What to consider before accepting a contract

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Securing a contract is all well and good, but before you agree to take on an assignment, it’s important to consider whether it’s the right one for you.

There are many factors to contemplate, so it’s important to look closely at what’s being asked of you before signing on the dotted line. After all, the last thing you want to do is waste your time on an unsuitable project.

Here are our top points to consider before accepting a contract:

Scope of work

This spells out how the work will be judged, so it’s important to make it as specific as possible. Ensure the contract details what you’re supposed to do, any deliverable milestones and the requirements for achieving them.

A good contract will never provide a basic list of duties such as “contractor will perform computer programming work for the client”, and should always make reference to a specific project or series of deliverables.

Finally, the contract should avoid mentioning how the work should be done. As a contractor, you should not be subject to the supervision and control of your client but instead be free to carry out the assignment as you see fit.

Assignment length

It’s important to consider the duration of a project and weigh up whether it would be suitable for you. You should also see if it’s for a fixed period or a rolling monthly contract.

If the assignment is of fixed length, assess the likelihood of it getting extended. Remember that if you remain on the same project for longer than 24 months, you will lose your right to claim travel, subsistence and accommodation expenses. You should therefore work out if the remuneration package alone will be enough to sustain you if you end up crossing that threshold.

A contractor who remains with a client for an extended period of time also risks becoming ‘part and parcel’ of the business. If this happens, you could end up being viewed as a disguised employee.


You should also consider the circumstances in which a contract can be terminated. It’s important to find out if any obligations exist, such as having to provide a set notice period.

Usually, a contract is terminated for a specific reason. These normally fall within three categories: breach of contract, non-payment and business reasons.

If either party fails to fulfil their part of the bargain, the other party should be able to terminate the contract without obligation. Similarly, should a client not pay the contractor within a specified period of time, this should also be grounds for termination.

To provide greater flexibility, a clause can also be introduced that enables either party to terminate a contract for “business reasons”. Such clause should ideally include a minimum notice period to support the commercial nature of the relationship between the parties.

Have your say

Are you a contractor? What points do you consider before accepting an assignment? Join in the discussion on Twitter, or leave a comment below.

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