Today, independent contractors are a critical part of small businesses. They fill any number of roles, from social media consultant to web designer. And freelancers often contract particular services out themselves, creating an interconnected network of independent workers.
This relationship is more important than ever, given that freelance positions are expected to make up half of all new jobs added during the economic recovery. However, many business owners and managers struggle to learn how to navigate a relationship with a valuable team member who isn’t exactly part of the team.
But at the end of the day, successful outsourcing isn’t different from any other business relationship: It requires nurturing and smart management. Here are the best ways to accomplish that.
1. Don’t Think of Contractors as Just Vendors
A vendor keeps your business stocked with paper or provides your Internet. A contractor brings his or her own knowledge, skills, and expertise to the table. By treating a contractor as an integral member of your team, you can keep them with you for the long haul, as well as discover new ways to leverage those skills and expertise in your business.
Little touches can go a long way. For example, if freelancers are local, remember to include them in holiday parties or after-work meetups. Whenever possible, add contractors to company-wide emails and keep them dialed in to your long-term strategy. Most importantly, always be on the lookout for ways to expand their role or responsibility as your business grows.
2. Invest in Your Contractors Early On
A business owner or manager typically contracts out certain tasks that they’re too busy to take care of themselves. Therefore, it can be disappointing when the contractor doesn’t immediately hit the ground running. However, your freelancer can only be as successful as the time your company is willing to invest.
Consider this a long-term investment. The more time you dedicate working with contractors early on, the more value you’ll get back in the end. Depending on the specifics of the arrangement, be prepared to walk your contractor through all necessary details, such as: company branding, tone, your products/services, competitors, long-term goals, any company processes, etc.
3. Don’t Become the Client You’d Hate
In short, if you want to build a healthy long-term relationship with a contractor, don’t be the client you’d hate to work for. You can build a solid rapport by being appreciative for jobs well done, receptive to a contractor’s expertise and advice, and respectful of their time.
Remember to always say “please and thank you” along with offering just some general courtesy. You’ll be well on your way toward cultivating a productive working relationship. Just remember: It’s human nature to work harder for people we like.
4. Be Careful How You Negotiate
You may be on a budget, and every successful business needs to operate within the confines of that budget. However, when signing on the dotted line, both parties need to feel the deal is worthwhile. If a contractor feels like they’ve been pushed too far to give you a bargain, you might just get bargain work in return.
Figure out what you can afford to pay in advance. In contract work, payment schedules and compensation vary widely. If you’re not sure what a fair market rate should be, take a look at a contractor-hiring site like Elance.com or other sites like Salary.com. If a particular contractor seems too expensive, you may be better off looking for someone else who’s more in line with your budget.
5. Communicate Openly From Start to Finish
Good communication is key to any relationship, and it’s particularly critical in the contractor ecosystem where freelancers are often scattered across locations and time zones.
Set the tone early with a comprehensive discussion about the project needs, schedule, and objectives. Then, maintain good communication throughout the project and set up processes for sharing information at all levels. Regular check-ins can provide valuable information on the health of the relationship. And lastly, don’t forget to share good news and not just bad news.
When outsourcing relationships work, they can deliver value well beyond your initial expectations. What are some of the ways you develop happy, productive relationships in the freelance economy?
Read full article at Mashable.com