Crash Course on Being a Contractor

Question: Help – I need a crash course on being an independent contractor!Date: 01/07

Online Resources:

“Getting Started in Consulting and Independent Contracting,” available from Regarding letters of Agreement and Contracts, read Chapter 11 of the CIC SIG Online Book (I found Chapter 9 also useful). may have some info that you’ll find helpful. or
As far as the contract goes, I started with the one on the STC Rocky Mountain Chapter (RMC) website and had an attorney read it – see Also useful is the STC-RMC Freelance Resources:, or similar to send/receive faxes on your computer without having to leave your fax machine on and subject to spending your ink on spam adverts.

Professional Resources: There are 5 people whom every consultant needs on his/her team:

biz lawyer (check into an LLC–varies by state but is easy to set up and gives you lots of tax and liability advantages; costs less than you might think for both, and will save you tons of money later)
CPA or other tax professional
financial planner
insurance agent (make sure your business assets are covered under a commercial policy; homeowner’s insurance is usually not sufficient)
banker (get to know your branch manager personally so that if you have problems with an account or need to borrow $$ you can do that) Also, you may want to consider setting up a business line of credit. This will help during those times when your clients screw up paperwork and you don’t get paid for awhile.

Miscellaneous comments:

The best way to provide someone with a meaningful quote is to get a sample of the work that must be done, edit it, and extrapolate a quote for the entire job based on the sampling. In reality, the only way to get good at quoting jobs is to start developing data from your projects. You’ll come to know the rate at which you work and the type of work you either fly through or get stuck in.
Doug Florzak’s book “Successful Independent Consulting.” He’s got good forms for business planning, and questions to ask yourself about your preferred tax status and so forth.
Intuit’s QuickBooks for banking and accounting management–at nearly $500 (circa 2005), it’s worth a look into the substantially cheaper Quicken For Home and Business. Should you grow into QuickBooks, you can always make the switch. In your early, early days you may be able to get by on a simple spreadsheet; but then it’s up to you to track and categorize business expenses for that P/L sheet.