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 Clinical Research Careers
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Independent Contracting Discussion
Author:  Biotech Insider
Date:  11-01-07 03:35pm
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At your request: a section for independent contracting to discuss issues! This topic is "sticky" so it will always be the foremost Clinical Research Careers discussion.

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  Author: CRA Jul 12, 2009, 09:56PM
 
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   To 7/07 at 6:06: travel is "productivity". Definition: The relationship between production of an output and one, some, or all of the resource inputs used in accomplishing the assigned task. It is measured as a ratio of output per unit of input over time. It is a measure of efficiency and is usually considered as output per person-hour. (See www.epa.gov).Without travel, we cannot monitor, therefore efficiency cannot be factored into the equation. Travel whether you're working, playing solitare or whatever, is part of the monitoring equation. Without travel, we cannot monitor, query, write reports or follow-up letters.
 
 
 
  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader Jul 12, 2009, 05:28PM
 
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   To: Jul 11, 2009, 10:19PM

There are contractors (monitors) who charge $200/hr? Which therapeutic areas do these monitors work in and what sort of career progression led to charging these types of fees?

I could begin by quoting from the title of one of comedian Bill Cosby's albums: "I Started Out as a Child," and progress through grass mowing/garden walk weeding, to janitor, to industrial kitchen pot wash before college, to retail men's clothing/sporting goods sales, and corporate cost-accounting that I did to earn the money to pay for 2 undergraduate degrees in life sciences I earned in night school.

My career in life sciences formally began almost 30 years ago in a recession deeper than the current one and for the first couple of years I held 3 different "temp" jobs in life sciences, because there was nothing full time for just about anyone without a degree in engineering -- all three at one time once -- and it was one of the best lessons in time management one could obtain.

I was hired as a full time lab bencher and did a few years in pharmaceutical R&D, then did pharma quality ops. During this time I married had 4 children and earned 2 graduate (w/thesis) degrees, both again in night school. I did a stint with FDA and later went back to industry leading regulatory affairs and quality operations at a couple of top firms before I launched my own consulting firm in my early '40's.

Looking back, there are a sum of techniques and proficiencies which I have had the priviledge to develop and have benefitted from over the years, some even going back to before college employment and an appreciation of a sense of pay-for-productivity has been one of those lessons from which I and my past employers and current clients have profitted.

Today as a consultant I have served both large and start-up pharma clients as a subject matter expert in pre-clinical modelling, clinical pharmacy training and study management, clinical supplies handling, staff training and study close outs, chemistry and manufacturing controls advisory, application writing both pre-and post approval, domestic and international, cGMP/GLP/GCP auditing and compliance, venture cap due-diligence, R&D portfolio business analyis, and furnishing expert legal testimony.

If one wants to earn the big bucks in this business you either have to be able to make your client a boat load of money, or save your client a boat load of money. You need to develop and credibly manifest an attitude that there is no job too small, and when your client wants "x" you have an ability to deliver "x+1" on time or before.

I suppose the take away message in all this is that you can agree with your client to bill him for time that he and you both know is unproductive, and you will always likely be billing at a price point commensurate with it.

By contrast, I don't bill my clients full-freight for un-productive time, and when I do bill them full-freight, productivity is measureable by the high quality and timeliness of the deliverables, not by the score acheived on my last game of Solitaire.

 
 
 
  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader Jul 12, 2009, 12:48PM
 
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   To: Jul 11, 2009, 10:19PM

There are contractors (monitors) who charge $200/hr? Which therapeutic areas do these monitors work in and what sort of career progression led to charging these types of fees?

I could begin by quoting from the title of one of comedian Bill Cosby's albums: "I Started Out as a Child," and progress through grass mowing/garden walk weeding, to janitor, to industrial kitchen pot wash before college, to retail men's clothing/sporting goods sales, and corporate cost-accounting that I did to earn the money to pay for 2 undergraduate degrees in life sciences I earned in night school.

My career in life sciences formally began almost 30 years ago in a recession deeper than the current one and for the first couple of years I held 3 different "temp" jobs in life sciences, because there was nothing full time for just about anyone without a degree in engineering -- all three at one time once -- and it was one of the best lessons in time management one could obtain.

