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Tag Archives: boundaries

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to boundaries.

3 Boundaries You Need to Set as an Independent Contractor

3 Boundaries You Need to Set as an Independent Contractor

IT contracting and running your own business has a number of perks, including the fact that, generally, you get to set your own rules. It’s your business and as long as you deliver on your contract, the rest of the decisions are yours. All too often though, independent contractors fall into a trap of trying to please everybody and deliver the best service to earn that reference. You do more than you need to, which is fantastic for your client, but not doing yourself any services.

As an IT contractor, it’s important to set boundaries with a number of people — your client, colleagues, recruiters, friends, family and even yourself. Few people in your life are out to take advantage of you maliciously, but the more you give them, the more they’ll take. Eventually, you’ll find yourself doing things that don’t align with your goals. Here are three types of boundaries you should be setting as an IT contractor:

Time Boundaries

Probably the most common boundary we think of, and also the one most of us can improve. Your time is valuable, and even if a client is willing to pay you for the extra time worked, it doesn’t mean you need to work more hours than agreed to in your contract. Set office hours so clients know when your day begins and ends. Let them know which hours they should not expect to receive an email response.

Your office hours should not only be communicated with your client. First, setting these boundaries with yourself allows you to optimize your personal time outside of office hours. Next, other people in your life need to be aware of the hours you choose to work. Independent contractors enjoy flexibility with their hours, but friends and family sometimes think that means you’re available to help or chat at the drop of a dime. They too need to know that although you can take an hour off to run to the store, you’ve already scheduled that time for your client’s work.

Finally, time boundaries can be set at a more micro level as well. For example, when scheduling meetings, decide on the topic and set the exact length of time you intend to be on that call. Do not let the topic shift or the timeframe to change.

Ethical Boundaries

Your integrity must be a top priority if you want to continue hearing from recruiters about new opportunities and getting called back by clients. Similar to how your time can creep away because you keep giving a little more, there are countless stories of people who kept pushing their ethical boundaries slightly over the line until eventually they found themselves in an unimaginable dilemma.

One example of a little white lie that can get out of control is lying on a resume. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for recruiters to see this happen. Perhaps you expand the length of a project to fit the job description criteria or claim you have plenty of experience with a technology even though you only touched it briefly on a project. Regardless, if this continues to happen with every job application, these little stretches can turn into big lies. If recruiters don’t recognize them by comparing different resumes and your LinkedIn profile, it will surely stand out when you finally land a contract and can’t deliver. You’ll end up being blacklisted by that staffing agency and the client.

There are many other ethical boundaries that can be pushed and lead down a slippery slope. Billing for an extra hour or two when you weren’t actually working, discussing confidential client information with close friends (they won’t tell anyone, right?), and lying about other opportunities to negotiate a better rate — these all seem minor but can quickly come back to bite you.

Client Relationship Boundaries

Finally, it is critical to set boundaries with your client to prevent yourself from being deemed as an employee. This is important for both you and your client. Should the CRA do an audit and decide that you were, in fact, an employee, you will both be on the hook for some serious, unexpected payments.

Many of these boundaries are simple and just require you not to get sucked into the client’s every day activities. For example, those office hour boundaries we discussed above are a good example to show that you operate under your own business’s policies, as opposed to the client’s. Furthermore, you want to refrain from attending company events typically reserved for employee appreciation or using too many office supplies and equipment paid for by the client. Your accountant or lawyer can help you better understand what other boundaries you should be setting to help separate yourself from your client’s employees.

Setting boundaries is a wise idea to maintain your work-life balance while building a strong relationship with your client… but it’s easier said than done. Take time early-on to know understand your boundaries, so you’re not setting them on-the-fly. Then, be upfront, honest and clear about your boundaries with clients, recruiters and anybody else who needs to know them.

What other boundaries do you set as an independent contractor? How do you ensure they’re respected by clients, colleagues, recruiters and others in your life?

Keeping the End Goal in Mind… One Step at a Time

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

Keeping the End Goal in Mind... One Step at a TimeIt is less than two weeks until I leave for my Kilimanjaro trek.  I posted in July about pushing one’s limits and thinking outside of what you would normally do, and being surprised at what can be accomplished.  I have been training for 9 months for the trek and have been busily preparing myself physically, mentally, and emotional for the adventure.  There has been a lot of planning and prep work and the greatest challenge still awaits me.

