Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Working on contract question


I'm working on contract which ends in 4 weeks. I have another offer and they can wait for 4 weeks, but not more. I'd love to take it but I'm not sure if my current contract will actually end by then. They might want to renew it. It's hard to say right now, I'll probably will know more in a couple of weeks, but I have to give my answer about new offer pretty soon. I'm just starting to work on contract so I'm not sure what to do.  What do you guys do? Do you give yourself some time in between contracts? I'm not the only developer there, I was not hired to finish the product but I signed the contract from this date to this date.

How would you handle it? When do you typically start looking for a new contract? How to handle the situation if you accepted another offer but your current project is not finished? Thanks for your help.

Boris Bergman
Monday, February 23, 2004

Take care of #1, because everyone else does so.

You're thinking about this in a highly ethical way. But if your current client cared about "you" and your continuing to be billable, they would extend your contract and/or would not wait until the last minute. Their actions sound to be either like they're stringing you along, or maybe they are actually clueless and they think you will want to go week to week.

Personally, I would honor any contractual agreement to the letter while availing myself of the most solid opportunity on the table.

Given your stated situation, I vote for going to the new contract no matter what the state of your current project is.

Bored Bystander
Monday, February 23, 2004

Well there's a couple of questions you can ask yourself:

Do I want to stay working on what I'm doing to get an extension now?

Do I want to go and work on this new contract?

And you weigh up your preferences. 
Then you go to whoever is managing your contract tell them the position that there's a possiblity of you having a contract in 4 weeks and giving them the option of whether they wish an extension on your contract.

If they want you to stay on a short time then you get in writing that extension offer, at the same rate or better and let the new contractee know the position.

If, your current manager says, that's ok you can finish on time, then you tell the prospective contractee know that.

If, though, they want you to stay on longer then you need an entirely new contract with whatever terms and possibly a renegotiated rate (depends on all the usual circumstances).

Simon Lucy
Monday, February 23, 2004

You're obligated to be available for your current contract only for as long as they have committed to paying you.

If those payments end in 4 weeks, then you have no obligation to be available after that period.

They could end your contract TOMORROW if they liked, right?

Could contract #1 wait until contract #2 is finished to have you come back to #1 and finish it?

The real Entrepreneur
Monday, February 23, 2004

Simon: well, yes, he can talk with the client. But I've heard of clients stringing someone along and then cutting them loose even when they had another offer on the table they turned down.

I'm a bit paranoid about advice re: asking any client to commit. So much depends on their trustworthiness and ethics.

My attitude is, the client knows when the contract ends, and they know what their needs are, and they know that they have someone in place who can do the work, so it's up to them to extend the contract if there is an ongoing business need.

In other words, the client is expected to act like a business and plan for continuity.

Bored Bystander
Monday, February 23, 2004

Thanks, guys. When do you usually start looking for a new contract? I guess because I'm still new to contracting I'm not sure of what to do. I want to keep a good relationship with my current manager and I want to build my reputation. I also want to do it in an ethical way.  But I realize they can stop my contract anytime, and I don't want to loose other options. My #2 offer is very good but of course they are not going to wait for me for more than a month.

How long does it take you on average to get a new contract? Do you plan for some free time between contracts or do you try to schedule one right after another? Thanks again, guys, I appreciate your suggestions.

Boris Bergman
Monday, February 23, 2004

These days there's no "scheduling" new contracts unless you have ultra hot skills or you're willing to move anywhere for new work. When a contract ends, you do other things (train, study, market, take a vacation, etc). And when a new contract comes up you jump to it and report for work. It's not deterministic and it's not especially convenient.

I know a lot of consultants and contractors who have been on the bench for months. You take the work you can get, when it becomes available.

Bored Bystander
Monday, February 23, 2004

Why can't you inform your current client of the situation.  Tell them "look guys, I've got another contract on the table.  If you don't extend my current contract within the next week or so (in writing) then I will be leaving this contract when it expires."  That way you have made them aware of the situation.  If they want to pursue extending your contract they will, and if they don't really care about you, at least you'll know and you can take the new contract that's on the table.  You've given them an opportunity while still perserving your own interests and a possible future clients interests.

Monday, February 23, 2004

I can't see any harm if asking them if they want to extend his contract, if they don't fine, if they do then its a renegotiation.

Simon Lucy
Monday, February 23, 2004

Do you want to do more business with them later?
Then ask now. Many people sort of assume you'll
still be around. Natural lazyness kicks in and
they don't talk about it until too late. They
have no right to be pissed, but they still will
probably be mad if their critical project will
be delayed X months.

If they say yes get the contract extension done now, as was said before, in writing. Otherwise you will
get screwed.

son of parnas
Monday, February 23, 2004

I currently work for a major contracting firm. I was so happy to stop doing the marketing myself. They told me that they begin to look for opportunities for me about 30 days before my contract is supposed to end. It took them about 7 months the last time to find a good contract for me and now that contract has been going on more than a year.  I don't have hot skills though.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Boris, if you have a definite, paying, contract, take it.

It is not your job to worry about your existing contract. Someone else is paid to do that. If that person wanted to ensure you were available, they would sign you tomorrow to a contract for the next six months.

Monday, February 23, 2004

BB: "I'm a bit paranoid about advice re: asking any client to commit. So much depends on their trustworthiness and ethics."

Not really.  Contract #1 is ending, period, unless Boris hears otherwise from them.  If he asks #1 and they don't commit within (say) 2-3 days, he goes with #2 and all is well.  If #1 decides his asking was a sign of Ultimate Disloyalty and cuts him loose immediately, then (a) he's free to start with #2 that much sooner, and (b) #1 wasn't worth working for anyway.  If #1 extends, then that's (presumably) okay too.

The only worrisome possibility is that #1 extends, but then dumps Boris shortly down the road.  In which case, #1 *still* wasn't worth working for anyway, which is little comfort to Boris' unemployed self... so I guess that's what he's got to worry about, no?  (=

Boris:  I've always thought that the best way to build a good reputation was to say what you're going to do, then follow through on it.

Sam Livingston-Gray
Monday, February 23, 2004


I've been there before myself.  Many times the person that should be paying attention to when your contract ends is simply busy with other things.  I feel the best part of being a contractor is not having to play the usual employer/employee games and have all your cards out on the table.  So take advantage of it.

Simply let them know what's going on and give them a deadline of 2 weeks before the original contract expires to renew it.  Letting it get down to the very end then telling them you've got something else lined up as they hand you an extension will not go over well since they'll realize they allowed themselves to get painted into a corner.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home