You need to find a savvy, quality-minded independent professional who respects a strict budget and has a specific set of skills. Work needs to get done, and there’s no time to waste. So, where’s the best place to start looking, and how do you effectively screen and monitor the talent you find to protect your company’s best interests?
Follow these important steps to find the right independent contractor to fulfill your project needs.
A good place to start is in the procurement phase, with a request for proposal (RFP). Independent contractors may receive RFPs as a result of their membership in a trade or professional association, business listing, referral, or other means. When they receive an RFP independents typically evaluate their readiness to fulfill the described requirements and conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine the value of the opportunity. As the sponsoring business, it is in your best interest to carefully craft the RFP after conducting an internal needs assessment with all relevant stakeholders.
Ensure the RFP you create is organized in a manner that identifies the risks and rewards of a particular project by defining the specifications and requirements necessary to successfully complete the project. Keep in mind that your RFP does not have to be lengthy or overly complex. In fact, while you want to be clear about the project scope and requirements, you don’t want to be so restrictive that it hinders independent contractors from proposing creative solutions to the problem you’re trying to solve.
Independent contractors submitting responses to an RFP should meet all stipulated requirements for style, format, and timeliness. Their answers and supporting details should be thorough devoid of overly self-promotional language and claims, and establish their qualifications and capabilities in a clear and concise manner.
Next, interested independent contractors will prepare a proposal document in response to your solicitation. While proposals can be labor intensive, the effort required to collect the necessary information and prepare a suitable response may be a good measure of interest.
As you evaluate the proposals you receive, you should determine:
After initial evaluation, a secondary vetting phase that includes in-person interviews, background screening, key reference interviews, or a presentation of samples is common. In this phase, you are not only seeking to determine fit for the proposed project, but you also want to validate that candidates qualify as an independent worker. Criteria to consider include:
More subjective determinations such as personality, approachability, and flexibility may further narrow down your pool of suitable prospective candidates.
When you determine a match and extend an offer, you and the independent contractor may enter into a binding service contract. A contract establishes specifications such as the start and end date of the project, as well as procedural or operational requirements. When committing these elements to define a business relationship, work closely with the independent contractor to define resources, restrictions, and terms of your engagement.
A Scope of Work (SOW) is a clause within a service contract that defines what the independent contractor is and is not responsible for, detailed timelines and milestone deliverables, and expectations that your business holds necessary in order to label a work project “complete.” It should also include any provisions for revisions and changes.
An SOW also details responsibilities incumbent on your business. While the independent contractor is charged with executing a project, there are shared and reciprocal responsibilities between a contractor and your business to facilitate project completion. These include timely submission of background resource materials, providing access to systems and data sources, timely responses to questions, and reasonable review periods.
The SOW sets a foundation for good communication as well. You want to ensure that you discuss the details and define a SOW that clearly articulates what will be done, how it will be done, in what time frame, and for what cost. Don’t assume that something will be done as part of the project; discuss it with the contractor ahead of time and spell it out in the SOW.
An effective SOW is critical—even if it is only appreciated when pressures rise or a miscommunication is claimed. A well-defined SOW protects both the contractor as well as your business. Detailed, clear parameters can establish rights and responsibilities of both parties and limit liability.
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