6 Ways to Build Relationships with Independent Workers

By MBO Partners |

Updated Thursday, February 6, 2020

people talking at table

If you’ve incorporated independent talent into your workforce—or if you’re considering doing so—you’ve probably discovered the importance of building a strong foundation that supports these types of workers. Independent contractors have specialized expertise in a particular industry. They are small business owners who likely engage with a few different clients, and determine how and when they work to complete the job outlined in their contract.

These factors make independents fundamentally different than a typical, W-2 employee. In order to successfully engage and work with independent talent, organizations should understand these differences and structure processes and procedures around them for the benefit of both parties. Here are six ways organizations can build better relationships with independent talent.

1. Start with the Right Contract

Using a written contract when engaging independent contractors is not only smart from a legal perspective, but it also helps to outline project details and define a business relationship. A contract provides the opportunity to talk about terms of engagement, project resources, and any restrictions or required guidelines.

Part of the contract should include a Scope of Work (SOW). A SOW should dive into the details of the project and include budgets, timelines, deadlines, and deliverables. To help things move along smoothly when unexpected decisions or roadblocks arise, talk about a process for change management upfront.

2. Discuss Expectations

Working on a contract and SOW with the independent professional you are engaging naturally leads into a discussion of expectations. Talking about who is responsible for what helps to build trust in a new relationship.

When managing a project, there will be many shared responsibilities. Does the independent need any background resource materials, or access to systems or data? If so, who should they reach out to? By being proactive and open about expectations that you each have, the project process will move much more smoothly.

3. Establish Clear Lines of Communication

On a similar line of thought, you’ll also want to establish a plan for communication as soon as possible. Do you want to have weekly check-ins or progress reports? If so, what should these short meetings or reports entail? If your independent contractors are working remotely, consider what type of virtual tools will work best for both of you. Perhaps basic email will suffice, or, if you’d prefer to see each other face-to-face, you may opt for a Skype, Google Hangout, or WebEx meeting.

If the work requires it, you’ll also want to consider using project management tools such as Basecamp or cloud-based storage systems like Dropbox or Google to share project-related documents. Planning the tools you want to use and how you’ll use them helps to kick off a conversation around communication and set the right tone from the start.

4. Create a Work Environment Where Independents Can Thrive

Work environment is very important to independent professionals. The vast majority of independents say that having control over their work, schedule, and ability to work on tasks they enjoy doing are very important factors when choosing the clients the work with.

Talk to managers and employees about treating independents with respect and trust, just like they would treat any coworker. Take time to understand where independents are coming from. Respect what they value and give them the freedom and flexibility to work how they want. A work environment that takes these factors into account will be much more successful at attracting and retaining top talent.

5. Build reasonable processes and procedures

Reasonable processes and procedures benefit both you as a client as well as independents. By creating a standard process to engage and mange independent workers, managers will know what to expect when then want to bring independent talent on board, and independents will understand what they need to do to work with your company.

Two important factors here are quick and fair compensation, and streamlined onboarding. Independents expect to be reasonably compensated—in line with market standards—and paid timely. A fast and efficient onboarding process with guidance on key policies and procedures and automated systems to limited paperwork are also helpful and create a better overall experience.

6. Show Independents that You Value Their Work

The single most important factor for independents in deciding whom the work with is that they want their work to be valued. 96 percent of independents say this is either very important or important. Treating independents well, giving credit when deserved, and prioritizing communication are all ways to show value and show independents that their work is making a difference.

Have more questions about how to attract top independent talent? Ask our team of experts.