When thinking about the trek, and all the prep work, it gets overwhelming and easy to lose sight of the end goal.  You can get buried in all the details which start to seem daunting but what has kept me going is the end goal — to reach the summit safely and to raise funds for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

You don’t have to climb a mountain to apply this advice. When working on any intense project plan, the keys to the end success are identical:

  • Be well prepared and set goals. You don’t need to spend 9 months of intense training for your IT project, but you do need to be prepared with a detailed plan. My team has a complete itinerary detailing our climbing plan, including goals for each day and how long it should take to achieve them. Setting these milestones helps ensure success and keeps us from getting overwhelmed by the overall project.
  • Surround yourself with a great team. I’ve been training with an amazing group of people. We’re always encouraging each other in training, and I know that during our climb, we’ll continue to help each other up so we all reach the summit together. On top of this team, we’ll have an experienced leader we can trust to help us through the challenges and guide us up the mountain.
  • Keep climbing. Like every project you work on, as the trek gets tough, the only way to succeed will be to continue moving forward. A positive attitude, the support from that team, and determination to work through adversity will be crucial for me to reach the summit, and are critical elements to work through any complex project.
  • Keep the end goal in mind. Do you know the end goals of your project? Of course it has to be on time and on budget, but what else do you want to accomplish? As I said, my end goal is obviously to reach the summit, but I also want to get there safely and raise funds for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Identifying your intrinsic motivations that mean the most to you will help push through those times you think about slacking or giving up completely.
  • Celebrate your successes. After 7 days of grueling work, including a final 12-15 hour climb that starts at midnight, my team will be greeted at Millennium Camp with a nice beverage. In the following days, we’ll get the opportunity for more celebration, well-deserved spa time and a chance to explore the sights the region has to offer. How do you and your project team celebrate victories? Exploring Africa may be excessive, but dinner and drinks are a great way to wind down, focus on all of your accomplishments, and guarantee that you end on a positive note.

Every project, from climbing a mountain to developing software, will face set-backs. The key is to focus on the end goal and reach the summit one step at a time. That’s the strategy my team and I developed, and I invite you to use the same steps on all of your projects.

Please visit my page to support my trek and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

Pushing Yourself Beyond Your Boundaries!

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

Learning to answer the knock at the door

Pushing Yourself Beyond Your Boundaries!  (and learning to answer the knock at the door)

An amazing opportunity came knocking on the door late last October.  One of my friends asked me if I would be interested in hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro with her along with a group of others people I knew.  My first response was “Are you crazy?!”  I quickly came up with a list of reasons why I could not take on this challenge: I was no hiker (I didn’t even own any sort of hiking footwear, let alone knew where to find my current pair of running shoes), I didn’t have the time to train for such a huge physical undertaking, I am not in love with sleeping in tents and would have to do this for 8 days in a row, I really like to shower (personal hygiene is low on the priority on Mt. Kili), I would be away for my family and work for at least 2 weeks … the list went on and on.  When I started speaking to people about this opportunity, not one person in my inner circle discourage me from passing this up.  Everyone was extremely supportive telling me over and over again “Yeah! You can do this!!”  It will take a lot of prep work but it is worth both the challenge and the reward (personally and being able to raise money for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation).

So, I really listened to what my friends had to say, and it came down to realizing that there was no reason why I could not do this more than anyone else.

It is fantastic and humbling to be supported by family, friends and colleagues in this challenge.  It is even more amazing to be able to push one’s self beyond the normal comfort zone and in doing so, also being able to raise funds for a cause near and dear to my heart (win-win!).

What I have already learned from this experience is to always answer the door when opportunity knocks, even if it is something that at first might not seem to be of interest.  Many people see themselves in a certain way and often get stuck thinking they know who they are.  These people never end up pushing their boundaries and considering new opportunities.  So whether at work or in your personal life, listen carefully to that knock at the door. You may surprise yourself with a great new adventure.

Here’s a little more about my upcoming quest:

Climbing Team to Mount Kilimanjaro

In October this year, I will have the good fortune to be climbing alongside a team of 15 incredible people who are raising funds for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.  I will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with 4 amazing women friends – Paula, Monique, Rachel and Laurie, of which both Paula and Laurie are breast cancer survivors.  This climb is in honour of all those women I have known – family and friends – who have had to deal with this horrible disease.

The climb will be one of the most mentally, physically, and emotionally challenging experiences I will ever encounter but it will be nothing compared to what friends and families go through when a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

The climb will take 6.5 days to reach the top (19,340 feet, or 11 CN Towers high!), trekking for 6-12 hours each day.  Then 1.5 days to get down the mountain.  We have been training hard with weekly hikes (I started last January and was out hiking in -25 weather), long walks during the week and personal training sessions to get us ready for this exciting challenge!!

Please visit my sponsorship page for more information about the journey and to help support this great cause.