Perhaps this is a numpty question: I am sold trader in a specialist field and have a colleague with whom I would like to work with regularly who is also a sole trader. For various reasons we would like to retain our identities as single specialists rather than form a partnership at this time.

We feel we could then more easily freelance for different contractors on large jobs however as and when. But we would like to work together on smaller projects, even tendering for projects together but as individuals entities.

Is that possible or does it just make it too complicated?

In my experience, this is very frequent: most of the time this depends on who gets the customer and manages the relationship. This is called the Prime contractor, and can get whoever to complement their services (in this case your colleague). If your colleague got the contract, the roles would reverse.

Usually you work out a contract which specifies the general terms of this arrangement, and you add attachments with the specifics for each job (shares, deliverables, rates etc.)

This way you work separately but jointly on projects, Does that make sense?

In a similar scenario, I was part of a 4-man team of independant contractors working together at a larger client.

To avoid having to form a company in which liability is collective and not individual, we all had short written contracts with the client-facing contractor, regarding expectations, responsibilities and payment.

For the sales pitch, we all had similar business cards in the company of the contractor who handled the client relationship.

In addition, we were all involved in drawing up the contract with the end client and were thus not merely sub-contractors being kept in the dark.

Although it was a one-off and never repeated, it worked quite well - as the process was quite light-weight and transparent to all. Except the client perhaps, who probably had the impression that we were all from the same company. Had they asked, we would have informed them of our arrangement - but they never did.

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