Freelance horror stories: The consulting contract

Whenever you get a group of freelancers together, one subject sure to come up is the unreasonable, unusual or plain crazy requests from potential clients.  Sometimes it feels like companies are putting up hurdles for freelancers to clear.

Here are 6 contractual ‘hurdles’ I’ve been asked to clear in the course of my freelance career:

(Disclaimer: These requests typically come from the legal department rather than the people I work with. I love my clients. Also, the larger the company, the more hurdles you may have to clear.)

  1. Make the company a beneficiary on my personal umbrella liability policy
  2. Upgrade the auto insurance coverage on all of my family cars (keep in mind that I work at home – as a writer – and at the time had teen drivers)
  3. Give my tax returns to a third-party ‘vetting’ company
  4. Purchase an insurance policy that costs more than the value of the contract
  5. Buy an insurance policy that covers employee theft (Really? I’m a sole proprietor!)
  6. My personal favorite: Hire a private investigator to run a background check on myself. (I actually didn’t mind this one because it didn’t cost that much and made a great story!)

Some of these requests are designed for larger subcontracting organizations and don’t make sense when applied to individuals. For others, I think that companies just let the lawyers go wild on the contracts.

More common (and less crazy) are requests that require me to break my business model, for example:

  • Insisting on an hourly rate rather than on a project basis
  • Insisting that I work on premises
  • Insisting I become a W2 employee of a third-party organization

As a freelance technology writer and marketing consultant, I develop ongoing relationships with my clients. My work is about personal relationships, not contractual relationships. But what do you do when these legal or business hurdles get in the way?

For companies hiring freelancers

Working with freelancers gives you business agility. You can dynamically ‘scale up’ your resources as you need them with trusted freelancers. But you may need to be flexible to make it work.  Consider deleting unnecessary terms from consulting agreements – ask the legal team for waivers where appropriate.

For freelancers

Only agree to things that make sense for your business and that support a good relationship with the client.  Neither party should feel resentful before you even start. You might be willing to do crazy things (like hire the private investigator) for a big contract or long term business relationship. And you have to recognize that your business model may not fit the client – sometimes it’s better to walk away than to compromise the way you want to work.

Share your stories in comments

I’m sure that this is only the tip of the iceberg. I’d love to hear from others in the freelance community about what you’ve encountered.

Related posts

Trust costs of freelance writing projects

How to ask a writer for a white paper

3 Comments on “Freelance horror stories: The consulting contract

  1. Pingback: Freelance horror stories: Undead projects « Content Marketing for Technology

  2. Ok, I had an interesting one lately. A company wanted me to sign an NDA that has a 2-year non-compete clause, before attending an exploratory meeting to determine if we would work together (without even a contract in place.) And, they contacted me knowing that I am a specialist in the kiosk industry and currently consult with other kiosk companies. Needless to say I had to negotiate changes to that clause before signing (and consult with an attorney).

    • Wow, a 2-year non-compete for a meeting? It always pays to read the fine print!

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