Top five tips to working with contractors
As a solopreneur, I rely extensively on contractors for my “company of one” to become scalable based on project scope. Working with a network of designers, photographers, digital marketers, social media strategists and content writers not only builds my business’ success; it helps me personally expand my professional expertise. I can work on larger projects for more money, work in multiple locations, offer more services to my clients and even cut back my own work hours.
My business model is not the traditional agency with office and staff, so for me to contribute to the success of other small business owners by hiring for their expertise is a win-win for the local economy. However, those relationships have taken me almost my entire 20-year career to build and nurture. You can’t expect to understand work styles and personality differences in one or two projects. The trust is built over time, so if you find a “tribe” of contractors that you feel comfortable with and like their work, hang on to them as they become valuable assets to your business growth.
Here are some of my top tips to finding the right contractor for your project and how to establish a positive working relationship.
How do you find good contractors?
Start with asking people in your networks for recommendations as those who do good work will be top of most people’s lists. Google professionals in your area or follow their social media to see if you like them and their work.
Send emails or DMs to set up coffee meetings or have them send you their portfolios. It’s like an interview process. Are they the right person for your project and do they want to work with you?
When I first started out, I made it my goal to have three coffees a week with various photographers, designers, digital marketers, etc. Even now I try to have at least four a month to keep connections and continually build my network.
Once you have decided on a contractor for your project, it is time to set a clear scope of work and deliverables. Having a concise project plan and understanding of what contractors are required for project success is the first step.
For example; are you creating a new website and require both a web developer and designer? Do you need a content writer or will you provide that yourself? What about new photos and video? Be sure to budget for professionals and ensure it is in the project plan. Too many projects can run over time and budget without a proper project manager (you) to ensure deadlines are met and daily/weekly/monthly status reports are compiled.
One of the favourite photographers I work with, Jeremy Fokkens is not only one of my first calls for project photography, he is also one of my standing coffee dates. His expertise is invaluable but I also appreciate his straight forward manner in dealing with any issues or changes on a shoot. He is one of my “tribe” because I have found we work well together in stressful situations and know how to laugh when things get crazy.
He said that his main request when being contracted is “honest communication and clear vision. Even a response of “We don’t know what we want” is honest and lets me know that you’re genuinely asking for help. Also, when possible on certain projects, bring everyone involved to the table, literally. This allows more ears and more perspectives where one might see potential issues that might arise.”
Jeremy’s advice to bring all the players to the table before the project starts is the best way to ensure everyone is on the same page. We worked together on a multi-day shoot for Travel Drumheller where we sat down ahead of time to map out locations, timing, talent, contingency plans, etc. But for a quick project with Marda Loop, I just sent him a quick email with the event date and a basic shot list. The level of planning all depends on the project scope.
Paying for service
I ask all my contractors to provide me with a full quote and scope of work for each project, that way I know exactly what I will be receiving as deliverables and payment schedule. You are paying for their expertise so don’t nickel and dime contractors; their rate of pay should be reflective of their experience and the project scope.
It is my policy to always pay contractors within 10 days of receiving their invoice. I may not have been paid by my client, but I ensure I pay my contractors first. To me it is being an ethical business person and goes a long way to maintaining great relationships.
Managing the client relationship
Most of my clients know when I bring in any contractors to assist with projects as it’s usually for a photo shoot, website development or digital campaigns. And most contractors will work alongside me and the client to ensure the best possible project outcomes.
However, there are times I contract out work for the sole purpose of time management. In these cases, I work with specific contractors who understand my client’s business or industry sector. I provide clear parameters of the required work which I approve before sending to the client.
Signing a contract
This is probably the most important part of the process as a proper contract protects both you and the contractor. You want to ensure the contractor is indemnified against any possible legal action. It will also clearly outline the scope of work and payment terms. There are many great contract templates online, just Google for one that works for your business.
Working with contractors is an important part of business, a great opportunity to meet new people and learn new skills. I mean, Canva is great but learning to use Illustrator from a professional graphic designer is pretty sweet too.
If you’re looking for some great contractors, check out the “ABC Community” listed on my website.