The Do’s and Don’ts of Hiring Independent Contractors

Wed, Nov 7, 2012


Companies of all sizes have had to tighten their belts and get creative in order to keep their doors open during the recession. And that impacts everyone, from management on down to the warehouse floor. Employees have had to take on more work and put in longer hours, with no reinforcements being hired. But while your company may not be able to foot the bill for new full-time employees with their benefits, pension plans and 401(k) investments, it is common for companies to get by through hiring independent contractors. Independent contractors generally work out of the main office, and can be employed either hourly or on a project-by-project basis. It’s an efficient use of resources, but it can easily go awry. Here are just a few of the do’s and don’ts of hiring independent contractors.

First off, keep in mind that independent contractors do not want to be over-managed. But while that may be a great timesaver for you, you also have to make sure you can maintain overall control of the projects being farmed out. So talk to your potential candidates about their working style. Make sure you and he can coexist, and have similar ideas about a management style that works. Think of it as a symbiotic relationship. You need them, because your company can’t handle the work. And they need you, because they can only keep their lifestyle in place by putting together a string of consistent projects. If the two sides can agree, it should be a perfect marriage.

You also must come up with a process for the work before a project starts. Personal management is one thing, but regardless of the contractor’s schedule he must be able to deliver when you need results. You should have a contract that lays out the terms of the deal, the deadlines for each element of the project, the payment amount and timeframe and any in-person meetings you or your management will require. Hash out all potential problems that could come up right at the beginning, so neither party is surprised further down the line.

Whatever you do, do not hire an independent contractor that you don’t trust to do a great job. Remember, you are giving up some amount of control by farming this project out to a non-employee. So don’t sign any contract unless you have a 100% belief in that contractor’s abilities. Do whatever is necessary to get to that point. Request referrals, and check them out in detail. Look at previous work samples, or even request that they do a small project in advance of payment to make sure it is up to snuff. Until you can pass on the work without fear, you can’t move ahead with the project.

Finally, don’t look for contractors through general ads if you have no experience hiring freelancers. Putting up a post on Craigslist or some similar public site will be a disaster if you aren’t used to this sort of working relationship. You’ll be inundated with resumes, and by the time you find the best candidates they may already be on to another job. Start with personal recommendations, and the best ones probably come from previous contractors you have worked with. Ask managers in other departments or peers you trust at other companies. Finally, take a look at trusted sites where freelancers ply their wares, such as http://www.contractoraccountants.com/ , Odesk or LinkedIn. Independent contractors with quality listings on these sites are clearly professional freelancers, and you’ll have a much better experience working with this type of individual.

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