6 Ways to Build Relationships with Independent Workers

By MBO Partners | August 30, 2022

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Key Points

Strong contractor-client relationships help attract top talent to your company.

Organizations must understand how independent contractors work structure processes and procedures accordingly.

The most effective workforces today consist of a mix of full-time and contingent labor.

The most effective workforces today consist of a mix of full-time and contingent labor. If you’ve worked with independent talent before, you’re probably aware of how important it is to build a strong foundation to support these workers. 

Independent contractors have specialized expertise in a particular industry. They are business owners who are likely to engage with a few different clients. They determine how, when, and where they complete the job outlined in their contract.  

These factors make independents quite different from 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. Always Use a Written 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. 

Here’s how: SOW Template (Scope of Work) for Project Management 

2. Set Mutual Expectations

Working on a contract and SOW with the independent professional you are engaging naturally leads to 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. Prioritize Clear 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 Zoom 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. 

Check out: Communication through Crisis: Keeping Project Management Effective in the Wake of COVID-19 

4. Build a Positive Work Environment

Work environment is very important to independent professionals. Most 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 they 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. Create 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 manage independent workers, managers will know what to expect when they 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 limit paperwork are also helpful and create a better overall experience. 

Attract and retain top talent: MBO Partners’ Latest Client of Choice Research

6. Value Independent Contractors’ Work

The single most important factor for independents in deciding whom they work with is that they want their work to be valued. 90 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. 

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