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Can I work as a freelancer if I signed a non-compete agreement?

I signed a non-compete agreement for a technology company I worked for in Michigan. Can I work as an independent contractor after I left the company? The agreement states three years, but I think that is very long in the world of technology.
Nina Kaufman answered October 7, 2009
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/answer/221995
Non-compete clauses are very snarly things. Courts generally don't like them because, in effect, they prevent people from earning a livelihood.

Whether the technology company could enforce the provision depends on a number of factors, all of which are weighed and balanced against each other. These include:

* The time frame of the non-compete (yours, you say, is three years)

* Whether there's any geographic scope to the non-compete (are you prevented from working in Michigan, or anywhere in the U.S.?)

* Whether there are any industry limitations (e.g., prevented from working for any kind of company or only financial services companies)

* The level of expertise you have/access to confidential information you obtained (in other words, were you an essential, high-level executive, or just part of the IT pool?).

The last thing you need, though, is to be hauled into court to fight this out. Bring your non-compete agreement to an employment attorney in your state to evaluate the risks of moving forward in light of its wording.

Nina L. Kaufman, Esq. is an award-winning New York City attorney, edutainer and author. Under her Ask The Business Lawyer brand, she reaches thousands of entrepreneurs and small business owners with her legal services, professional speaking, information products, and LexAppeal weekly ezine. She also writes the Making It Legal blog.