Consulting and Contracting

Subject: Consulting and Contracting
From: "George F. Hayhoe III" <george -dot- hayhoe -at- SRS -dot- GOV>
Date: Fri, 16 Sep 1994 09:01:00 -0400

As in any other business area, I've found that contracting agencies and
body shops are pretty representative of the general population when it
comes to ethics and fair treatment of fellow human beings. Some are really
good; others are dreadful; most are okay.

In five years as a consultant, I worked with two contracting agencies, both
of which were pretty good. They took about a 40% cut of the billing rate,
but they offered credits toward a benefits plan (health and life insurance,
401K plans, etc.) that rivalled those provided by my present and former
employers. (The first agency I worked through also relocated me 250 miles
from my previous home and provided a bonus equal to about a week's billing
each Christmas.) More importantly, both agencies relieved me of the
necessity to market. I was thus able to bill a minimum of 40 hours every
week that I chose to work during those five years. Also, as someone else
has already pointed out, the agency paid me promptly twice a month even
though the company which contracted for my services might not pay their
invoice for several months. To me, the benefits, the freedom from having to
look for my next assignment, and the prompt payment were more than worth
the cut these agencies took.

Some of the contract programmers I worked with weren't as lucky as me. One
guy had two different body shops he contracted through declare bankruptcy
and default on payment to him. Others were promised bonuses to sweeten low
salaries but never received them.

Anyone who is contemplating contracting through an agency should carefully
research the company. Check with the local Better Business Bureau and/or
small claims court to see whether complaints have been filed against the
company, and consult your local consulting/contracting network to see what
you can find out about them. Insist on having your attorney review the
contract. In short, treat the agency the way you'd treat any other client,
because that's what they are.

--George Hayhoe
Assistant to the President for Recognition Programs, STC

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