Independent Consultant: Up Front Terms

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After feedback received from my last question, it made me realize I need to make a lot of changes. I wanted to ask other independents what things they usually discuss with clients upfront? I have compiled a list below, is there any additional items you would recommend discussing?

1) Pay rate
2) How long client takes to pay after I submit invoice/hrs
3) Length of contract
4) #Hours I work/wk
5) Notice that most work done offsite, but will be onsite when necessary.

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Commented:
I suggest talking about resources that are required and parameters associated with them and having a written agreement with the terms.  For example a client wants you to develop an application using Visio that has a proprietary plug in and you need to use their laptop.

I also suggest you have a written plan for how you use your devices on clients networks and think about how you transfer data in the event one of your devices is compromised / infected.

Most clients will seize an opportunity to lower costs and you could raise your rate and label it onsite and offer a lower rate for offsite.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)
Most Valuable Expert 2012
Expert of the Year 2018
Commented:
Thoughts on what you provided:

1) Pay rate   <--- Essential so everyone is on the same page.

2) How long client takes to pay after I submit invoice/hours  <-- I would leave this out of any written communication. Let it be a problem first. Most clients pay properly.

3) Length of contract   <--- Essential or open ended if workable in any given situation.  I work open ended.

4) #Hours I work/week  <-- Essential so you and client are on the same page.

5) Notice that most work done offsite, but will be onsite when necessary.   <-- Some formality on how this will happen. Lots of my work needs to be onsite.

Then, you need  a short description of responsibilities on both sides.
I'm pretty much in line with John's outline but will add what I use:

First, there is a broad contract (1 page) that covers the broad context of the engagement:

1) Terms for time: Pay rate <- in the one page contract.
2) Terms for reimbursement for travel, mileage.  Often use "same as you'd reimburse an employee".
3) Terms for Material. < in the one page contract.  BUT some things are sold out of inventory at established prices AND somethings are purchased separately for which I add some margin because it does take time and effort to acquire things - or you could just charge for the time spent but that may be "too expensive" for the item provided.  The old $400 hammer problem.  10% is a common markup.  "Keystone" 100% is a common markup for small things. I avoid stating any of this and just invoice - never any arguments.  Think what others might do:  Building contractors often pass through the material bills directly.  Auto mechanics add a markup.  Use good judgement and don't address it unless necessary.
2) How long client takes to pay after I submit invoice/hrs < Never mentioned.  Normal business practice is to STATE your terms such as Net 30 / 1.5% per month from date of invoice if late.  Brief.  To the point.  Expected.  Rarely used.
3) Length of contract < The broad contract is open-ended and this aspect is covered with a termination clause.  Generally not an issue.
4) #Hours I work/wk < Not in the broad contract.
5) Notice that most work done offsite, but will be onsite when necessary. < Not in the broad contract but could be.
6) Statement of work / Scope < alluded to in the broad contract.  There will be one (sometimes not necessary).
7) Limitation on liability < Important.

Then there is (or can be) a Statement of work or Scope document:

1) Pay rate < in the broad contract and not here unless there's a special need.  An example might be if I'm going to hire a low-rate laborer.
2) How long client takes to pay after I submit invoice/hrs < Never mentioned.
3) Length of contract < In the scope, there may be a Schedule if necessary and appropriate.
4) #Hours I work/wk < Unusual
5) Notice that most work done offsite, but will be onsite when necessary.  < I put this type of "terms" into my maintenance contracts that are paid monthly.
6) The description of the work to be done.  Specifications (i.e. CAT5E cabling?).  Schedule.  Workmanship. etc.

There is a Remote Access agreement:

"Client agrees that the contractor/consultant is going to have unattended access to the client's computers......"

Perhaps could add "access to premises".

General rule:  Don't put in what isn't really needed or can be dealt with in the course of doing business.  Keep it short.  
If in doubt, get a lawyer to help you.  If confident in what you can write, don't.  Google and suitably plagiarize from what others have done / are using.
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)
Most Valuable Expert 2012
Expert of the Year 2018

Commented:
Fred wrote "There is a Remote Access agreement:
"Client agrees that the contractor/consultant is going to have unattended access to the client's computers......"


I chuckled.  I put in proper secured remote access (VPN) for all my clients so they know I have access. To your point, I could have spelled it out better
John:  Interesting point.  

For others,

The contrast might be:

Does the customer's knowledge include knowing what a VPN is and does?  Does it include knowing that RDP might be used to access all the computers and servers?  .... something like that.  

I use a 3rd party "VPN" in that I'm using GoToAssist (or the equivalent) and EACH computer has unattended access.  And the cusomers "know it" but do they fully appreciate the implications?

I guess we agree that they should acknowledge that they do understand and do accept the conditions.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)
Most Valuable Expert 2012
Expert of the Year 2018
Commented:
Does the customer's knowledge include knowing what a VPN is and does?   <-- More or less.

After the first client (where they brought up VPN and I fixed it), I just told the remaining clients I needed remote access and put in the same setups at all clients.

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Commented:
Thank you so much everyone! Your advice has helped so much
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)
Most Valuable Expert 2012
Expert of the Year 2018

Commented:
You are very welcome and I was happy to help

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