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The company I am leaving has asked that I make myself available to answer questions and/or debug programs occasionally should the need arise. I'm not opposed to this. After searching google for some kind of standard contract for this sort of thing, I didn't see any.

Is there a standard contract for this sort of thing that you use?

Are there any other steps I should take to ensure this kind of arrangement works smoothly?

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General rule for this sort of thing: If you feel short of both money and time, you're not charging enough. If you have plenty of time and are short of money, you're charging too much. –  David Thornley Mar 16 '11 at 18:06
    
And if you have money but no time? –  quickly_now Mar 16 '11 at 22:32
    
@quickly_now: then you could still charge more, until your opportunities and the available time match. at least in a hypothetical ideal market :) –  keppla Jul 19 '11 at 8:58
    
What should you do in situations where the client of the project sets a hard budget, and therefore, implicitly, a non-negotiable amount paid for the entire project? –  Chris C Nov 9 '11 at 23:59
    
@quickly_now - Stop working? –  JeffO Mar 31 at 20:57
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9 Answers

up vote 29 down vote accepted

You are in a good position here as your old company has asked you for help.

Take the following steps;

  1. Get the agreement of your new employer
  2. Decide on how much time you are prepared to spend on this and when you want to spend that time.
  3. Pick a sensible hourly rate - ask a recruitment agency in your area what the average is and charge that.
  4. Agree on how much notice your old employer must give you for a request for work.
  5. Agree when and how your old employer can contact you. You don't want them ringing you at your new employer so e-mail conversations is probably best.

Be prepared to negotiate - while you are in a good position if you ask for too high a rate (for example) they might suddenly find that they have the skills in-house after all.

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Good advice. Regarding the rate, I would say that you are certainly uniquely qualified for the work and your rate should reflect that. At some point, your old job will replace you and not need your external support. In the meantime, I suggest you make the most of the situation and charge a rate that satisfies you. –  o6tech Feb 23 '11 at 5:34
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The rate can be whatever you want, within limits. If you charge more than them hiring a new person and training them, that's too much. If you have unique product knowledge, be sure to charge accordingly, like $100USD/hour. –  JBRWilkinson Feb 23 '11 at 12:22
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You might even consider having your new employer contract you to your old employer. Then you do not have to worry about moonlighting and contract breaches. –  user1249 Mar 16 '11 at 18:43
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Pick a good hourly rate, and cash in! Just be sure your new company is ok with you doing this. For example, they may not want you doing work for your old company if they are a competitor.

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good answer, but what specifics should I address –  Zak Oct 11 '10 at 22:25
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I'm going to go against the grain here a little bit here...

You've got a new job. You had good reasons to leave the last place and go find a new job - whether it be topic, pay, conditions, lack of career progression opportunities, etc.

Your new job requires 100% of your attention while you're there. If they sense you are 'moon lighting' by keeping the old job going, they'll be annoyed and you'll be in trouble. Do you want this?

As you've already left your previous job, if the post matters to them, they'll be looking to hire someone to take over from where you left off.

If not, they'll be looking to get away from whatever projects you were keeping going before you left.

Either way, the amount of work your previous employer has for you to do is probably quite low and you will have to give up your evenings and weekends to work for them, so you are perfectly entitled to charge whatever you like for contract rates, but please bear in mind the following:

  1. Whatever you charge (say $180/hour), you have to deliver good value on this. You are not going get paid to read email or do on-line learning.
  2. Emails and phone calls to arrange, hand-over, clarify the work shouldn't really be billed, but use some common sense here.
  3. No expenses claims - how much is a phone call, really?

Good luck!

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"Either way, the amount of work your previous employer has for you to do is probably quite low"... unless the endless TODO list with no prioritization (everything's important, everything is top priority) was the reason you left. –  Jared Updike Oct 30 '10 at 6:02
    
You missed my point - if the work was important, they'll have to hire someone else - it's cheaper, they can have fun re-prioritizing their TODO list all the time and they're in-house, so can keep an eye on progress. If it wasn't important, they don't need to call. –  JBRWilkinson Nov 1 '10 at 19:33
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I disagree, and if they want to you to do training take a phone call etc., then you bill them. You bill them for any time you spend working for them. You can make this work if you keep them in check (no daytime work, must arrange in advance etc.). I make a couple extra $1k doing this after I left my last job. They were working thanksgiving because they were so far behind and I worked quite a bit during that holiday as I both felt bad for them and was getting a really good rate. –  Bill Leeper Nov 9 '11 at 21:31
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I would say as time permits make yourself available for outside contracting. That means today they say "We would like X hours from you next week / specific date" and you say "Yes / No / How about N hours?"

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I'm in the same situation. I have a work request sheet, which is basically like a detailed case diagram. Whenever they want me to do work, they fill out:

  1. Name
  2. Pre-Conditions
  3. Steps to perform
  4. Post-Conditions

I know the internals a bit better, so I'll adjust the pre/pos conditions and maybe add/remove some steps as necessary. They OK the changes, and I provide an estimate of how long it'll take. They agree to that, and I start working. And I bill through the nose. I left there for a reason.

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+1 for "And I bill through the nose. I left there for a reason." –  quickly_now Mar 16 '11 at 22:34
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The guy who had my job before me did this, and charged the company something ridiculous. I believe like $95/hour for consulting.

Granted, part of his goal was to NOT do any more work for the company... but we did end up needing him for a couple things, so we paid.

In a way that's a good way to go. You don't want your old job trying to take up all your time if you're going into a new full time job.

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I billed an exorbitant rate as well. Still ended up working Thanksgiving break one time at $100/hr W2 –  Bill Leeper Mar 31 at 21:22
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You left. They obviously don't manage well, and hadn't balanced the risk of you leaving against the potential loss of productivity your departure leaves them faced with. You don't owe them any favours, and frankly, a new job generally needs all your attention especially if it's a full-time position. I'd be really unhappy if I found that one of ours is moonlighting. I wouldn't bother with it. You've left that mess behind, right?

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The old job was fine, I left for a better opportunity. –  Zak Oct 12 '10 at 21:05
    
Unless the person is working for a competitor, why would you be "really unhappy?" Isn't it the individual's prerogative to do with his or her out-of-office hours whatever he or she sees fit, so long as they are performing at work? –  Jay Feb 14 '11 at 15:25
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If they are performing then no probs. Personal experience tells me that a day at work doing dev should be enough for all but the most hardened of brains. Not taking time to revitalize does affect performance in the vast majority of cases. At some point in our careers, we've all burned a little too much midnight oil and not been at our best the next day. The risk in this case would be massively increased. It would also indicate to me that there's something about the job that does not satisfy the employee and it's something we would need to explore. –  spender Feb 14 '11 at 16:29
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Do you have competing interests between the two companies? Where I work I'm not allowed to do this. I signed an agreement that I wouldn't work for another company, that is in the same industry, for N months if I left voluntarily. Make sure you check into that so you don't get sued by one or the other. Lots of companies have various types of non compete agreements.

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I have done this and in my case my former employer set me up as a "Casual Employee" basically hourly on demand. They paid my Social Security tax etc. and I just fill out a timesheet when I do work for them. I have a computer from them and do most of my work remotely when it's needed. I actually live almost 2000 miles away now.

Go for it.

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