Working with Consultants: Contracting
This is Part 2 of my quick guide to working with freelancers and consultants.
4. Ensure the contract covers everything you need
Make sure you have a written agreement, signed by both parties, at the outset. If you work for a larger organisation it's likely you'll have a standard contract with places for you to vary specific terms and to add an appendix with your agreed outputs. It's hard to overstate the importance of a written agreement in clarifying the timescale, outputs and expectations of both sides and it will reduce the likelihood of difficulties later when you both have different recollections of what the consultant was supposed to do.
Ensure issues like copyright, moral rights and confidentiality are adequately covered. Include procedures to deal with disputes or if one party wishes to end the contract before the work is complete. If you require the consultant to have a certain type or level of insurance, make sure this is clealry set out as well. Include the fee and payment details you've agreed on, including your organisation's payment terms. If you need to vary the terms of the contract part way through, ensure you do this in discussion with the contractor and formalise your agreement in writing.
If you're contracting for a small piece of work you might not feel you need a formal contract, but you should still set out your agreement in writing and ensure both parties sign it. A letter of appointment, accompanied by an official purchase order, will help build confidence in the working relationship and gives you something to fall back on if any problems crop up at a later date.
5. Make the commissioning meeting work for you
A commissioning meeting marks the beginning of the contract and is a key opportunity for you to clarify the brief and agree timescales, outcomes and your respective responsibilities. Don't rush this meeting. You may to set aside half a day or longer to ensure the consultant really understands your organisation, introduce them to key staff members and volunteers, and show them round your premises. Without drawing them into workplace politics, make sure they know about any issues or sensitivities that might affect their work. The commissioning meeting is also a good chance to hand over any paperwork the consultant will need and talk them through lists of key stakeholders.
Once your consultant is briefed and ready to go, it's important not to let them disappear into the ether for months at a time. I'll cover aspects of managing consultants - including what to do if things go wrong - in my next post.
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