You have been offered a remote work contract but will it live up to its promises? Here’s how to do your due diligence before you sign.
Being an independent contractor gives you a flexible lifestyle and the opportunity to work for a range of exciting employers. There can also be the option to work remotely or live for a short time in a foreign city while you build your experience.
However, one of the risks can be taking on a contract and realising the job was not what you had expected.
If you have a contract in your hand and you want to make sure you’re set to work with a reputable organisation doing work you enjoy, here are some things to watch out for.
Company Reputation and Culture
Even if you are working remotely and especially if you are relocating to take on a contract, it will make a difference to your experience if you work with good people in a supportive environment.
Glassdoor is one website which allows people to leave reviews of their time with an employer. Many reviews are anonymous and honest. Generally, companies will always have a handful of people who weren’t happy but if the majority of reviews are positive you can feel confident about your own time working there.
Take a look at the employer’s website to see if it mentions company culture and be sure to ask about how culture is approached in your interview. A fast and confident answer will demonstrate whether or not people treat each other in accordance with clear guidelines at the organisation.
Mission, Vision and Values
People work better together when they have a ‘true north’ to strive for.
If a company is clear on its mission, vision and values, people have behaviours to fall back on and they can make decisions with the end goal in mind.
For example, Microsoft’s mission is: “To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.” This is very simple but when the people working behind the scenes come to a crossroad, they can ask which decision will help people to achieve more.
Ask your new employer about its mission; having one gives a sense of alignment and unity which can influence a happier working environment.
Connection and Communication
If you are working remotely or if the business has a hybrid work model, ask about how team members and managers interact with each other and who is expected to be online at what times.
Sometimes an employer will be happy for you to work remotely but may expect you to be online or at least contactable very early or very late in the day. It makes sense to know beforehand so you can plan your working hours and not find yourself struggling to manage work and family.
The Fine Print
Mission, vision, values, connection and communication are important but the fine print in relation to your position at the company will make or break your experience. You should always take the time to review your contract in detail so you understand the conditions you will be working in and what will be required of you.
Employment lawyers often charge a flat rate to review contracts. Having some professional support could help you to negotiate and save you from ending up locked into a role you’re unhappy in, or which doesn’t compensate you for the amount of work required.
To share an example of clauses to look out for, a contract may mention your productivity will be monitored as you work (software exists which can report back on the time you spend actively at your keyboard). If you’re not happy with this, you can bring it up before you sign.
Before you commit to a short term contract, ask the following questions:
- What tasks and duties will I be expected to perform?
- Who will I report to?
- How and when will I be paid?
- Will I be compensated for overtime?
- What if I want to take holidays or days off? Who should I inform and how much notice is required?
- What parts of my work will be considered the intellectual property of the business?
- What restrictions are in place in regards to confidentiality?
- Will I need to submit a timesheet and who can approve it?
- What working hours are expected of me?
- Which expenses can I claim (e.g. home internet, telephone calls)?
- Is there a non-compete clause (e.g. are you able to work for other companies or perform another job at the same time)?
- Is there a probationary period and what does it involve?
- What is included in terms of termination clauses?
When you’re clear on the details of your contract, and find conditions don’t match what you’re expecting, you’ll be able to point to your agreement as a way of working things out.
Planning the career you want as an independent contractor will help you understand what you are looking for when you agree to a new contract. Read our Career Planning for Independent Contractors e-book here.