I was hired as a full time lab bencher and did a few years in pharmaceutical R&D, then did pharma quality ops. During this time I married had 4 children and earned 2 graduate (w/thesis) degrees, both again in night school. I did a stint with FDA and later went back to industry leading regulatory affairs and quality operations at a couple of top firms before I launched my own consulting firm in my early '40's.

Looking back, there are a sum of techniques and proficiencies which I have had the priviledge to develop and have benefitted from over the years, some even going back to before college employment and an appreciation of a sense of pay-for-productivity has been one of those lessons from which I and my past employers and current clients have profitted.

Today as a consultant I have served both large and start-up pharma clients as a subject matter expert in pre-clinical modelling, clinical pharmacy training and study management, clinical supplies handling, staff training and study close outs, chemistry and manufacturing controls advisory, application writing both pre-and post approval, domestic and international, cGMP/GLP/GCP auditing and compliance, venture cap due-diligence, R&D portfolio business analyis, and furnishing expert legal testimony.

If one wants to earn the big bucks in this business you either have to be able to make your client a boat load of money, or save your client a boat load of money. You need to develop and credibly manifest an attitude that there is no job too small, and when your client wants "x" you have an ability to deliver "x+1" on time or before.

I suppose the take away message in all this is that you can agree with your client to bill him for time that he and you both know is unproductive, and you will always likely be billing at a price point commensurate with it.

By contrast, I don't bill my clients full-freight for un-productive time, and when I do bill them full-freight, productivity is measureable by the high quality and timeliness of the deliverables, not by the score acheived on my last game of Solitaire.

 
 
 
  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader Jul 12, 2009, 09:52AM
 
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   Posted: Jul 11, 2009, 09:24AM

It can take up to 12 hours of travel to do a 4-5 hour monitoring job. So I'm going to accept $300 for a 16-17 hour day?

OK, since I've started talking numbers now we're bringing a little more color to the discussion.

Let's see... doing the math, if you bill $300 for 5 hours of work your rate is $60/hr. Pretty pedestrian -- a typical KellyGirl-IT rate. Now, if you bill $300 for a 12 hour day and that includes site time + travel you are billing at $25/hr. If your travel + site time = 16 hours and you bill at $300/day, you are at $18.75/hr.

I agree. With those last 2 rates you might as well be a burger flipper working 2nd or 3rd shift. If I was your client, I probably wouldn't care if you played games on travel time, slept, or ate a "Happy Meal." That said, I'd negotiate your contract to have them throw in that Happy Meal as part of the package too.

No way you're making $300K while accepting 50% for travel time.

Believe what you like, but from what I'm reading from you, it appears that even at your best rate I am making more than double that rate at my 1/2 time rate while sleeping than you are making at a full time rate doing anything you do.

Productivity is meaningful in the consulting and contracting work that I do, and the rates I can charge for what I do reflect this. On the otherhand, it does not appear that productivity is or has to be the goal of whatever it is that you do, and the rates you appear to be able to charge reflect this.

Like you said earlier: Time is money. Better get back to that Solitaire game. Ever notice that the faster you complete the game the more "points" you earn?

Me? It's Sunday. I think I'll just kick back and take a nap. See ya!

 
 

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  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader Jul 11, 2009, 10:19PM
 
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   There are contractors (monitors) who charge $200/hr? Which therapeutic areas do these monitors work in and what sort of career progression led to charging these types of fees?
 
 
 
  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader Jul 11, 2009, 09:24AM
 
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   If you are accepting 1/2 pay for your travel time, you are really being duped. I don't believe for a second that you are a contractor. No contractor I know would accept that. Ever. I don't know about most of you, but the majority of my money is made on travel time. It can take up to 12 hours of travel to do a 4-5 hour monitoring job. So I'm going to accept $300 for a 16-17 hour day? You must be joking. No way you're making $300K while accepting 50% for travel time.
 
 
 
  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader Jul 11, 2009, 06:45AM
 
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   To: Jul 10, 2009, 01:37PMHere is the bottom line:Travel is work. Regardless of what "else" I am doing. When I step out of my house, I bill.I'm sorry if you are upset but this. I have not had it any other way and I won't compromise on that. Best of luck to you.

