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Contractors - how many hours should you work?

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There's no getting around it; sooner or later - whether you're working as a freelance contractor yourself, or you've hired one for a project - there needs to be a clear understanding as to how many hours constitutes a full working day, week or month.

It's usual for the average employee to work 40 hours each week, which is pretty much the norm across most industries. But what about contractors? Are the rules the same or are they expected to work more....or less?

One of the things that a paying client will frequently forget is that contractors are NOT the same as their direct employees. Most are working outside of IR35, or least attempting to, which means they are in business in their own right and not therefore restricted to 9 - 5 working hours.

The true measure in any employment situation is not one of time anyway; it should be a question of productivity. A freelance contractor, through diligent management of their time and efforts, may produce much better results than any employee - even with just a few hours a day. Tracking results rather than time is frequently becoming a more reliable indicator of the value provided by contractors.

The unfortunate reality is that sometimes this doesn't work in practice, particularly for large-scale project based work where people need to be in constant contact with the project co-ordinators and other key members of the team. It can often create quite a setback to the project if, as a remote working contractor, you're not on hand and directly accessible between the core hours of 9am - 5pm. There's clearly a trade off required. For example, as a contractor, you could successfully deliver your own piece of the project on time, but it is every bit as important to help the rest of the team achieve it's overall objectives.

Nevertheless, tracking your own productivity (and improving it) can place you head and shoulders above the average candidate for future assignments. Whether or not you work a normal 8 hour day is entirely dependent on the contract or project you are being paid to deliver. Use a common sense approach. If you're charging a day rate, work enough hours to justify the amount being paid - and if the client categorically does need you on-site between core hours, then i'm afraid you'll have to bite the bullet work the clock.

Whatever agreement you come to regarding working hours, it's important to have this conversation before an assignment even begins. As a contractor, your number one priority is to establish and cement long-term working relationships. If both you and the client agree an 'average' working day from the outset, there will be no issue further down the line.

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Image: 2826bf04 by mjs

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