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I've recently begun transitioning from "moonlighting" to having a company (though the term is a bit forced for a team of ~1.25 people). The main reason is that this helps with the credibility and in asking a higher rate.

But because this also triggers a bit more responsibility, I need to have ready a contract template, along the lines of 'i'll do the job, you'll do the payment, i won't leak your information...', mostly to have some paper to refer to in case of future conflicts.

As I haven't yet been burned (too much), I'd welcome some tips of points to include in this contract. Any consulting hard lessons you're willing to share?

(I know this doesn't replace adequate legal advice, but i'm looking for any useful tech angle on this line of work).

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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

You should also be concerned with some sort of errors and omission or professional liability insurance. Ideally, you would create a corporate entity such as a C-Corp, S-Corp or LLC and insure it. That way, you are shielded by the corporate veil.

Points to include in a contract (in no specific order - only as they came to me):

  1. continuing personal guarantee - the client personally guarantees you are paid; can hold up in court if they don't
  2. scope of work including a time frame
  3. automatic renewal clause
  4. any monthly recurring charges and what they are for
  5. well-defined invoicing policies with NET 15/30/60 terms
  6. exact items that are covered in scope of work; clauses that additional work outside of scope will result in additional charges or are not covered at all
  7. USE SERVICE CALL SHEETS that you can take with you and have the client sign-off and receive a copy; comes in handy for invoicing later so they can't say "You weren't really here that long" or "You never did this work". This is from experience, sadly.
  8. late fees imposed for late payments
  9. not so much for the contract, but find a good collection agency or someone that you can have call delinquent clients. They sometimes want 30% of any recouped payments.
  10. non-disclosure agreement of sensitive information
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The call sheets are a must from my experience too - customers can easily forget how much time you've spent on something. Make sure you set out a clear policy for charging expenses back as I've lost far too much money on fuel charges in the past because i didn't agree them up front. –  Chris W Jun 19 '09 at 18:23
    
Thanks, it's exactly the kind of knowledge I am looking for. The call sheets tip in particular was enlightening. Not sure how the liability insurance works (especially as over here in Eastern Europe this kind of things are not too established yet), but I'll look into it. –  rpetre Jun 20 '09 at 10:39
    
Since you selected my answer, you put me just over the 50 points of reputation required to be able to comment. Therefore, my first comment shall be to thank you. If I can think of anything else I include in my standard contracts, I'll edit this post. Thanks again. –  Marcus Jun 21 '09 at 3:57
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This depends entirely on whicch country you're working in.

If you're in the UK, I recommend PCG. See: Professional Contractors Group

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