Getting ready to work with a contractor/freelancer? Eat an entire jalapeño first, then gnaw that little digit off like a New York City sewer rat.
Using freelancers, contractors and online assistants is an extremely inviting concept when you have a lot to get done, a tight budget and understand how effective running parallel tasks with different resources can be.
The prospect of just hiring someone to do a job and forget about it makes so much sense that we are fools not too leverage these new resources. I’ve worked extensively as a hired gun for product design and employed contractors to help in areas that aren’t my expertise too. Living both sides has been enlightening.
However, when a contractor/freelancer screws the pooch and doesn’t deliver as promised, it can burn down the whole building. The stories are out there…I’ve lived them. And oh boy, it can be awesome…and so frustrating too.
Working with contractors/freelancers isn’t about accountability, it’s about finding good people who value honoring their word more than the money.
Even the Richard Bransons of the world hire the wrong person/team from time to time…and Valentino Rossi crashes. It happens.
However, often times it really is Rainbows and Unicorns when it comes to contracting. There are amazing individuals out there that offer a great service, are great people and serious tradesmen/tradeswomen in their respective craft. They can truly help others and the great ones educate us along the way. When you find them, you’ll share a kinship that will most likely last years or quite possibly the rest of your life.
It’s not about accountability, it’s about finding good people; start with recommendations.
That’s right, reach out to your network and ask if anyone knows somebody who has the skills set you are looking for. Most people won’t recommend someone if they don’t believe they can do the job or are good people. Nobody wants to be the person that made a bad recommendation.
If that comes up short. Then you have to find someone through other sources. Craigslist.org, outsource.com, guru.com, freelancer.com and so on.
What happens unfortunately, is we quickly become lazy…we have a lot of work to do, we needed this contractor last month, we have a business to run and spending time to hire someone is holding us back! So we cut corners, let things slide, hope for the best…and sure enough, we don’t hire the right person.
8 out of 10 Freelancers can’t actually do what they claim.
You have to weed out 80% of the applicants quickly and effectively. That requires you to be decisive and budget accordingly; you have to develop your acumen(our new favorite word by the way).
Learn How to Identify Red Flags
Cut them from the hiring list if you see or hear just one RED flag during any interaction you have with the candidate, no exceptions. It requires excellent self-awareness and body language intelligence to recognize a red flag, to not “let-it slide” and be committed to starting the search all over again if need be. NEVER give a contractor or freelancer the benefit of the doubt. EVER.
Every time you identify a red flag, there should be a little guy waving this red flag frantically in your mind. What constitutes a red flag then? Anything that your gut feels is wrong, isn’t right, is a lie, “off”, an incorrect answer, doesn’t make sense or is cause to be concerned or lose confidence.
Examples of Red Flags
If any of those pop up, you should NOT hire the person. If they pop up in the first two weeks of work, terminate employment and replace ASAP. There’s no point in working with this person ever again and you must accept you screwed the pooch and hired the wrong person. Take responsibility, it’s all YOUR fault…find a silver lining, learn your lessons, inform the contractor so he/she learns a valuable lesson and march forward.
Pay a 35% premium for peace of mind.
We all have a tendency to gravitate toward the cheaper solution and it NEVER ends well or serves your project in the positive way you hope for. Paying a 25-35% premium to ensure you are working with top notch firms or small businesses that have a multi-year history, employees, and a reputation to uphold is critical to ensuring a win.
Don’t Use Solo or Two Man Teams for Critical Tasks!
Critical tasks are tasks that are interdependent upon other tasks such that projects can’t march forward if the task is incomplete. Again, small firms and businesses have been working for years, have responsibilities and their future depends on he reputation of their successful projects. That’s why they are still in business; independent contractors or two man teams don’t.
Don’t Hire Unless There is Budget for a Lawyer
Most contractors/freelancers are doing the work on the side or moonlighting while working a full time job. It’s not a real business for them, so they don’t have any real consequences for delivering as promised.
They can literally, walk away. And the most cancerous habit of freelancers and contractors are underestimating the work to be done. Holding payment until the end or using a 30/70, deposit/payment set of terms is a traditional way to hold a freelancer or contractor accountable; makes sense.
Writing a letter from your lawyer (if you have one) may light a fire, however we found it to be pretty ineffective unless you throw a serious smack down. And that requires at least 3-5 hours of your lawyers time. In Silicon Valley, that’s $1500. Then you have the follow through…more money.
Our Advice: Hire an honorable person who has a reputation for being a man or woman of their word.
Requirements & Specification Documents
Very important. Everyone has to do their job well for the freelancer/contractor to do their job well. If you do an awesome job by supplying detailed requirements, expected outcomes, specifications and a hub of information for the freelancer to access and collaborate within, then their estimates will be more accurate and they will have a full understanding of what they are getting into.
These documents enable the freelancer to review, ask questions and bid accordingly. In addition, they will serve as a reference list to refer too, check for completion and verify everything has been delivered “as promised”.
Boy, it sounds like a lot of work to hire a contractor. It is!
Consider Incentives, Penalties and aggregate costs of service
If you hire the right person, none of this really matters. So trying to box contractors into a contract of incentives and penalties really is waste of time and can be offensive. But for safety, it is wise to aggregate payments with Milestones…just in case and it gives you opportunity to cut the cord and losses.
- 10% Deposit (2 week probation)
- 30% for delivering on time with a sliding scale.
- 60% for finishing the work.
- Treat it like any other task you have to execute and deliver; effective hiring is more critical than the work you are already doing because of its broad implications; take it seriously and be the best you can be at it.
- Put the hiring task in the “important” and “urgent” sector of your to do list. It should be one of the very first things you spend time on every day.
- Plan on paying a premium (35% more than the average) for small firms and businesses if it’s critical to your project.
- Don’t start planning timelines and committing to milestones until you actually hire the person. If you do, you will be stuck with contractors you should of cut loose early.
- Secure two candidates. One you will hire and one back-up.
- Be prepared to cut the person you hire in the first two weeks and make sure they understand that’s those are the terms.
- Beware of the “Fake it until you make it”, thankfully those are easy to spot.