Human resources (HR) teams are essential in workplaces that want to staff healthy and happy employees, but where do 1099 contractors fall into this equation? Are we supposed to treat contractors like employees, or are there nuances that HR teams need to be aware of?
While freelancers shouldn’t be treated like employees legally, they should be treated with the same respect. Ignoring their needs because they’re “temporary” is a recipe for disaster. At the same time, it’s wrong to expect freelancers to go beyond what’s outlined in their contracts. After all, they aren’t getting the same benefits as employees, like paid time off or unemployment.
If you’re an HR team member and you’re confused about how to manage your relationship with freelancers, here are 10 best practices to follow the moment you hire a 1099 contractor.
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1. Get Organized
Create a clear system for keeping track of contractors, their contact information, and the tasks they’ll be working on. Project management software like Asana is the perfect tool for this purpose. It will even allow you to message and communicate with contractors inside the tool.
Freelancers love it when their clients are organized, as they can better understand what’s expected of them, when and how to hand in assignments, and how to contact you.
2. Establish Clear Payment Terms
Make sure all payment terms are clearly outlined before beginning any project. You can do this by creating a contract that includes details like the project scope, deliverables, pricing and rates, payment schedules, deadlines, expenses, and kill fees. Be thorough so there’s no confusion.
Keep in mind that they file taxes on their own, meaning you don’t have to include sales tax, benefits, income tax, or other fees in the payment terms. However, the freelancer may have their own contract that does include these figures. Always read their contract before signing.
According to the Independent Economy Council, 74% of independent professionals aren’t being paid on time. If you don’t want to be a part of that statistic, stick to your own payment terms.
3. Set Expectations Up-Front
Open communication is one of the best ways to create a more stable and healthy work environment. If HR wants to start off on the right foot, they need to be clear about what they expect from each project. It’s also vital to speak to the contractor if you’re unsure what you want.
Try to manage your expectations when it comes to long-term projects. For example, a content marketer can’t tell you exactly when your SEO strategy will start attracting new customers.
4. Maintain Communication
Being communicative is essential if you want to work well with 1099 contractors. All workers need to know what you expect during all stages of the project life cycle. If they don’t have a way to reach you, they could submit subpar work. They’ll also feel unsupported and disrespected.
Many freelancers are great at what they do, but they can’t read minds. If you’re unhappy with their product, you’ll need to explain why and clarify what you need. It’s in your best interest to dissolve any confusion before the product is finished, so check in with the project every day.
5. Make Them Feel Part of the Team
HR team members may not invest as much time in a freelancer as they would with an employee but don’t make the relationship purely transactional. Try to get to know them by asking questions about their interests outside of work or other projects they’re working on.
Go the extra mile by introducing them to the rest of your team and adding them to the team email list. Freelancers are more likely to work for clients again if they make them feel included.
6. Listen and Be Responsive
1099 contractors are professionals that happen to work for themselves. They likely have a lot to offer your business, but you won’t know that if you don’t pay attention. If the freelancer wants to add something to the project, consider listening to their ideas and think about applying them.
While this practice can go a long way in fostering a relationship built on mutual respect, replying promptly is the best way to show freelancers that they matter. During work hours, try to reply quickly and provide helpful answers in a timely manner, as it’s a great way to improve their trust.
7. Provide Feedback Regularly
It’s difficult to learn from our mistakes when we don’t even know we’re making them. Telling freelancers what you think of their work will deepen the relationship and improve performance. When you’re getting to know the freelancer, make it a point to invest in continuous feedback.
Keep in mind that feedback works both ways. So long as the contractor is respectful, they should be allowed to comment on what they like or don’t like about you or the project.
Most freelancers don’t ask for feedback because they’re too embarrassed. It can be difficult for them to open themselves up to criticism, but HR can put systems in place to ensure that positive feedback is always mentioned. Always find at least one good thing to say to your freelancers.
8. Respect Boundaries
It’s important to understand that contractors are independent workers and should be treated as such. Respect their boundaries, including their availability and privacy, when communicating with them. They may not be available on weekends or after a certain time on the weekdays.
It can be difficult to coordinate schedules with freelancers in different time zones, but you can get around this by using multiple types of communication. For example, you can contact them on Zoom when you need a more detailed answer or through Slack for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response.
9. Be Flexible
If a contractor needs to make adjustments to a timeline due to unforeseen circumstances, be willing to accommodate if possible. With that said, this behavior isn’t acceptable if it’s constant unless the HR team isn’t giving the freelancer enough time to adequately finish a project.
Contractors may miss deadlines because they have other clients. In fact, the average freelancer has an average of 14 clients at a time. Some freelancers have over 31. If your freelancer’s work is exceptional, consider coming up with another fair deadline that works for everyone.
10. Show Appreciation
Expressing gratitude for the hard work of 1099 contractors goes a long way toward building relationships that are beneficial for both professional and personal reasons. Freelancers talk, and if you treat them well, you’ll have plenty of talented contractors knocking at your door.
As for personal, freelancers will always remember the company that recognized their hard work. They’ll feel more comfortable around your HR team members, meaning they’ll be honest when they need help. You can’t build a lasting relationship without mutual trust and respect.