Contractor Among Contractors
If it's your first time doing this work, make sure your contract is robust. You can get a standard contract from many of the legal document template websites then amend it and get it a once-over from a solicitor.
The key tip for fixed price deals is to get the scope right and leave no woolly statements. For example: "Deliver an upgraded Exchange environment" can be anything from a two week job to a two year job. Most companies will accept a two-phase project for big projects, first stage is scoping and limited planing to bottom out the scope of work, second stage is delivery; if they don't then wonder why not and keep right on top of changes.
Other tips for start-up include:
- Set payment milestones either on fixed dates or on easily provable deliveries on regular schedules. If your payment milestones are more than a month apart, issue a work-in-progress statement at regular intervals, I like doing it weekly but monthly is perfectly acceptable; invite queries on every WIP statement, this will make invoicing far easier and should eliminate queries.
- Set an early payment milestone to "test" their invoicing system. Try hard to get a signing payment or "on-start" payment, especially if the first major milestone payment is a long way off.
- Keep your documentation accurate, this way it's far easier to incorporate inevitable changes and provide incremental change quotes for those changes. Be pedantic, accept no verbal promises in this area, it WILL come back to bite.
- Agree the method of change control and pricing right at the very start!
- Make sure cancellation and penalties are included in the contract. For example, if they cancel the project mid-way through a stage then you want to ensure that you're paid at least a pro-rated amount for labour and all expenses incurred, even if not used, e.g. a monthly season ticket. Most of my work has penalty clauses included that provides the client with a lot of security that I'm not going to dump and run, they also give me a stick if I'm unceremoniously dumped for a cheaper delivery resource once I've done the hard planning.
There are plenty of other hints but those are the key ones that hit many people doing fixed price work that can be solved right at the start.