The DO’S AND DON’TS FOR CONTRACT CONSULTANTS ON ASSIGNMENT
Are you a Contract Consultant or will you be starting your first contract soon?
IT Staffing companies often assume that Contract Consultants inherently know what they should and shouldn’t be doing while onsite at a client. It has become apparent to me over the years that not all Contract Consultants actually are aware of these basic guidelines.
Do’s & Don’ts For Contract Consultants in the IT Staffing industry
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind while on a contract assignment.
It is important to be ethical and honest. It is very small world and you should treat others with the same respect and integrity you would expect in return.
Provide your manager with regular/weekly summaries.
Keep a careful record of your time and what projects, or parts of a project, you’ve been working on. Writing these details down daily is best so that you don’t forget any details. Your list should include:
1. What I did since our last communication.
2. What I plan to do over the next period.
3. Any issues/concerns that might impede the work.
Ideally you provide this update to your manager every 2-3 days vs weekly as there is less to cover and it helps build a stronger relationship and better communication.
Keep accurate time sheets and get permission to work extra hours
– each day make sure you are using time sheets to track how many hours you’ve worked and what projects/tasks you’ve been spending those hours on.
– If you need to work overtime, ask your manager for permission before working these extra hours. If you work extra hours without approval you might not get paid for them.
Understand your project/assigned tasks so that you can deliver the best solution and deliver it on time
– Ask questions, understand the main objective of your tasks and do some research before starting to execute. Proper analysis will make you much more effective in the long run and save you time redoing tasks. It’s easy to just execute on a task, but your value is in your expertise and if there is a better way to get to the objective, a client will welcome the advice.
– Focus on delivering results, providing value and staying out of office politics.
– Make sure to communicate to your team lead or team the tasks you are working on.
– Keep/send emails about decisions made during ad hoc meetings you’ve had. Send a detailed email after these events summarizing the discussion points, the decisions and actions. Include team members as an FYI.
– Be a team player – let the team or your team lead know other tasks you are open to and capable of doing.
– Solicit feedback on your work from managers and peers. Often times contractors do not receive formal reviews, so it is important to gain candid feedback early and regularly so you know you are delivering at the level expected by your client
Keep it in mind that you are a consultant and not an employee!
– Dress presentably and professionally. Even if the client has a casual dress code it is important to convey to the client your professionalism through how you present yourself.
– Keep a positive attitude, even when delivering bad news – this means you need to give alternative options. Clients appreciate solutions that come from someone who has a positive outlook.
– Wear deodorant! (it sounds obvious but once every so often I’ve had to address this) – Personal hygiene is something to pay attention to.
– Be mindful that you are also representing the agency that placed you in this role. So be professional to uphold both of your reputations.
Network/Find more work
– Introduce yourself to other people in the company besides the ones you work with. This gets your name and role known within the company and can provide you with leads for other projects to work on when your initial contract ends.
– Add people you’ve worked with to LinkedIn.
– Look for opportunities to provide additional value to your client besides the project you are working on ( i.e. the client hires you as a .NET Developer but you can also do great HTML/CSS)
Keep/provide good documentation
– Make sure to create and leave proper documentation regarding the projects you’ve worked on. When you finish your contract the client should be able to review your documentation and clearly understand how you approached your tasks and what you delivered.
Create a separate HST/tax bank account
– It is a good practice to have a separate HST bank account. When you receive payment for your invoices make sure to put the HST you receive into a separate bank account so you don’t spend it by mistake and you have it ready when it comes time to pay it back to the government. (You can substitute HST for whatever tax your country/region requires you to bill on top of your hourly rate). Also use this account to put money aside for potential corporate tax payments you might need to make at years end.
– Be a team player.
– Look into getting Incorporated (If you are in Canada/Ontario). See our Why Contractors Should Get Incorporated Video.
– Look for opportunities to learn something new and continue to improve your skills.
– Focus on providing solutions rather than excuses.
Don’t be unprofessional
– Don’t surf the web while at work, even if it is during lunch breaks or other breaks you take during the day. When you are being paid by the hour and on a contract, companies have higher demands and expectations of your time. Even if it is during your lunch break, surfing the net or paying your bills while sitting at your desk can send the wrong message to a client.
– Don’t take personal phone calls at work. Take time away from your desk (and preferably away from the office) to conduct any outside business.
– Don’t let anyone know your hourly rate. This can cause significant problems within the office.
– Don’t break a contract only a few weeks into it because you received a better offer elsewhere. You’re not obligated to renew a contract once it’s over, but for the sake of professionalism it is best to stick to your commitment and finish the project.
– Don’t text or be playing with your smartphone during meetings.
– Don’t be dressed more casual than your peers.
– Don’t complain to the client about issues/concerns you have in the first couple of weeks. If you have any issues with your contract reach out to the agency you are contracting through. They can look into these issues on your behalf and help resolve them and prevent you from looking like a whiner.
Don’t be a know it all
– You have been hired because you bring solid skills to the table but don’t be a know it all. Have an open mind and listen to other team member’s ideas. They’ve been there longer than you and can provide some great insight that can save you a lot of time . You will make things a lot harder if you aren’t a team player. Be open to collaborating on solutions.
Don’t be unproductive
– Don’t spend a week on a problem that you are getting nowhere with. You should have a pretty good idea after a couple hours if you will be able to solve something on your own or not. Ask a teammate or your manager for advice or some help. Nothing frustrates a manager more than someone spinning in circles and getting nowhere for an entire week while they assume you are progressing on your task.
– Don’t hand in timesheets late to your manager or your agency.
– Don’t forget to do proper documentation on the systems you’ve been working on.
– Don’t leave contract renewal/termination discussions to the last minute. Things can always change, but at least if conversations take place earlier, it helps set expectations for both sides.
Don’t ask for a rate increase during a contract
– If you would like a rate increase look into it at the end of your contract. You should be upfront about your rate expectations when applying for a role and not sign a contract if you aren’t prepared to work at the contract rate for the duration of the contract.
Don’t neglect to tell your client/agency about vacation plans during your contract
– If you have a vacation planned during your contract assignment it is very important to ibe upfront about it before you start. This will allow the client to allocate team resources and tasks appropriately.
Don’t forget to review your client’s corporate policies
– It is important that you review and understand your client’s company policies. You want to make sure you don’t violate any of their HR or other policies while working on your contract assignment.
Any comments or feedback on this Blog are greatly appreciated. You can also follow me @JonathanBWard on twitter and our company @WardTechTalent