Who's upset? Seems like I just hit a nerve here.

Call me back when you are billable for $300K a year like I am -- and have been for the last 5 and will excced this year. Then we can talk about who produces when they bill and who plays games when they bill, and we can compare notes then, shall we?

 
 
 
  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader Jul 10, 2009, 01:37PM
 
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   Here is the bottom line:Travel is work. Regardless of what "else" I am doing. When I step out of my house, I bill.I'm sorry if you are upset but this. I have not had it any other way and I won't compromise on that. Best of luck to you.
 
 
 
  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader Jul 10, 2009, 06:28AM
 
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   To: Jul 08, 2009, 11:37AM

No - point missed. I am not suggesting that I work while I am traveling in order to be productive, or that I bill when I am sleeping. What I am saying is that the act of travel in and of itself is productive.... If that means 3 hours on an airplane playing a game on my computer then that is billed time.

On the contrary. Point made. And by you this time, thank you. Playing games on your computer is "productive" for your client? Do you include disclosure of this kind of "productivity" in your trip reports? Could it be that your bill rate is so low already for whatever it is that you do, that your client doesn't care if you play games or do work? I am happy to learn that for your client's sake, you don't appear to be billing them as you sleep -- at least not yet.

That said, you appear to distinguish between playing games as billable time and sleeping as non-billable time. Assuming that both may conceivably be done while one travels, I'm just curious: do your contracts make a provisions for billable game playing time vs non-billable sleep time too?

The reason for this is because that would be time I could be working for someone else if I wasn't traveling for them. Time is money.

Do you only have one client at a time? I often have three.

I think it's funny that we are debating this because my clients have all agreed to this so it is a totally moot point. I'm curious...let's take a poll...how do other independent contractors bill for their travel time?

It will also be of value to share rates contractors are charging. If all you are making/billing is $45-60/hr, well, that's on a par with a pathetic KellyScientific IT rate.... How many independent consultants are out there with billing rates of $200-$275/hr, are playing games on their computers or sleeping on transcontinental and/or international flights while billing their clients for it at full freight?

 
 

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  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader Jul 09, 2009, 09:57AM
 
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   To the 7/7/09 poster: I have been a contractor for over 5 years and have never until recently ( and with a very apologetic recruiter) been offered a job with 1/2 hourly rate pay for travel. So I don't quite buy into that this is "standard practice" in this field. The recruiter stated that the full rate would be paid when writing reports, etc while traveling. But I said I was absolutely not interested in even considering this position. The rationale for paying for travel for contractors is that that monitoring is a tough job because of the travel. It plays havoc on one's social life, ie, hard to be in a book club, golf team, etc. if you are constantly on the road. So yes, I expect to be reimbursed at a full rate for travel. I did offer as a suggestion to this recruiter, to go back to the sponsor, and tell them I would be willing to forgo all pay for travel time if all sites were local. No response back from sponsor.
 
 
 
  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader Jul 08, 2009, 11:37AM
 
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   No - point missed. I am not suggesting that I work while I am traveling in order to be productive, or that I bill when I am sleeping. What I am saying is that the act of travel in and of itself is productive, regardless of what I am doing. I bill from the moment I step out my door to the moment I arrive in my hotel room and that is crystal clear in my contract language. If that means 3 hours on an airplane playing a game on my computer then that is billed time. The reason for this is because that would be time I could be working for someone else if I wasn't traveling for them. Time is money. I think it's funny that we are debating this because my clients have all agreed to this so it is a totally moot point. I'm curious...let's take a poll...how do other independent contractors bill for their travel time?
 
 
 
  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader Jul 08, 2009, 07:11AM
 
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   To: Jul 07, 2009, 11:21AM

In order for your argument to make sense you must assume that travel time is not productive.

There is such a thing as non-productive travel time. Is all your travel time productive? I suspect it is not.

If for instance you travel to Europe from the US, and you leave at 9 PM EST, expecting to arrive in UK at 7 AM GMT, do you stay awake cranking away on a study at all times, or do you try to catch some sleep like most travellers do? If you stay up and crank, you are likely to be of less value to your client the day you arrive, because it stands to reason that you are also likley to be more tired than you otherwise would have been, had you gotten some amount of sleep in transit.

