiny.

    What to Do: It’s a personal thing – if working within a restricted environment is OK for you then accept it and move on. If this goes against your grain, then consider if you will be happy in this contract. There is nothing you can expect to do to change the restrictions.

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About the author /


Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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