Working with Contractors


As the federal government lurches back to work this week, I’m glad to hear employees will soon be getting their back pay. However, I can’t help but think about all the contractors for whom that won’t be the case. One estimate is that they lost $200 million a week.

As a longtime freelancer, I’ve never had a government agency contract, but I know the awkward limbo of being "not quite an employee."

So, to anyone looking to hire a contractor, please read this first-rate summary of how to manage freelancers and independent contractors by Amy Gallo of the Harvard Business Review.

I’m often hired for writing or editing projects when a company is understaffed or has an immediate need that its employees don’t have time to take on. It’s fun to show up and hit the ground running, and most of the time people are grateful for the assistance. Learning the internal politics can be a challenge, but some supervisors are great at laying out their expectations and even getting to know me a little bit.

Of course, that isn’t always the case. Last year, I worked for a large national company. I loved the work, got results and never heard a complaint. I was paid well and had good rapport with the staff.

Then, a new supervisor was named. My paychecks dropped to almost nothing as she simply started doing the work herself. After several discussions about our division of duties didn’t result in changes, I eventually resigned.

Maybe the company’s aim was to spend less money on contractors? But no one informed me. And since I wasn’t an employee, I had none of the traditional avenues of recourse.

My sister also works as a contractor. On her last assignment, she was seated with other contractors in the middle of a hallway at long, cafeteria-style tables. No place to hang a coat or stash a purse. Just show up, boot up your (outdated and crash-prone) company-issued laptop and get to work.

In short, contractors may be expendable, but we’re not robots. Please make an effort to welcome us to the team, and let us know that our time and effort are appreciated.

You'll be rewarded with the same excellent work and loyalty you'd expect from an employee, without having to pay for bonuses or benefits.

(Photo credit: Rawpixel/StockSnap)