On the contrary, the work cannot get done UNLESS we are traveling. Therefore the travel time is absolutely considered "productive".

One must travel to a site to do work, but the act of traveling itself does not imply that productive work is being accomplished while traveling. One may do productive work while travelling in some instances, but where this is not possible, it is unreasonable to expect a client to pay more than 1/2 rate for non-productive travel time.

I imagine only the most desperate monitors would accept your terms. I have never billed half rate and no sponsor has ever asked more than once.

Stay productive and stay hired. Become unproductive and prepare to become desperate as you will likely be spending unbillable time trying to convince your next potential sponsor that you will try to be more productive for them in ways you were not productive for your last sponsor.

If you can convince your sponsors that you are productive in your sleep, you are among the truly gifted. Either that, or your sponsors are currently wasting alot of money on you when your travel time is non-productive. Most sponsors will figure it out eventually -- especially in this cost-cutting economic environment.

 
 
 
  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader Jul 07, 2009, 11:21AM
 
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   To 06:06 - In order for your argument to make sense you must assume that travel time is not productive. On the contrary, the work cannot get done UNLESS we are traveling. Therefore the travel time is absolutely considered "productive". I imagine only the most desperate monitors would accept your terms. I have never billed half rate and no sponsor has ever asked more than once.
 
 
 
  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader Jul 07, 2009, 06:06AM
 
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   Absolutely disagree with all the "07/01" posters on the topic of 1/2 vs full-time compensation for travel time.

The time you bill must be of value to your client. If you want to be billable you must be productive. If you can be productive when traveling then by all means bill full rate.

If you cannot be productive, having contract language that provides 1/2 rate for travel time, where no productivity is expected is standard practice.

I have owned and operated an S-corp consulting firm for 13 years and this is standard practice.

 
 

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  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader Jul 06, 2009, 07:25PM
 
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   I absolutely agree with 07:35 PM. As soon as people start making compromises like this (i.e. accepting less pay for travel time), then the sponsors and hiring agencies will start to expect it in the future. Yes, the economy is slow right now, but I am tired of hearing that excuse for every sorry negotiation trick in the book. Yes, people are out of work in many industries, but lucky for us we work in an industry that is strong and needs well-qualified individuals even in slow economic periods. I have direct with sponsor contracts and as soon as the question is asked (regarding less pay for travel time) I immediately inform them that travel time is charged at full rate. I have yet to be hassled on this point and if I ever am, negotiations will end immediately. For the sake of yourself and all independent contractors out there DO NOT allow the standard to become diluted by accepting terms such as these. I have never accepted less than full pay for travel time, and unless Hades freezes over I probably never will.
 
 
 
  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader Jul 01, 2009, 07:35PM
 
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   Dont believe for a second that the agency is not getting 100% pay for your travel time. No contractor should accept 50% pay for travel time. You should be paid door-to-door. Time is time.
 
 
 
  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader Jul 01, 2009, 11:57AM
 
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   Lately I have seen an increase in recruiters calling about contracts. In addition to the lower hourly rate, I am now seeing that sponsors are trying to cut the travel hourly rate by 50%. I have refused these so far, but am always told, of course, that there are many contractors who are willing to take these contracts as they are unemployed. Anyone else seeing this?
 
 
 
  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader Jul 01, 2009, 05:38AM
 
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   I don't believe the recruiter asked for a copy of her previous contract to copy it or use it, they want to see what other agencies are including or not including in their contracts.

And you know this how? What's to prevent them? Of course they want to see it so they can snag language and craft competitive advantages. It is naive to believe otherwise.

 
 
 
  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader Jun 30, 2009, 11:47AM
 
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   I don't believe the recruiter asked for a copy of her previous contract to copy it or use it, they want to see what other agencies are including or not including in their contracts.This is totally unacceptable do not provide them with any of your previous contracts.
 
 

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  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader Jun 29, 2009, 02:16PM
 
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   Does anyone include in their contracts wording that would indicate you will stop working if reimbursement is x number of days past due?
 
