I never sign contracts that contain noncompete clauses.
A noncompete contract prevents employees or consultants from working for a competitor to their employer or client for a period, often as long as two years, after the employment or contract ends. No compensation for this restriction is ever offered. A list of specific competitors is not defined, so it is impossible to tell how wide or narrow the restriction might be until the lawyers start calling.
I was once offered a one month contract, if I signed a two year noncompete contract. The company was a startup that had not been in existence for a year. They would not budge on this, so I turned down the work.
This issue is currently being actively discussed in the US state of Massachusetts. This article Some common sense on noncompete clauses – Boston.com by Scott Kirsner explains why noncompetes are being considered harmful both to employees and to community productivity and prosperity. ( A follow-up article by the same writer, is extended and with a rich collection of links to other resources )
Ten years ago Joel Spolsky wrote this column on noncompetes and other evils that often hide in Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs). Some things change slowly in this business.
It is not very often that I am asked to sign a noncompete, but it can be awkward. The early stages of contract negotiation are delicate. I am hoping that posting this now, while there are no negotiations underway, will make things more straightforward. My objection is not to your noncompete clause, but to everyone’s!