Being an independent contractor can be a lucrative, enjoyable mode of work. You can take on as many projects at once as you want and complete them completely in a manner of your choosing, so long as the end results are satisfactory.
While traits like these can make independent contracting flexible and convenient, there are plenty of peripheral issues and insurance policies to be aware of before venturing into a relationship with a contracting party. Overlooking these issues could create a number of financial, legal and work-related headaches for you in the not-too-far off future.
Independent Contractor Agreement Tips
Get it in Writing
The first element to take note of is whether your project terms are in writing. Oral agreements can suffice for most independent contracting (IC) business, but having a written contract sets everything out in the open and prevents a your-word-against-theirs situation.
Note that not all contracts are 100 percent viable in the eyes of the court should a dispute arise, but having objective terms you can point to can certainly help establish a case.
Ask for Clear Work Expectations
As an IC, your work is concerned only with results. The methods and materials you use to complete the job — including the option to outsource the work — should be entirely up to you unless otherwise specified.
Since this situation means that you only get paid based on the end product, make sure that end product is defined in crystal clear language. Examples of work, including 3D architectural drafts or photos of a similar job, are even more helpful.
The idea is that you want to know when your work is done. If your contracting employer states that your work was somehow inadequate, they have grounds to potentially not pay you. Avoid this situation at all costs and protect yourself from lawsuits by having clear criteria for job completion and the needed quality of the work.
Don’t Forget to Charge for Materials in Your Independent Contractor Agreement
An IC should not be provided with work materials or tools in most instances lest they venture too far into employer/employee territory. As such, ensure that your material and equipment costs will be adequately covered by your compensation.
Include fees that can help you cover insurance costs or replacement costs for equipment since every job depletes your tools’ service life. Remember to account for travel costs, too. You want to pay as little as you can directly out of pocket.
Remember You Are Not Entitled to Most Benefits
ICs generally understand that they will not be given employee benefits like sick leave, vacation time or access to an employer insurance policy, but they can take for granted the other things they miss out on. Namely, ICs do not have workers comp coverage. Any injuries you sustain will be your responsibility to pay for unless your contract states otherwise.
Similarly, worker protections like minimum wage or mandatory overtime pay are not enforceable during IC. Prepare for any of these costs by charging a fee for your personal insurance and including contract provisions for extra payment on jobs that take unreasonably longer than the initial bid indicated.
Finally, Ensure That You Are Actually an IC
Misclassification of ICs happens all the time. While you may think that you are benefitting from the arrangement, you may actually be getting the short end of the stick. Notably, contracting employers that dictate your work hours, on-job behaviors, the methods you use and other factors may be giving you responsibilities that resemble an employee’s rather than an IC.