 
 
  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader Jun 29, 2009, 11:43AM
 
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   To: 06-28-09 09:11am
Thank you for your feedback. :-)
 
 
 
  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader Jun 28, 2009, 09:11AM
 
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   To: Jun 27, 2009, 06:52AM

...she asked for a copy of my previous contract.

Tell her to go write her own contracts.

Contracts are propietry and often involve confidential information and terms, which are not just your own, but those terms as specified by the party of your last contractual engagement. You owe that level of courtesy and respect to your last client

Tell that idiot to come up with boiler plate language of their own, then haggle and dicker on the specifics, if necessary.

Keep your contracts, their terms, and if requested by your client their name confidential under all circumstances. Your clients will thank you to do so.

Tell her to go to LegalZoom.com if she can't seem to make up a boiler plate. Otherwise, offer to share your standard boiler plate language -- but it'll cost 'em.

 
 
 
  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader Jun 26, 2009, 09:19AM
 
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   Thanks so much for your insight on this issue. Next time I will more proactive in planning for my next contract and will start earlier in looking for a replacement. And you are right....I am going to have to take whatever I can get at this point. I appreciate your response.
 
 
 
  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader Jun 27, 2009, 06:52AM
 
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   Hi. I'm a new independent contractor and have worked on one contract that ended in April 09. I've spoken with a couple recruitors, and one stricked me as unusual--she asked for a copy of my previous contract. Is this the standard? Thanks in advance for any feedbacks from the seasoned contractor(s).
 
 

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  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader Jun 26, 2009, 08:58AM
 
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   Hello. I was wondering if any of you have seen an increase in studies being conducted abroad. I have seen a lot of calls for monitors in Europe and Asia and am wondering if one of the reasons we are seeing less contract work availability, besides the economic slowdown, is that perhaps cost of doing studies out of the US is lower than here. Any comments?
 
 
 
  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader Jun 25, 2009, 06:08AM
 
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   To 8:36: This is the reason you should never, ever work only one contract. First, the IRS frowns on you doing so (I have contractor friends who have been audited by the IRS and questioned as to why they only had one contract). Secondly, to have job security, you need to have more than one contract at any given time, but especially when you know you have a contract that is coming to an end. You should start looking for a replacement contract 3-4 months before your current one ends. Yes, that means you will have 3 contracts going simultaneously, but that is the life of a contractor, and how it must be done if you are to survive a drought like this...

And don't be too picky right now. Take what you can get!
 
 
 
  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader Jun 22, 2009, 08:36AM
 
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   Help! I'm a 1099 contractor who has finished my last contract in March. Since that time, I've been sending out resumes and cover letters non stop and networking as well. I used to get several calls a week from recruiters while I was finishing out my last contract but now it appears to be really quiet out there. I finally decided to interview for permanent positions as well as contracts and I have a face to face interview (follow up from a screening interview) this week. I really enjoy working as an independent but financially, I dont' know how much longer I can hold out for a new contract. (I am not living in any of the "hot spots" like NJ or the West Coast). I don't feel it's ethical to take a permanent position and then leave when a contract opportunity comes up later. Is this drought something other contractors are experiencing ? How long should I hold out? My husband and I have gone through the money set aside for "in between contracts" that sometimes occur.
 
 
 
  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader May 20, 2009, 08:46PM
 
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   Amen!
 
 
 
  Author: Anonymous Medzilla Reader May 19, 2009, 12:31AM
 
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   As someone who has worked for several years as a field CRA with large pharma/biotech companies and is now a 1099 contractor, I would like to politely dispute something said by 04:31AM.

Although contractors receive a higher rate of pay than FTEs, they are not necessarily "more expensive". When a company considers what an employee vs. contractor will cost them, they are looking at more than just the hourly (or annual) pay rate. They also consider the costs of insurance, benefits, training, equipment, etc... For this reason it is sometimes, although not always, actually cheaper in the long run to use a contractor and also allows the company the ability to scale up and scale down as needed without having to worry about issues such as severance pay, etc... In many cases the costs of using a contractor are about the same overall as the cost of hiring an employee. The reasons why a company chooses one or the other is usually not based on salary expenses - rather more subtle issues that are not necessarily readily apparent to the candidate.
 

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