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Contracting 101

Just starting out as an independent contractor? Read these tips and visit these Web sites. 5/15 Contracting 101 Just starting out as an independent contractor? Read these tips and visit these Web sites.

Dear Molly: Where can I go to learn about contracting myself out as a programmer/business analyst?

Molly says: To contract yourself out, you need to do more than just find potential customers; you also need to familiarize yourself with the legal and financial aspects of a life lived independently. Here are my short takes, based on my own experience:

To find work, go where the work is. Find companies that need your services and ask them for work–even if it’s just a small project–so that the two of you can get to know each other.

Alway help your customers achieve their goals. Many people can write a program; it’s the rare programmer who can write the program the customer needs to have.

Know the IRS regulations on what constitutes an independent contract, and abide by them religiously. By doing this, you will sleep better and will make sure you are not setting up yourself or your client for tax hassles.

Live below your means, and learn the basics of accounting and accounts-collection strategies. It’s all about cash flow when you’re on your own, and keeping expenses lower than income will help you hang in there over the dry spells. Knowing how to ask for your money without being nasty also helps alleviate cash-flow crises.

Here are a few Web sites that will help you learn more about contracting yourself out in the business world:

Independent contractor aggregator sites:

Independent Contractor Exchange

SoloGig

IC Planet

Learning soft skills:

Take a test at Queendom.com, Dale Carnegie, and Franklin Covey.

IRS indepdent contractor rules and regulations:

Visit the IRS home page, the IRS’s Small Business and Self Employed Community page, and Quicken.

Molly Joss also writes the monthly Career Advisor column for ComputerUser magazine. Ask a career-related question at [email protected]

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