Any good contracting job will begin with an agreement that irons out, in no uncertain terms, the job at hand. It should specify what is to be accomplished, the job’s duration, which people will perform what tasks when, what resources are required and make arrangements for payment.
That having been said, contracts obviously vary from job to job. An ongoing independent contract for consulting might merely provide guidelines for payment and expenses.
A particular project, meanwhile, is more likely to have a specific end date and will be designed around that.
Although independent contracts must be defined, they also should take care not to be too rigid. Particularly in the case of consulting, a relationship between an independent IT professional and a client might change quickly, and a contract between the two parties would need to be adapted to accommodate that.
A project, too, might involve unforeseen developments that would necessitate some revision of the contract’s parameters.
The potential wild card of an independent contractor agreement is whether the job might lead to permanent employment.
Donald Steier is a help desk analyst for CompuCom Systems.
“I had done quite a bit of contracting before working here and noticed that many companies hire their IT staff, whether it is the help desk analyst or the exchange server administrator, as contractors,” Steier said. “I’ve seen some people working for a company six or more years at the same contract rate with the hope that they will be picked up by the company full time. It is a disturbing trend, in part because companies will not pay for training contractors.”
Steier, who has earned A+, Network+ and Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA), said he feels contractors who find themselves in this position are robbed of the benefits of a proper IT career.
“Most contracting companies do not have an educational benefit for their contractors and do not offer much in the way of medical, dental and eye care benefits for the contractor,” Steier said. “If the contractor gets sick and is out of work, he does not get paid and does not have benefits to help him or her get back on [his or her] feet again. I think that many getting into the IT field need to be aware of this trend and, if they don’t like the idea of contracting, avoid it.”
This is something to consider in crafting an independent contractor agreement. An open-ended but demanding contract might place a contractor in an uncomfortable position, so if the desire is for a contract to lead to permanent employment, that should be made explicit.