I’ve had it up to here (hand above head) hearing about companies being sued by their “contractors” because they’re not receiving “employee” benefits. Well, if you’re an IC (Independent Contractor), I have some news for you: you work for yourself.
As a person who has worked on both ends of nearly every known compensation model, this whole situation arises not from some legal issue with businesses sketchily hiring contractors, but rather from people having no idea what working for yourself (being an IC) really means.
Here are 7 things you need to understand about working as an IC that will make everyone’s lives better:
1. You need to do what you agreed to, for what you agreed upon. It’s an adage to say “that’s not in my job description” – but seriously, as an IC, this should be your mantra.That means if you agreed to something, DO IT. And if you DIDN’T agree to something, why are you doing it? You might have a bunch of great reasons why you’re doing extra work, and some might be very legit – but seriously, when you order a burger and fries, do you expect a free drink? If your work scope has expanded beyond your agreement, or you’re not getting paid appropriately, it’s time to re-negotiate that contract, or leave because of the breach.
2. There is no such thing as “minimum wage” as an IC. If you agreed to work for $4/hour and 0 “benefits”, that is your PERFECTLY FAIR wage. There is no such thing as “minimum wage” as an IC. You left that behind when you became one. You are risking the security of the “normal paycheck” for the potential huge payoff: that you can become someone who does a $15/hour job for $200/hour because you distinguish yourself as a wonderful IC. Because your customers love you. Because you get to negotiate your own agreements.
3. You need to BE VERY CLEAR about your agreement. If you find yourself doingthis, that, and whatever for your client because you signed a vague contract – guess who’s fault that is? IT IS YOUR FAULT. Part of being an IC is taking responsibility for yourself, and that means you have to read the fine print. Sign something that you expected to be one way and then find out that the contract says something different, but you didn’t read it and confirm your thoughts? 99% of the time that should be a learning experience for you and not a lawsuit for them, or you’re probably a lazy brat.
4. You need to READ and WRITE your own agreements. If you sign something, you better be sure that you know what you’re signing. If you didn’t write it, read it ten times. Read it twenty times. Could you re-write it yourself? If you couldn’t, read it again. Take it to an attorney if you don’t understand. If it’s crazy complicated – don’t sign it. Don’t take this job. It is not for you – it is beyond you. Walk away.
5. You need to write extremely simple agreements. If an agreement has too much legalese it’s akin to saying “we’re planning for this to go badly” …which means it’s that much more likely to go badly. Don’t sign agreements with people who look like a porcupine with their quills out – don’t write like one either. Use plain English, be straightforward, and communicate clearly and directly with the person you’re agreeing with.
6. You need to build relationships with your customers. That’s right, I said your customers. When you develop relationships with the people you’re signing contracts with, and then something comes up, it’s a lot easier to deal with squibbles or things your agreement didn’t cover but now is important. Often times, when you develop great relationships with your customers, you barely need the contracts anymore. (I said barely – you should still have them) Which leads to needing to know a very crucial difference: when you’re an IC for a company like Uber – the person in your car is your customer. Uber is not your customer, they are your vendor.
7. Don’t confuse your customers and your vendors. Ask any insurance salesman – their customers are the policy holders. They have contracts with the insurance companies, sure – the insurance company provides a certain set of procedures or assets that the IC has access to for agreeing to perform some things a certain way. That’s how agreements and contracts work. I’ll do this for you, for doing that for me. In all honesty, ICs for things like Uber or Northwestern Mutual are more like Franchisees, because the VENDOR provides so many assets and procedures. But don’t ever be fooled – your vendors are 3rd parties that you have agreements with. They are not your employers. And if they ever try to force you to do something you didn’t agree to…see #1.
You can see this on my LinkedIn if you’d like