Freelancers’ Questions: Should I agree to give a client progress reports?

Freelancer’s Question: I’ve secured a new client and they want my services a lot of the time. Worse still, he wants me to report to him the list of hours and tasks on a monthly basis I carry out. Basically, time-specific progress reports!

Is the stressful admin/paperwork burden the only reason I’ve got to refuse this? Under what circumstances should I agree to what he calls a ‘tracking log’? How can I get out of it, or despite my work’s complexity, should I oblige him? He is the paying customer, after all.

Expert’s Answer: Communication is key and before the outset of any contract, key deliverables should be agreed, and an action plan put in place. 

The client should be paying for outcomes, so providing that the agreed work is completed then a detailed time log should not be relevant. 

There is probably a balance to be struck from the client’s perspective -- they obviously want to know they are getting sufficient time from you and return on their investment, but again it should really be focussed on your outputs. 

So a monthly report of activity is a good way to note the achievements, provided at the end of the month by you as merely a round-up.

If you have a close working relationship and are keeping your client in the picture on a frequent basis, then they should already be aware of what you are doing for them. It might be a good idea to point out to the client that any time spent on a ‘tracking log’ would be better spent on delivering results which might help them to rethink their time-specific reporting request.

The question of ‘Control’ is also relevant in this scenario, particularly when considering IR35. If the working practices of the contract encompass independence of work behaviour, so your choice of how, where and when to work etc., then these could indicate a scenario where IR35 does not apply.  

However, if the client requires excessive control, the working practices in this scenario are more likely put the contract inside the scope of IR35 as it becomes more akin to an employment relationship. The more factors which indicate that a worker is not ‘controlled’, the more persuasive the argument that there is not an employer/ employee relationship for tax purposes and the consequences that this carries. This should be borne in mind and perhaps be pointed out to the client who may be unaware of the ramifications of IR35.

The expert was Julia Kermode, chief executive of the Freelancer and Contractor Services Association (FCSA).

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