Updated November 2, 2020:

An engineering consulting contract is an agreement that establishes the terms for work performed between a consultant and a client. The document can also be called a consulting agreement, business consulting agreement, or freelance agreement.

An engineering consultant, sometimes referred to as a contractor or freelancer, is paid to do work or give advice to a company. Engineering consultants are experts in engineering and share their knowledge with their clients.

When Should You Use an Engineering Consulting Contract?

A consultant should sign a contract before they perform any work for a client in exchange for pay. The agreement helps protect the consultant by creating a formal agreement of what work they will be performing and how and when they will get paid.

A customer should use a consulting agreement when they hire a freelancer or contractor to perform any kind of work. The contract can include non-disclosure clauses that protect proprietary information.

Companies often hire engineering consultants to do work that they are not equipped to do on their own. Engineering contractors should create an engineering consulting contract to outline the terms and conditions of their services with the client. Many templates are available to make writing the agreement easier.

What is Included in the Consulting Contract?

Although consulting contracts can follow the same basic template, they can also be tailored to meet the individual needs of each freelancer and customer. Engineering consulting contracts should include the following information:

  • Customer and Service Provider. The contact information of both parties should be included.
  • Services Provided. A list of tasks the consultant is expected to do and how long the project will take should be outlined in the agreement.
  • Compensation. The agreement should detail how much and when the contractor will be paid.
  • Confidentiality, Non-Competition, and Non-Solicitation. Confidentiality provisions prohibit a consultant from sharing sensitive information with competitors while they are working on the project. This helps protect the customer's client lists, marketing plans, trade secrets, and more. Under non-competition clauses, the consultant can't compete unfairly or solicit business from the customer.
  • Materials. The agreement should state whether the product or service created by the freelancer belongs to the individual or to the customer company.

How Can an Engineer Get a Consulting Contract?

In order to land a consulting job, engineers should be ready to prove their skills. Hiring managers commonly use tests or assessments to determine if the project is a good fit before they hire an engineer. The tests can be given during an interview or sent via a consulting firm. Tests help hiring managers make more confident decisions about the consultants they hire and help engineers make sure their skills are current and at the right level.

The hiring process for consultants typically moves faster than the process for full-time, permanent employees. This is because many large companies have set processes for hiring consultants.

Most companies follow a fairly standard hiring process, starting with talking about the project with a recruiter, then a phone screening, on-site interview, and a skill assessment. For urgent projects, the entire process can be done within a week, depending on the workload of the hiring manager. However, timelines vary from company to company and based on the project. A technical recruiter can provide more personalized insights and give you a better idea of how long the process will take for each company.

During the interview, the hiring manager will likely ask you to walk them through your thought process of solving a problem. This often takes the form of a whiteboard problem where you'll receive a coding problem and a marker and be asked to quickly solve the problem. In these situations, your problem-solving process is more important than actually getting the correct answer.

You should also be prepared to discuss compensation. Most engineering consultants are paid an hourly rate instead of an annual salary. When you first talk to a technical recruiter, decide on an hourly rate that is competitive for your skillset. You can use an annual number to calculate your ideal hourly rate. Some consulting firms also offer insurance and retirement benefits in addition to an hourly rate, but this isn't the case everywhere.

If you need help with an engineering consulting contract, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.