Contractor numbers throughout the UK have undergone a sustained period of post-millennium growth as more and more organisations wake up to the benefits they can bring. In many businesses, contractors and freelancers are now key to getting more work done and providing short- and long-term scalability without the associated costs of permanent staff.
But while the benefits of contractors are compelling, plenty of businesses are still unsure about how to adapt their work practices to get the most from the client-contractor relationship. With that in mind, these are our tips to help you optimise the success of contractors in your business.
Creating a written brief or plan that sets out exactly what you need to be completed is essential. Make sure the necessary detail is included and there’s no room for misunderstandings. This will help the contractor understand exactly where they fit in the wider project, what timelines they need to meet and the potential problems a delay in their work will create for others. A written brief will also help to uncover things you may not have considered in enough detail and reveal other information the contractor may need from you.
One of your first jobs is to ask the contractor how he or she prefers to communicate and align that with the preferences of the business. For example, if some of the prep work requires meetings with internal teams, be sure to determine in advance who will be responsible for setting up and conducting those meetings. Contractors need to know:
This is one reason why repeat client-contractor relationships can be so valuable, as the contractor can build a relationship with different points of contact on internal teams to prevent projects from stalling.
You may encounter unexpected issues as the project progresses or decide to add extra elements to the project as it evolves. Good contractors will be happy to work with reasonable changes but you must make sure they are put in writing and the contractor provides a cost for the extra work. That should be signed off before the work is done.
It’s certainly true that you don’t have to invest as much time in a contractor as you do an employee, which is one of the attractions for many businesses. However, you should not fall into the trap of making the relationship purely transactional. Getting to know the contractor on a personal level and dedicating time to building the relationship will help you get the best from them. It will also be beneficial if you hope to work with the contractor again.
One of the main reasons contractors turn their backs on the security of employment is because they want a greater level of autonomy. Although you clearly call the shots when it comes to the work that needs to be done, it’s important to give them some freedom. Micromanaging the work of a contractor should be unnecessary as they will be self-motivated and have the necessary skills to complete the job without someone constantly looking over their shoulder.
It’s also important to be aware of the fact that you may not be the contractor’s only client. For that reason, you should be willing to be flexible in regard to their schedules and other commitments.
Although there’s no reason to conduct a formal review of contractors, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give them plenty of feedback. Giving them clear feedback about their work will help to improve their performance and deepen the relationship in the future. Far from putting the contractor off, many actually crave that kind of input and want to know what went right, what went wrong and how it could have been improved.
If a contractor is doing an excellent job for you then make sure you tell them, particularly in front of others. If you think they’re underperforming then revisit the statement of work and be clear about how they’re not hitting their targets. If their performance doesn’t improve, don’t be afraid to let them go.
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