Thinking of becoming a contractor? Part 3
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Concluding this series of posts on getting started as an IT contractor, here we suggest some best practices. Central to this is communicating well with the people you work alongside in order to to make your assignment as successful as possible. Clear and professional communication leaves little room for ambiguity.

The Client

Usually the person who signs your timesheet on a weekly basis is considered to be “the client.” It is important to maintain regular communication with the client as they will be answerable to a manager for the overall progress of the team. If you are working directly for the client, it’s a good idea to arrange regular meetings to exchange information and ideas and highlight any issues that may arise.

Clarify Expectations

Understand the client’s expectations of you before you start the project. Reflect them back in email form with added deliverables and timeframes. If you make recommendations, do so in an email that you can refer to later should it be required. In this way you can keep track of changes and instructions. For example, after every meeting, send a thank you email to all attendees, reiterate the key points discussed in the meeting, the agreed deliverables and timeframes and who these are assigned to.

Performance Reviews

As a contractor, you are probably employed to complete a specific task or project. As such you should not expect to have quarterly or six monthly performance reviews like full-time employees. Your contracting timesheet on the other hand is a very important document in that a signature from the client on the document confirms two things: that you worked the hours listed, and that the quality of your work met their expectations. A weekly timesheet should state: day, date, start time, finish time, break duration and billable hours – see the MTR example.

Documentation

Having received written confirmation of you hours, you are then in a position to invoice for your work (either directly or done on your behalf by your recruitment agency). One of the reasons we suggest processing a timesheet weekly is that you can better ensure you are paid without too much delay. Otherwise, if timesheets and invoices are outstanding it can make budgeting and meeting your financial commitments on a regular basis more difficult, particularly given the changeable nature of the contracting market.

Since you will know the approximate end date of your contract, we recommend you always try to leave as much clear documentation as possible for the benefit of the employees that remain. This will help them understand:

  • What you have achieved
  • How it was achieved
  • Passwords and the whereabouts of protected files
  • General maintenance required to keep things running smoothly

Too much information is better than too little.  Start your documentation at least one month prior to the end of your contract.

Do you have any other helpful hints on being a professional contractor?