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Tips To Keep Your Independent Contractors Motivated and Productive

Keeping the full-time employees in your office motivated and productive can be a real challenge, and those are people you have the opportunity to see and interact with on a daily basis.  Keeping independent contractors motivated and productive, especially if they work remotely at least part of the time, can be orders of magnitude more difficult.

It’s well worth the effort to do so, however, because your company’s success depends on everyone, both full time, regular employees and the independent contractors you choose to bring into the fold for specific projects. 

But how do you go about doing it?  Where do you even start?  In this article, we’ll address those questions and give you some actionable advice you can start putting into practice today.  Let’s dive right in and get started!

The Pay Issue

It’s not at all difficult to find independent contractors who are willing to work below the market rate, and it’s incredibly tempting to take them up on that offer.  In the long run though, that strategy will earn you a reputation as a skinflint and you’re unlikely to be able to attract top-tier talent.

Pay your contractors market rate.  Once you get to know them and the quality of their work, if you can afford it, pay them a little more.  Kudos and attaboys are all well and good, but nothing shows your appreciation like acknowledging the excellence of the work they’re doing for you like padding out their paycheck.

Get To Know Them

Naturally, you get to know a bit about every employee you hire, whether contractor or not, simply by reviewing their resume and interviewing them.  That’s a good first step, but especially where contractors are concerned, you owe it, both to yourself and to the person you’re hiring to do more.

Think about it like this:  When you hire a new permanent addition to your staff, you at least have the opportunity to see and interact with them every day.  Over time, you’re destined to get to know them better. 

That may be true in the case of an independent contractor, but at least as often as not, it isn’t.  You may only touch base with them once a week, and even then, perhaps only by way of a conference call.  There are just relatively fewer opportunities to get to know them as a person; as an individual.  Make time to do that, especially if you like their work and think you may want to use their services again after the current assignment is done.

Give Gifts Of Recognition

If you’re like many business owners, you probably have some kind of employee recognition program.  If you don’t have anything like that set up yet, it’s well worth taking the time to do so, because study after study has shown that such programs consistently and reliably improve morale and increase employee retention rates.

You don’t have to give extravagant gifts, but if you’re in the habit of recognizing your full-time employees in that way, it helps make the contractors you employ feel like they’re genuinely part of the team when they’re included.

Understanding, Expectation & Feedback

This is another aspect of hiring contractors that is markedly different from hiring a regular, full-time employee.  Contractors are usually hired for a specific project or job.  Often, that job is short to medium in its duration, so it pays to ask some questions on that front.

Why is the contractor interested in taking this assignment in particular?  What is it about the job that the contractor finds so appealing?  Asking those types of questions gives you insights you may not have gotten otherwise and allows you yet another way to get to know the contractor you’re working with better.

While the particulars will vary from one person and one job to the next, a good general guideline is to set very clear expectations up front, and it almost always pays to check in at regular intervals, especially in cases where you’ve never worked with a particular individual before, but to do that without micromanaging.

Then, once you gain a better understanding and level of trust and confidence, it’s almost always a good idea to transition away from that approach and give your contractor a bit more freedom and flexibility.  Given the nature and character of their work, it’s almost a given that they’ll have more freedom and flexibility than your regular employees, and that’s fine.

That brings us to feedback.  Checking in doesn’t have to be, and in the case of contractors, probably shouldn’t be a formalized review process, but feedback given at regular intervals is essential.  Not only does it give you an opportunity to redirect if things start heading in a direction you’re less than thrilled with, but it also gives you an opportunity to let them know that you genuinely appreciate them, their efforts and the value they’re adding to your company with their work. 

Everybody likes hearing they’re valued.  That’s not something that’s unique to your regular, full-time employees, and if you’re not giving feedback—and especially positive feedback—to your contractors at regular intervals, you’re missing a big opportunity to keep motivation levels high.

The biggest thing to remember about working with freelancers and independent contractors is that you’re almost certainly not their only client.  If you don’t go the extra mile in terms of making them feel that their efforts are appreciated and that they’re part of the team, a couple of things will happen as a result:

First, they won’t be all that inclined to accept projects from you in the future, and you’re going to be disappointed by that if you find that you like the quality of their work.

Second, independent contractors tend to move in the same circles and you’re likely to wind up with a reputation that makes it increasingly more difficult to hire the best-quality contractors.

The good news is that most of the things we outlined above are fairly easy to begin implementing.  If you do nothing more than implement the suggestions outlined above, you’ll be miles ahead where your contractors are concerned.