If you work as a contractor, are you expected to provide all your own tools? Who normally pays for them? Are these type of things normally discussed and agreed in the contract before work starts? What happens if a contractor starts and their boss requires them buy something really expensive? I am asking with the focus in the tech industry.

This question is related to another question. I have worked as a contractor before and was provided with all the tools I needed from the company, but this one may be expecting me to buy software.

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    I had to but an expensive tool to fix a customers car - that bill did not cover the cost of the tool, but the next 14 jobs did. Pay for the tool and get on with it.
    – Solar Mike
    Commented May 17, 2020 at 6:24

5 Answers 5


You seem to be quite confused about the difference between being an employee and a contractor. While this answer mostly focuses on UK definitions, at least in the IT world those are very common in a lot the English-speaking world (as far as I've traveled).

Though I have to say that the confusion is understandable, as it's a very common practice to hide employees are contractors for various benefits.

What happens if a contractor starts and their boss requires them buy something really expensive?

As a contractor, you are your boss, and the person you are now calling as a boss is your client. It's not just a semantical distinction, as while your client sets what work you are expected to deliver, they have very little to say about the matter in which it is delivered, including the hours you will work, location, or as importantly the tools used to deliver the work. In TLDR: when you are a contractor you are hired by a client to deliver a result, with little care how you get there, while as an employee you are hired to perform duties specified by the boss, and in the way they desire.

Most of those things are negotiable (and in the case of hiding employees as contractors the contract you will receive is almost not different from what employee would get, though usually without paid holiday, sick days, etc) and if the client demands a specific way of working, tools to be used, those should be specified in the contract you've signed. If they aren't then they likely have little standing to force you to use them, though it's important to keep in mind that they can always break/not renew your contract if you don't play ball, so you have to negotiate around clients new, and sometimes unreasonable demands, or be ready to start looking for a new client.

  • If this is the case then I am an employee. I don't have a specific project and do what my boss tells me. Commented May 18, 2020 at 14:43
  • @wipeoututopia that's very likely the case, I've no idea where you live but in some places hiding employees as contractors is not exactly above board.
    – Aida Paul
    Commented May 18, 2020 at 14:44
  • This is only the case of some contractors for example a builder or the film and tv industry - not normally IT/Development ones. It also varies by country. And you would quite often charge more for providing your own equipment Commented May 18, 2020 at 21:21

I am a contractor in the IT-Business.

When I get a request I make sure I find out as much as I can about the job.

  • What tools do I need?
  • What technologies?
  • Am I even proficient enough to offer my services?
  • Do I have to invest some time in learning, that will not immediately pay off?
  • Do I need to by additional tools?
  • What will the copyright agreement be?
  • What are my liabilities and does my insurance cover them?
  • Do I get a system provided by the client or do I use my own?
  • Do I have to travel there for meetings, do have to be there all the time or can it be done entirely from home?

Only then do I make my offer. Depending on those factors, my price can vary.

I have one Laptop and licenses for the tools I usually work with if there are no special requests from the client.

If at some stage I need additional tools, it depends:

When I need the tool just for this job, I ask the client to get a license. This has never been a Problem: If they need this and it is special to them they mostly want to posses the license - after all they could have to change something later, when I´m gone.

When I think I may need this more often in the future, I just buy it. It will pay for itself over time and increase my market worth.

Then there are cases where the investment does not make sense for either party. For those, there is usually a free alternative/workaround solution to use to fulfill the request.

Note that while I have a contract to cover liability and copyright issues, I usually don´t have anything about the tools in the contract. Nonetheless I never signed a contract without knowing what tools I had to provide and what would be provided to me to start. I never had any problems, even If we discovered, down the road, that additional Licenses where required.


As a contractor are you expected to supply all of your own tools?

Not necessarily, but if they ask you if you have that tool, and you say "yes", then they'll expect you to have that tool.

They made you a job offer as an independent contractor.

You agreed to that (it doesn't matter what happened beforehand).

You were asked if you had Office.

You said "Yes" to that as well.

At this point, you just need to bite the bullet. Either tell them the truth, make up some lie about your laptop being broken, or get your own legitimate licenses.

To get your own legit licenses, I'd suggest you create a company site for yourself and enroll in this program from Microsoft for startups. It's free for two years. https://startups.microsoft.com/en-us/

Having a sole proprietorship is fine, but you'll need your own domain and web site in order to be accepted in their program. This shouldn't cost you more than $20 if you do your research.

And in the future, please stop agreeing to everything. Especially at your young age, you do not want to be an independent contractor. Keeping track of your expenses, doing your own taxes, paying for your own insurance, negotiating your own contracts, and collecting on past due invoices. You can do all of that, but I recommend you do all of that later in life. When you don't know what you're doing, being an independent contractor is not as fun as it sounds.

  • This doesn't seem to answer the actual question.
    – Erik
    Commented May 17, 2020 at 5:59
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    @Erik, Is this better? Commented May 17, 2020 at 6:02
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    I actually wasn't asked until after the job had started so the offer was in no way related to what I had Commented May 17, 2020 at 6:11
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    @wipeoututopia, Ok, fine. It's not a screw-up. But having pirated software on your laptop is one problem. You may even have malware now on your laptop for all you know. And the second current problem is that they're expecting you to use your own laptop and that you did not correct them on that misunderstanding yet. Commented May 17, 2020 at 6:52
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    @wipeoututopia why would they ask you that if it wasn't related to work?
    – Kat
    Commented May 17, 2020 at 23:23

You will have costs as a contractor that an employee wouldn't have. And you have fewer rights. On the other side, your pay should be enough to compensate for that. Your daily rate times 120-150 should be the same as what you normally would make in a year before taxes. (For example if you would expect £60,000 salary before tax, the daily rate should be £400 to £500).

The only thing that I would expect the client to pay for is the office furniture and a good monitor if they want me to come to their office a lot (because I won't be travelling with a monitor) and similar things. Or specialised items, like if I have to write software for a server costing £100,000 that will be their server.

  • its 3x as a rule of thumb for the UK and for IT / Dev contractors slightly less for long contracts) its almost unheard of out side of some niche industry's Commented May 18, 2020 at 21:24

The US Internal Revenue Service has (on its website, "irs.gov") a set of bright-line rules that are used to determine if a contractor is actually a "statutory employee." (Hint: you do not want the IRS to make that determination!) One of the key factors is whether or not the "contractor" is provided with tools and equipment.


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