Sunday, October 15, 2006

Contractor Wannabe

After doing lots of thinking, while watching my favorite TV show Scrubs and Prison Break, I decided not to take job offers from any company and go with contracting job instead. I was lucky, during my unemployment time last week I received an offer from one of my previous customer to work as contractor. The good thing is, I have already familiar with the customer and the project, and at the same time this job will give me experience working as contractor.

Well to be frank, I'm still waiting for the one ultimate offer from -you know who- that is supposed to come real soon. While waiting, I can learn to work as contractor and I still can make a good money.

And guess what? Working as contractor is awesome.
First of all, I become completely in charge of my work and my schedule. I have to make my own document template, project plan and even invoice. Every second is important since I have to achieve my target as agreed in the contract. I become really focus since I know exactly what to do. And offcourse, the real challenge is to make my customer happy and satisfied. It's a big task to make them feel like they made the right decision by investing their money in my services. And without any interferences and help from any Account Manager, Sales person or Project Manager from the company offcourse. I become all of them. I become the Account Manager, Sales, Project Manager, Consultant, Lead Designer, Senior Engineer and even as Accountant to calculate and get the bill. One man show.
One ring to rule them all.

So being a contractor means totally in control of our lives.

But how to start or to become a contractor? I'm still learning but I tried to make the list of things need to be taken care of if you want to work as contractor:

1. Statement of Work (SoW)
The most important thing needs to be addressed first is the scope of work. Anything we are going to work on during the contract should be written clearly. With this way, we can start working on the project plan, calculating the time allocation and put milestone in each target. The good thing about my customer is I know them very well so we can discuss and reach the agreement for the scope within short time.

2. Legal Issues
After we agree with the customer about the SoW, it's time to make it official. Contract has to be signed by both sides to make it legal. In the contract it will be mentioned about the term and condition, and I believe the following are the most important:
- duration of the contract
- total fees of the contract
- person in charge we are going to work with or reporting to
- criteria of the completion of work
- how if one side wants to terminate the contract earlier
- it can even go into detail such as expected working hours and so on

3. Financial Issues
There are two main issues related to financial: are we going to charge in hourly, daily, weekly or monthly basis, and how the customer can pay us. For me I prefer to calculate the rate in daily basis, then provide the fee for a month with discounted price. This is my first contracting job so I prefer to work in monthly basis, even my fee calculation was based on daily basis, since it makes me able to arrange all accomodation and transportation easily.
Regarding the payment, the bad news is sometime our potential customers don't have any policy to pay to individual directly. So either we have to work with our customer closely to find a way, or we have to use some company's name that normally willing to provide help with certain fees.

4. Report and Milestones
I always like to make my customer fully aware about my work so I think it's a good idea to provide periodic update and report. For 1-month contract I believe weekly report should be enough. I don't want to waste the precious time during the contract to conduct a meeting only to update the customer, so unless it's really required I prefer to discuss about the progress through email and it should put everyone in the loop.

5. Closure of the Project
Since all the scope and the criteria of completion have been defined clearly, it's easier to close the project and the contract. This is the reason why SoW and the legal contract are the most importants factor for a succesful job. All documentation, plan, drawing, testing result, and report must be consolidated and submitted at the end of the contract.

6. Supporting Items
Well, if we have to work in another country for sure we are going to need temporary working visa, accomodation and transportation. We may require to have proper communication channel with the customer, for example dedicated GSM line and e-mail address only for one customer. My current customer provides one temporary email account that I can use to communicate with them.

There are some other way to make it easier to work as contractor. I have been contacted in the past by few agencies in Dubai that offered me contracting jobs as well. So instead of dealing directly with the customer, I can work for those agencies and I don't need to worry about SOW, legal issues and the payment. Those agencies have alredy had everything in place. They can even provide visa, accomodation and transportation. So I just need to work in customer site and collect the paycheck by the end of the month from the agency.

Well, surely there are some of you who have done this for years. So if you have any other suggestion for contractor wannabe like me, please share it here.

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