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I'm a web developer, and building an app for one of my clients. The project is kind of big and I hired online freelancers to do javascript and jquery for me.

The project has taken a while and now it's 80% done. My client called me today and he wants me finish the work at his office so that he will be able to work beside me. I accepted his offer, then upon reflection I regretted accepting because I cannot finish it at his place since there are some parts of the project that other people (freelancers) are working on.

What are my options to avoid this situation? I will meet him in person next week! Should I email him and tell him a cannot do the work on-site? If so, how should I word my email?

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    Does your client know that you farmed out part of your project. – PM 77-1 Apr 14 '16 at 0:55
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    I don't understand why you working at the customer site would cause any more breakage than you working from your own office, out keep you from finishing your own part of the work. Please explain what the real problem is. – keshlam Apr 14 '16 at 2:11
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    Did your client give any reasons for why he wants you to work onsite with him now? Is there a trust issue? Also, asking for more money to deliver what you are already being paid to do is a big no no, regardless of where you are sitting. That ship has already sailed since you have agreed to do that. – Jane S Apr 14 '16 at 2:12
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    Where are you located? If you're in the US and working as a contractor then your client cannot suddenly request that you work on-site as that would break the nature of your relationship and turn it into an employer-employee one, with all sorts of legal and financial complications. You can use that to argue that moving on-site can't be part of the deal. – Lilienthal Apr 14 '16 at 10:32
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    @Lilienthal: Not necessarily true. It's perfectly possible to work on-site and still be a contractor, especially if (as in this case) most of the work was done off-site, and the on-site is necessary for interaction. – jamesqf Apr 14 '16 at 18:45
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My suggestion is to go and meet the client and have a 1 on 1 with him.

Ask him why does he want to implement the stuff at his office. Tell him frankly that there are 3-4 team members helping you and it will be difficult for all of them to work on site. You can suggest visiting him every other week and demo whats done and take more requirements/refinements till the project is complete.

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Go onsite and have a meeting, tell the client that you have other commitments and resources, reference materials, tools, software etc,. which keep you in your office even when you're working on his site. You can't do the job properly from there. It's none of the clients business if you are using outside freelancers to do some of the work.

In such a situation I would only go to the clients offices to sit down and make a plan or to clarify some issues or do testing. You shouldn't have agreed in the first place, but since you have, when you get there make it clear you won't be staying.

Never divulge anything about how you do your business if it's not absolutely necessary.

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    Could you clarify why you added the last sentence? Are there downsides to being transparent about how you run your business in this case? It seems needlessly dishonest to me to hide the fact that you subcontract some work. – Lilienthal Apr 14 '16 at 10:35
  • Nothing dishonest about it, it's a general rule. How you operate your business is your own company information. I don't ask a Supermarket for a list of their suppliers. This is just a quick and dirty example (so don't nitpick at it :-)), client finds out you're subcontracting, contacts subcontractor and pays them direct, you make nothing, you just gave away information and it got used against you. Information is valuable, you don't give it away willy nilly. – Kilisi Apr 14 '16 at 10:43
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    Ah good point. I don't imagine that happening in MNCs or the public sector but I suppose that when you're dealing with smaller or shadier clients you do have to be careful about situations like that. – Lilienthal Apr 14 '16 at 12:11
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    @Lilienthal there is nothing dishonest about keeping business secrets secret. I've done some code obfuscation for the same reason. When you hire me for a project, you get the project, you don't get to steal my work for other projects. Same with keeping his subcontractor a secret. Why hire him again if they can just steal his subcontractor? – Retired Codger Apr 14 '16 at 12:36
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    @RichardU I meant that pretending that you're doing all the work is what could come across as dishonest if it's not true and it would be needlessly dishonest because in most situations it wouldn't be an issue or risky to mention that you're working with a subcontractor. I certainly wouldn't provide this guy's details but it's hiding his mere existence that would be strange to me. If I found out that a contractor was being secretive about his subcontracting work when I wouldn't mind him subcontracting, then I might wonder if he was hiding something such as said subcontractor being incompetent – Lilienthal Apr 14 '16 at 14:29
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In the US a 1099 contractor can not be required to work on sight during a specified schedule under tight control of the employer. Once you do that, you are treating the contractor as an employee

Common Law Test

  • A worker is an employee if the institution has the right to control the manner and means of accomplishing the result desired.

  • An employee is paid for his/her time and bears no risk of wage loss if the employer’s product is unprofitable. An independent contractor has the opportunity to profit from the project and the risk of loss, depending on the worker's managerial skill.

  • An employee is not required to invest in the employer’s business. An independent contractor makes some investment in tools, equipment, supplies, and facilities appropriate for his/her business.

  • An employee may receive training. An independent contractor has the skills necessary to perform the task without additional training.

  • An employee enjoys a continuing relationship with the employer. An independent contractor generally works on one project and moves on,
    accepting additional projects when and if available.

  • An employee provides services that are essential to the employer’s business and incorporated into its products and services.

Because you have some legal implications of working in-house on a schedule with the client, you have a bit of an easier "out". What I would suggest is that you email the client back and say the following:

I was discussing the arrangement we had previously agreed upon regarding having me work in-house with you for the remaining duration of our contract with my business coach * and upon further reflection, I feel that it would not be in the best interest of yourcompany or mine to work in that way. I was advised that per the IRS definition of a contractor versus employee ***, that being required or asked to work on site on a determined schedule would put me in the classification of a w-2 employee and thus change our previous agreement with my role as an independent contractor.

That said, I believe that we can create a scenario where you are able to collaborate with me on the final aspects of this project and I can maintain my autonomy as an independent contractor. ...... **

Notes*


  • *You can replace 'business coach' with any other advisory / consultant that you might feel is more believable. Possibly your accountant, business partner, or colleagues would fit better.

  • ** To end the email I would think about how you can make the client feel like they are able to be an active and collaborative part of the project without having to have them over your shoulder. I don't know the specifics of the project, but what I would do is make sure you have a sharable version of your project online that you can upload to where the client can play with it and provide feedback. If the project is mostly code-based, I would setup a git repo and set them up as a user for the repo. That will allow them to see code as it is being committed. Even if they have no idea what it means, they tend to feel good when they see those notifications roll in. From there I would set up a handful of milestones where client input will be useful and schedule meetings around them. Let the client know what the milestones are and what the meeting will cover. Finally, I would set up some type of online collaboration tool where they can communicate with you easily outside of email. There are a million tools out there and based on your project's needs I'm sure you can find one.

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