Independent Consultant: Pushy Client

ouestque
ouestque used Ask the Experts™
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I am an independant consultant with my own business and I do not work for a temp agency. I have a support/development role with a client that insists "I need to be on-site everyday between 8a-5p and I can not work from home". I made a mistake and tried to accomodate her the last year, but as an independant, I have business responsibilities and other clients to assist. Last week I was out of town but was on call and she said "Your missing too many days"


I realize for all new clients I need to discuss these details up front, but they all try to push for that control, while I do my best work on my own time.


What would you do in my scenario?
On new jobs what do you say when they ask, "What is your schedule? When are you usually here?"
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Commented:
Be careful with this for many reasons.  One big flag is the IRS rules.  See this link.

"You are not an independent contractor if you perform services that can be controlled by an employer (what will be done and how it will be done). This applies even if you are given freedom of action. What matters is that the employer has the legal right to control the details of how the services are performed."

https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/independent-contractor-defined
Commented:
You might want to consider talking with the client and setting ground rules and limits (like 3 days a week maximum).  Of course there should be understanding on both sides if you have a need for flexibility or vice versa every now and again.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)
Most Valuable Expert 2012
Expert of the Year 2018
Commented:
I have been an independent business person for nearly 20 years.  

Try to have multiple clients.  
The advice above about only 1 client is very accurate.
With multiple clients, you can shed clients that do not fit your consulting arrangements.  I do this.
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Olivier MARCHETTACitrix Support and Infrastructure Engineer
Commented:
I know this situation very well.
You have two options: be there on-site everyday or cancel the contract and find another client.
The more you wait, the more this situation will escalate. It's better to act quickly.
Fractional CTO
Distinguished Expert 2018
Commented:
Ah... I remember when I fired my last on site client... May 2005... A very good day...

Balance your income requirements with your clients.

If you don't require the income, fire this client today. Life's to short to mess with gnarly clients.

If you require this client's income, quietly add in other clients first, then fire the client.

Tip: You can make an attempt at retraining your client. Think puppy obedience school.

Pick a day of the week + tell them, as an example, "I'll be out of the office every Friday working on another client project."

Then do the same thing every few weeks or months, till you get down to a few days a week.

No conversation about this with the client.

You are the one doing the work.

At least to me, my clients must perform properly, or I fire them instantly.

And... My first freelance contract was in 1979, so I can smell bad clients miles away + either avoid them or fire them early on, when they first start acting up.

Author

Commented:
Thanks MLV. You are absolutely right. In addition, the client does not pay any taxes. They cut me a check and my business pays all the taxes.

Now I'm kind of in a sticky position. Any advice on what I should do to get my freedom back? The client pays me well and might let me go if I remind them I'm an independent contractor.
David FavorFractional CTO
Distinguished Expert 2018
Commented:
MLV CM brings up a good point.

If you're required to be in an office between certain hours, your employer is required to pay you on a W2.

If they're paying you on a 1099, this can turn into a can of worms, for them, not you.

Microsoft tried this many years ago + ended up having to pay all contractors years of back/deferred benefits.
David FavorFractional CTO
Distinguished Expert 2018

Commented:
Always make whatever choice is best for you.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)
Most Valuable Expert 2012
Expert of the Year 2018
Commented:
The client pays me well and might let me go if I remind them I'm an independent contractor.

You need to do what works for you. Take a volunteer client that requires you to do work, and have a real other client to go to.

If your main business will not allow this, then:

(a) Work out an exit strategy over the long term.
(b) Ask if you can be an employee (benefits and all). This may not work for you.
Dr. KlahnPrincipal Software Engineer
Commented:
Sounds like you should tell your client:  "Look, the IRS rules are that if you specify when, where or how, then I'm an employee and I'm entitled to employee benefits.  So do you want me here from 8 to 5 with unemployment, 401K, my own office and your health plan, or should I set my own hours and work on my schedule?  ... Your choice."
Commented:
Sometimes something is better than nothing so your client might be agreeable to scaling things back.  I suggest you engage the client in a conversation and set up a weekly goal of total hours and then set reasonable parameters for windows of time when you work on the weekly goals.  It is no different than any other relationship.  The talk will not be easy nor is there any guarantee it will work out.

Author

Commented:
Thanks so much for the input everyone! I will let you know in a couple of days how it goes, but welcome additional feedback. Its so good to know others are out there thinking the same way. Where I'm at, employers will hire floors of contractors and insist they do the 8a-5p. Then point to how everyone else is doing it, like that makes it ok.
David FavorFractional CTO
Distinguished Expert 2018

Commented:
Tip: You could simply get paid, then after they fire you, file a complaint with the I.R.S. for employer to pay you deferred benefits.

Tip: If you'd really like to whip them into a frenzy, after they fire you, contact their HR department + ask for how to get your deferred benefits + severance package. I've never done this, as I've been 1099 for... decades... Seems like they might just send you a big check to get you out of their hair.
Scott FellDeveloper & EE Moderator
Fellow 2018
Most Valuable Expert 2013
Commented:
In talking with your client, asses if they have a trust issue or just want your undivided attention.

In our business many clients have gotten the shaft and vice versa. If this is the case, you will need to adjust your conversation to what happened in the past and how you can overcome the objection.  The same is true for the other case of wanting all your time.

What the others are saying is correct, but I would attack the real issue.

One big client can be dangerous. Set your parameters up front and stick to your guns.

Author

Commented:
Thank you everyone for the support. I am going to implement your advice right away. Feel free to message me anytime if you are curious and want to know how it turns out.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)
Most Valuable Expert 2012
Expert of the Year 2018

Commented:
You are very welcome and good luck with your client.

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