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Contracting 101: Obligations and Entitlements

Contracting 101: Obligations and Entitlements

Contractors, listen up. If it’s in the contract — which includes your proposal, way down in the precedence list — you have to do it. You’re obligated.

Clients, listen up. If it’s not in the contract, you can’t have it without paying extra. You’re not entitled.  “Hiring” a contractor is misleading language: It is not like hiring an employee. There’s no contractual equivalent to the “Other duties as required” line in job descriptions.

Is it quite that simple? No. Contractors sometimes do freebies in exchange for goodwill; clients sometimes accept less of one thing to get more of another. But the contract is supposed to rule and it will rule if/when you get a new contracting officer on either side.

So listen up, both of you: At the bidding stage, pay attention to what’s in the contract.


  1. Jim Taylor

    Yes, but (or “yabbut” as our kids used to tell us) contracts can be amended. Sometimes by mutual agreement, sometimes not. Probably the ultimate contract is the marriage contract: “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health… yadda yadda yadda… ’till death do us part.” No fine print there. And yet divorces happen. Separations happen. Annulments happen. The contract keeps changing, evolving.
    I guess I’m not a legalist on this. If I take the marriage contract as a model, I have to think of other contracts as also evolving, even if the terms are not written down and duly signed into being, unless and until one of the parties finds the terms intolerable.
    Jim T

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Jim – A fair point. Contracts can be changed mutually (whether in writing or just in fact), but they can’t be ignored unilaterally without legal repercussions.

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