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Tips for working with freelancers and contractors

Does this sound familiar? Your business is growing but you’re not yet ready to hire more staff members. Or, maybe your business encounters certain needs on a limited basis only. Things like book-keeping, marketing, IT and office assistance are all common requirements of small businesses, but few have the luxury of hiring these as full-time permanent staff. Not to fear, the answer lies in hiring a freelancer or contractor.If your small business is growing and in need of some extra hands on deck, consider opening the doors to freelancers or contractors. Oftentimes you can find extremely talented individuals to work with, without the need to commit to a salary, health benefits or other cost prohibitive factors of full-time staff. To ensure you hire the cream of the freelancing crop, consider the following pointers:

  1. Start with referrals, then harness the Web
    When looking for freelancers or contractors, first turn to people you know and trust—other professionals in your network, friends and family. Ask if they can recommend anyone or can reach out to their networks and recommend someone. Give those who make referrals a nice thank-you gift, like premium truffles or a chrome tumbler, for helping you out.

When networks have been tapped, turn to the Web for recruitment. Some small businesses have found success in posting opportunities on Craigslist, while others turn to websites that specialize in matching employers to freelancers or contractors, such as elance.com. Once you find candidates who fit the bill in terms of experience, conduct interviews and background checks just like you would a full-time employee.

  1. Cover your legal bases
    Know your tax law. All provincial laws are different, so check to be sure, but generally speaking if someone is classified as an independent contractor or freelancer, that person is considered to be in business for him or herself. Businesses are not responsible for withholding taxes from these wages nor are they responsible for paying certain payroll taxes on their behalf.

Another legal aspect that should be covered before moving forward involves drafting a contract—one that clearly defines the scope of work, the agreed rate of pay and who owns the work upon project completion, among other things. Make it easy and include sticky flags where they need to sign. Be sure to have a lawyer and possibly your accountant review the document.

Clearly define the project scope and expectations
Not only should you define the scope of the project in the initial contract, you should also discuss the scope and work-related expectations with a freelancer prior to engaging them and once again after the relationship has been established, but before work has begun. For example, outline things like whether or not you expect your freelancers or contractors to act on your behalf and in doing so they may need to be provided a logo’d polo or dress shirt.

Another example of expectations that should be managed and addressed prior to employment refer to the differences between freelance employment and full-time employment.

“Workers who are free to choose their own hours, work without direct supervision and solicit other work are typically considered contractors,” Mara Levin, an employment law partner at Manhattan-based Herrick Feinstein, recently told Crain’s New York Business.  “An employee, in contrast, must generally work set hours and be supervised directly by you or someone at your firm.”

Be respectful of a freelancer’s time, flexible with work hours and clear in direction in order to prevent miscommunication or misinterpretation.

  1. Make them feel like part of the team
    Last but not least, even a temporary relationship is still a relationship. Foster the employer-freelancer connection by treating them like a true member of the team. Welcome them with fun logo’d items, like sport tumblers or T-shirts, as a nice gesture that’s sure to build pride.

Pofeldt, By Elaine. “How to Hire Freelancers with Finesse.” Crain’s New York Business. 27 July 2010. Web. 27 Oct. 2010.

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