Independent contractors are a convenient and cost-efficient way to fill a short-term skills gap in your workforce. With the ever-increasing number of available contractors on the market, finding the right fit can be a challenge. A strategic approach makes it easier to narrow the field and select the contractor with the appropriate combination of expertise and ability.
Ask for Recommendations
One of the most effective ways to find great independent contractors is through your professional network. Send a brief email to each person on your contact list, explain the type of contractor you need and ask for recommendations. Once you receive a response, follow up with questions about the person's experience, and ask about any concerns they might have. If you trust your contacts to provide good-faith referrals, this method can narrow the field quickly. In addition, it gives you access to contractors who may not be available through traditional channels or job websites.
Define Your Requirements
Before you reach out to independent contractors, it's crucial to define the parameters of the contract. Pay special attention to the timeline — since contract workers often schedule projects in advance, the duration is an immediate qualifying factor. Then, write down exactly what you need from the person you hire, including key competencies, project goals and any other specifics. Since contractors are usually expected to hit the ground running, these items enable candidates to self-select. Finally, lay out the working arrangements, adding clear details about office hours, flexible locations and workstation setup.
Ask for Proof
Since independent contractors are usually in place to fill a skills gap, it's crucial to verify that a candidate can complete each project requirement with minimal oversight — when you're on a deadline, there's very little time for on-the-job training. Once you have a list of top candidates, do your due diligence to verify each person's abilities. Call past employers or ask to see evidence of similar projects from the contractor's self-promotion file. Lay out your challenge, and ask how the person would approach it. A small amount of vetting up front can save a great deal of time, money and frustration down the road.
Reliable, highly qualified independent contractors are often in demand, and as such, have no need to settle for low pay. To attract the best candidates, design a competitive compensation package. Start with the salary of employees with similar levels of experience. Then, increase that number by up to 20 percent to cover the benefits gap. If your project is particularly demanding, has a fast turnaround or requires an unusual skill set, increase the pay even further. Although the final number can feel painful, it helps you bring in top contractors and ensures that you get an excellent, timely work product.
Independent contractors are a valuable resource as your business grows and explores new markets. By taking the time to vet potential candidates and build strong relationships, you can create a list of high-achieving, productive contractors for current and future projects.
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