Outsourcing important work to independent contractors is something that many businesses do on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, it is all too easy to misjudge the process of working with external operators and find that the experience is far from smooth as a result.
To overcome this, here are some actionable tips that will ensure that you can work effectively with independent contractors and get the desired outcome for your organization.
Do your research and carry out necessary checks
Even if you are in need of the assistance of an independent contractor as soon as possible, you should still take the time to investigate prospective freelancers, see what credentials they will be bringing to the table and determine whether they are the right fit for your requirements.
In some industries and working scenarios you may even be legally obliged to carry out a full background check on any contractors you work with, so establish this ahead of time and follow the letter of the law in your region.
Word of mouth recommendations are always a good way to go when researching contractors, but you can also rely on independent bodies like the Better business Bureau to see whether would-be freelancers are reputable or whether they have any black marks against their name that you should know about.
There are also lots of web-based resources for finding skilled, reliable contractors across all sorts of skill sets and specialisms, so search for feedback, check out digital portfolios and generally feel free to snoop around until you are satisfied.
Make sure you pay them correctly and on time
This is partly a point of politeness, but also one which should ensure that both parties conclude the transaction on good terms, making it easier to work together at a later date.
Freelancing is often a precarious career path, and so contractors in all fields will appreciate being paid the right amount at the right time.
Of course it is always helpful to hammer out the payment details before any work has been completed, so that everyone is on the same page about the terms that will be followed when payment is due.
Aim to offer clarity and consistency
Contractors of every kind will appreciate when business clients are able to offer them both clarity in terms of what is expected of them, and consistency in the kind of work that is passed on to them.
If there is any confusion or vagueness, compounded by fluctuating expectations and ever-changing goals and targets, then even permanent team members would become disillusioned and find it harder to work to the best of their abilities. This is doubly true with freelancers, so it is the responsibility of the organization employing them to be coherent in making requests and consistent in the subsequent interactions with anyone they are outsourcing work to.
Ask for feedback and fix outstanding issues
If you are struggling to hold onto freelancers for protracted periods, or you discover that the effectiveness of your working relationship with contractors is below par, then you could spend a long time scratching your head, trying to establish where you are falling short.
A quicker and more efficient way to find solutions to these issues is to simply ask contractors what they feel is deficient in your management of and interactions with them. They will likely be able to tell you immediately where you are going wrong, or the ways in which they are being hindered. Once you have this feedback, you also need to act on it and address the inadequacies sooner rather than later, so that you can get your freelance resources back on the right track.
Open and honest communication is clearly a part of this process, and you also need to be willing to provide contractors with a choice over how they stay in touch with you. This might be via emails, video conferencing or in-person meetings; the point is that you should not pin them down to just one platform, but instead find an approach that works best for all involved.
Most importantly, be responsive, rather than letting messages from freelancers sit unanswered and under-prioritized. This is all part of making them feel valued, and giving them the motivation to do their best for your business.
Provide perks & show your gratitude
Finally, if you want to work well with independent contractors, it is necessary to treat them in much the same way as you might treat permanent employees for the duration of your dealings with them.
Whether this means inviting them to company events, promoting their abilities on social media or letting them make use of the same tools, resources and benefits as the rest of your staff, a few small perks can go a long way.
Likewise you should remember that as well as paying contractors on time and to the full amount agreed, you can also do a lot to shore up the relationship by simply thanking them for the work they have done for you. Positive feedback costs nothing, but has a lot of emotional value.
Of course every contractor is an individual and your management of your relationship with them will need to be tweaked accordingly, but these tips should give you a general framework to secure improvements.