It’s getting hard to find online entrepreneurs who don’t have a contractor horror story. Contractors/Freelancers are becoming a big part of doing business online, and they are vital to controlling costs without sacrificing the support necessary to get a business off the ground.
Contractors can help you build a great business, but they can also contribute to its destruction. Contractor disasters can drain your budget, stall your projects, and leave you too bitter and exhausted to give your business the attention it deserves. Maybe contractor disasters are just a cost of doing business in the modern age, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
Most contractor disasters fall under one of three categories: The contractor overstates (read: lies) about their abilities, the contractor refuses to commit to deadlines, and the contractor is disputing the compensation for the project. There are ways you can protect yourself from all of these disasters, and we’ll tell you how.
Disaster 1: The Contractor Overstated Their Expertise
This is one that almost everyone has experienced. “Fake it till’ you make it” is a doctrine many freelancers follow, and in some cases it allows them to budget for a next meal. There is so much free information online that pretending to know something (That you can always learn later, right?) is very tempting. This often works in the favor of the contractor, but it can be disastrous for their hapless employer.
There is nothing worse than spending days or weeks finding the person with just the right qualifications, only to have them to turn in amateur work when the project is due. This leads to delays, disputes over compensation, and a generally dimmer view of the human race as a whole. When this happens to you, you may feel motivated to blame the contractor for the ruins of your once-proud project. Really though, you should blame yourself.
Solution: Don’t Take Shortcuts When Hiring
As a business owner, you probably already understand that everything is your fault. This holds true because it doesn’t mean anything to blame anyone else. The contractor can simply walk away and wipe you from their resume. You’re always the one that has to handle the mess. That is why you should always take every single precaution when hiring a contractor.
Your vetting process should never be anything less than exhaustive, especially if your project is vital to your business. Make the contractor prove they have the every skill they claim to have. Consider setting aside a budget for the contractor to produce small-scale samples before they are hired for the big project. Try to contact everyone the contractor uses as a reference. If none of this is possible, at least expect problems to happen so you can plan for them.
Most of the time, taking your hiring seriously will prevent most other problems with contractors. Even talented contractors may occasionally fail to deliver on time, however. A deadline problem is serious, and that is why we think it deserves a place as contractor disaster #2.
Disaster 2: The Project Was Not Delivered on Time
Some business owners feel like kids at Christmas-time when a big project is coming in. Imagine their despair when Santa Claus never shows. If they’re lucky, the project is delayed by only a few days. Sometimes, a few days turn into a few weeks. A few weeks can also become never when the contractor walks away.
The worst part is often that there is rarely any warning when a deadline is not going to be met. Contractors who are failing deadlines may even tell you that everything is fine in the hopes that they can catch up before you notice. Other times, the contractor finds a job they like more, and decide they don’t want the “drama” of telling you that they’re leaving.
The motivations are not always selfish, though. Sometimes the contractor will be overwhelmed by illness or family emergencies. The contactor may also have simply died having the courtesy to warn you first. Whatever the reason, failed deadlines are serious problems. While any failed deadline can be disastrous, there are some strategies you can use to protect yourself and your business.
Failed deadlines on small projects can be easy to deal with. As long as you arrange the proper budget, you may be able to have work completed on a rush by someone else. The emergencies come when the massive projects never get delivered, and you have no way to have them completed in a timely manner, no matter how much you are willing to spend.
The best way to guarantee some breathing room is to split your largest projects into a series of smaller projects. There are several ways this can help you. First, if you have the project split up into short-term goals, you’ll get early alarms when the contractor can’t commit to a deadline. If the contractor fails the first early goal or the first several, you’ll be able to choose someone else without wasting too much precious time.
In addition to providing you with an early warning, breaking your project into smaller pieces means that you have a foundation to build on if you have to replace your contractor with someone else. You may find yourself in a situation where the contractor meets all the early deadlines, but disappears in the middle. When that happens now, you can deliver the parts already completed to the replacement contractor.
Breaking your big projects apart won’t solve all your problems with deadlines, but it will have the benefit of breaking apart your emergencies into more manageable chunks. Our first two contractor disasters involved disasters that can happen while a project is in development. Now we’re going to discuss a disaster that often happens after the project is completed. We’ve also saved the best for last, because compensation problems are among the most dangerous kinds of disasters you can experience.
Disaster 3: The Compensation Is Disputed
Compensation disputes are always a serious problem. Few arguments escalate faster than arguments over money, and valuable relationships can be destroyed in minutes. Even worse than an argument between two people is an argument between two lawyers; which is usually what happens when money disputes become serious.
Even when the law is too big an expense for either party, there are plenty of ways for disgruntled employers and contractors to hit back at one another. A bitter dispute can spread to all of your clients and partners.
In many cases there is not a clear line between who is right and wrong, which is why it is helpful to avoid money disputes as much as possible. The best way to avoid arguing over compensation is to keep your process as simple as possible.
Solution: Keep It Simple
Keeping your compensation process simple is the most effective way to eliminate any room for disputes. There are several ways you can accomplish this. First, you may want to consider paying your projects by the deliverable instead of by the hour. Hourly pay can be complex to add up, and it’s a breeding ground for arguments over what can be expected from a certain amount of time. It can also lead to different contractors getting paid vastly different amounts for identical work.
Some business owners like to motivate their contractors with bonuses and other incentives. While these tactics may work for some, they can also cause a lot of problems. The more bonuses and criteria for earning bonuses there are, the more likely it is that there will be arguments over whether standards were met. It will be easier to offer a fair amount for your project from the start.
Good Luck with Good Help
Finding good help is always a challenge, but the advantages of contracting only become more apparent as the new internet economy develops. We hope these tips will help you have better luck finding great contractors in the future.