The majority of small businesses rely on contractors to keep their businesses moving forward. But working with a new name or a new face can be difficult, especially when you don’t get precious chat-around-the-watercooler time in the office.
Some employers don’t think about ways to facilitate this relationship — that’s a mistake. Working with contractors doesn’t have to be difficult. You only need to learn these six secrets to make sure your next contractor project sails smoothly.
1. Set up a short intro meeting
Don’t skip this step! An in-person meeting is best. A video chat will do if face-to-face is impossible. Every project is collaborative, even if that ends at giving instructions and letting your contractor run wild. Studies show that people automatically throw up a guard against newcomers, including new bosses and new contractors. Meeting outside of your inbox will help put a face to a name so that it feels easier to give and receive questions or feedback in the future.
Next time you outsource: As soon as you sign a contract, ask them to meet in person or set up a video call so you can spend 20 minutes talking face-to-face about your project and setting expectations.
2. Discuss milestones and checkpoints
Make deadlines a discussion, not a demand. Your contractor will feel more in control of their new project if you ensure he/she feels comfortable hitting your requested milestones and checkpoints. This serves another purpose as well: your contractor will have no excuse for not getting work done on time if he/she helped set the original due dates.
Next time you outsource: Ask, don’t tell. Let them know when you are hoping the project will be completed by, including checkpoints along the way, and ask them if it’s feasible with their workload.
3. Let them leverage their talents
No matter what type of job you are outsourcing, everyone brings a different talent to the table. You might have a vision for the outcome of your project, but they could come up with a brilliant, improved idea — and you’ll never know about it if you suffocate them with your idea right from the get go. Whether you’re working with a designer, a developer, or a landscaper, give your contractor room for creative play.
Next time you outsource: Ask your contractor if they have any ideas to make your project even better. If they don’t, that’s okay. But if they do, you might just strike gold.
4. Facilitate information exchange
When you hire your contractor, give them the complete picture. This includes task details, the reasoning behind the task, expectations for the outcome, and all the thought that went into every related decision. Answer every single question your contractor has, regardless of how tedious or “unimportant” that detail may seem to you. Full context will ensure you are on the same page and make the completion process smoother.
Next time you outsource: Provide all your contact information (email, phone number, Skype or relevant chat usernames) and encourage your contractor to contact you any time they have a question.
5. Regularly review and readjust progress
Don’t wait until a project is complete to say, “But that isn’t what I wanted!” If you are regularly reviewing the work your contractor is doing, you will be able to provide feedback along the way to make sure they are proceeding in the right direction. If they get to the end of a project and you have just looked at their work for the first time, it could be too late to change the results. Frequent feedback avoids wrong turns and wasted time.
Next time you outsource: Set up regular weekly meetings to discuss progress and give feedback. The faster the turnaround time, the more frequent your meetings should be.
6. Don’t play the blame game
Something didn’t go right? It happens; not every project will be perfect. And while it may be your first instinct to start pointing fingers, it will get you no where. When you need to make adjustments to your contractors work, don’t blame them for messing up — just start moving forward immediately. Your contractor will appreciate skipping the fight, which will make finishing this project easier and all future collaborations stronger.
Next time you outsource: If a project isn’t going according to plan, sit on your fingers and point your thoughts instead. “Okay, this is what WE need to change to reach our goals,” will remind both of you that you’re still on the same side, and you can work together on getting your project back on track.
Communication is your main priority
In the end, the biggest secret to managing your contractors is communication. Communicate expectations early, and communicate with one another consistently as the project progresses. Not to the point of stifling creativity, but so that roadblocks can be cleared and you can rest assured that you’re getting what you’re paying for.
You now have all the information you need to make your next contractor project a success — don’t hesitate to reach out for help and get work done.
Ashley Coolman is a content marketing manager for Wrike – project planning software to track all your projects, improve team communication, and kick your productivity into high gear. Download our “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You More Productive” ebook for great tips on getting more done in life.