Non-disclosure Agreements or NDA’s are pretty common practice but I have been having various issues with them lately so I thought it would be worth a blog entry. My issues are both as someone trying to keep details of my businesses private and with other businesses using them.
As I take counsellors into my Lighthouse Counselling and Psychotherapy business I inevitably need to share with them information about the nature of the business. I have required signing of NDA’s and equivalent arrangements but I have found that despite this some counsellors have shared information with other people. In one case when we were launching Lighthouse Counselling and Psychotherapy we indicated what we hoped to provide to members after launch, baring in mind we had not launched yet all of this was merely what we expected to provide including professional memberships (which proved too expensive to be worth taking up). We were actually able to identify in one case a counsellor who had broken the NDA but what can you realistically, as a small business with lots of time pressures and limited resources (we certainly do not have a lawyer on retainer) do about this?
For counsellors to know whether it is worth their while to become part of the network they need to get access to information that is reasonably sensitive and yet not all applicants can be trusted to act appropriately with this information. As Lighthouse grows this will be much less of an issue as the benefits of membership will more clearly speak for themselves but it is a gradual process.
From a freelancing perspective I am always reluctant to do any work that passes no direct value over to me or the client. I find that some employers will want to keep their identities private until you sign their NDA. This, to a point, makes sense. Use of freelancers is obviously something businesses may wish to keep private, particularly when they are subcontracting work through Elance etc and charging large margins to businesses or just want to keep their business dealings out of the public eye. However many businesses are getting what I can only see as bad advice from lawyers or more likely legal document services in that the NDA’s invariably have their business name on them. So the very thing that they do not want to tell you until you have signed their NDA is on their NDA. I am always reluctant to do any admin that adds no benefit to anyone and getting me to print something out, sign it and then scan it back to them simply so that they can give me their name (which I already have) seems like a waste of everyone’s time. In the online freelancing world you are always looking for an advantage so that when there are time sensitive activities happening you are ready to respond even if it is in another time zone. Sometimes the NDA’s will not have their brand name on it but their actual company name but a quick web search will almost always get the name of the brand they are promoting in a couple of seconds.
Anyway, that is my small rant over until I can actually come up with a sensible way of dealing with non disclosure issues with my own business and can think of a sensible response to businesses that ask for them in the manner given.