Contractors Are People Too: 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Using Freelancers
Your contractors may not be employees, but if you don’t treat them well, your company could suffer long-term consequences.
You treat your vendors and full-time workers with respect, so why not include freelancers in that treatment? Moreover, you should consider the power freelancers have to help (or harm) your reputation. Great freelancers frequently talk to their professional circles about which companies provide the best working arrangements. Get on your contractors’ good side and you will never want for quality freelance help. Earn a spot on the blacklist, though, and you could end up struggling to hire anyone at all.
According to Upwork’s “Freelancing in America 2018” report, 56.7 million Americans performed some freelance work last year, up from 53 million in 2014. Today’s workers are increasingly choosing to leave the traditional grind in favor of a freelance lifestyle with more flexibility. To thrive in 2020 and beyond, companies must prioritize the well-being and satisfaction of their freelance workforces.
Common Contractor Mistakes and How to Fix Them
Avoid landing on the freelancing community’s no-fly list by steering clear of these five big mistakes:
1. Treating Freelancers as Outsiders
Your freelancers make your company better, so give them the credit they’re due. Don’t hide the fact that you use freelancers from your clients — boast about how you work with great ones.
Your contractors want to enjoy a great partnership with your company, but if you never critique or praise, they can’t use their robust talents to help your business grow. Share feedback, especially the positive kind, because freelancers can’t read your mind. If you aren’t happy with a result, don’t fire or ghost your freelancer and go looking for a new one: Talk it out. Capable freelancers can adjust their skills to meet your needs in almost any situation.
2. Messing With Their Finances
Freelancers deal with enough financial stress. If you add to that burden by making them chase you down for their paychecks, they will not think highly of your business.
It should never take major delays for a freelancer to get their money. Employers that gain a reputation for being late on payments may find that the best freelancers won’t work with them.
Keep payment troubles at bay by setting a specific date or two during the month to pay all your freelancers. A schedule tells your freelance workforce exactly when to expect payment and helps you keep an eye on your cash flow at the same time.
For more expert HR insights, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:
3. Limiting Their Perspective
You, your in-house team, and your clients know what you want your freelancers to do, but do your freelancers understand the context of your requests?
“Managers can help external workers derive a sense of meaning in their work,” writes Cassie Batz-Barbarich, a human capital management researcher at SAP SuccessFactors. “When individuals see the big picture of the work they are contributing to, they are more likely to develop a positive work identity.”
Share per-project and company-wide growth goals with your freelancers so they can see how they help your business. When contractors feel like part of the team, they can fulfill your expectations without dozens of back-and-forth email conversations to fill the gaps.
4. Misclassifying Their Contracts
Misclassification won’t just irk your freelancers — it could also land you in hot water with the tax authorities.
As payroll solutions provider OnPay puts it, “And while there are several differences between [independent contractors and employees], perhaps the biggest (and most important to you as an employer) is that businesses are required to deduct the various payroll taxes from an employee’s paycheck, while independent contractors are responsible for filing and handling all their taxes on their own.”
Stay on the right side of the law and in the good graces of your freelance squad by maintaining appropriate boundaries. Be sure the people you classify as contractors really are contractors under the legal definition — and be sure the people you classify as employees really are, too.
5. Ignoring Their Career Growth
Most of your freelancers will move on one day. Some will find full-time positions, others may start doing contract work for other businesses, and a few may even find their way to your in-house team. No matter where they go, support your freelancers in their growth. They might outgrow you at some point, but in the meantime, you will enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship with a person who views your company favorably.
Don’t be afraid to invest a little to get the most out of your contracts. Pay for relevant training courses or new equipment. Invite your freelancers to spend a few days at your company to get a feel for how you do things. The more you put into the relationship, the more you will get out of it.
As more workers turn to self-employment, more businesses will find themselves depending on freelancers to meet the needs of their customers. Set up your company for contractor success by using this opportunity to create a deliberate, positive experience for your freelance partners.
Sofia Hernandez has been a senior HR executive at multiple Fortune 500 companies.