Contracting work, does anyone pay?

Daniel C. dcrookston at
Mon Apr 23 10:39:26 MDT 2007

On 4/22/07, Steve <smorrey at> wrote:
> Hello everyone,
> A few months a go I decided to go programmer for hire

<snip the standard story>

First of all, be careful of who you do work for.  You'll learn this
with experience (the experience you probably have already) but some
jobs just scream "you're not going to get paid".  Some of them get
posted to the PLUG list now and then ;-)

Second, always have a signed contract.  Don't do work for someone you
can't punch/sue.  Send them an invoice, and keep a copy for yourself.
Be ready to hound them relentlessly and/or sue them if they don't pay.
 Put the BBB on your speed dial.  Also, always have a signed contract.

Third, like someone already said, get half up front.  If you're
charging enough, the half up front should cover your expenses and then
some.  If it doesn't, charge more.

Fourth, talk to a tax expert.  Now.  As an independent contractor,
you're going to get slammed with about twice the taxes you would as an
employee.  There are ways to mitigate the taxes you have to pay, and a
good tax... person (lawyer?  CPA?  I don't know) can tell you what
they are, so you'll know what things to keep track of.

Fifth, if at all possible, don't deliver the goods until you get paid.
 This is hard with code because as soon as you show it to them, they
have it.  When I worked as a web developer for hire I would put their
web site/pages up on my own server first and show them off there.
Since I was doing back end stuff, this meant that they could see
everything and verify that it worked how they wanted, but they didn't
have the code.  When I had money in the bank, I'd go ahead and put it
on their server for them.  I dunno what you're developing in, but if
it's a compiled language you could maybe put a "time bomb" (die if
date > two weeks from now) in your sample, or something.  Others may
have better options for this.

I've done independent coding work before and it is hard.  Sometimes
you'll have a month go by with no good work.  Other times you'll have
your hands full and will get an offer that is REALLY sweet and you
would just die to do, but you can't 'cause you don't have time.
You're going to be bombarded with "Do some work for free and we'll
split the profit margins with you.  This is going to be the next
MySpace!" type offers.  Eventually, if you're as good as you say you
are, you'll start getting referrals from previous clients.  Maybe some
day you'll even be talking to someone and they'll say "Oh yeah I've
heard you do great work!" but they won't remember where they heard it
from.  Then you'll know, like Zaphod in the Total Perspective Vortex,
that you are in fact Completely Awesome.

Good luck,

More information about the PLUG mailing list