Close to one-third of the U.S. workforce is comprised of independent contractors. By the year 2020, this number is expected to grow to 40% of the U.S. workforce. Independent contractors have many roles, from legal consultants to software engineers to copy writers.

At Content Rules, we work with some of the best and brightest independent contractors in the content industry. Our contractors have played a significant role in the success of our projects. They have also played a significant role in my own growth as a project manager. Over the years, our contractor pool has taught me the keys to keeping independent contractors happy. In this post, I am going to share a few of those tips. So, get out your pencil and take some notes.


The key to working with your independent contractor is communication. You can’t over communicate with them. The more you communicate about the project and expectations, the better. Ensure that communication happens before, during, and after the project is complete.

At Content Rules, we want our independent contractor involved as early as possible. We will include them in the scoping phase. The more information they have about the project scope, the more comfortable they are about the work. The result is a successful project for you!

In my experience, the more feedback I receive from our client about the contractor assigned on a project, the more successful the end-result. If your contractor is not delivering what you expect based on the project scope, that needs to be shared during a project check-in call, or sooner.

The earlier a problem is addressed, the better chance of correction. Of course, when the contractor is doing a fabulous job, we want to hear that feedback as well! Your feedback is always shared with the contractor so they can both improve their work product, and feel confident in a job well done. Our contractors pride themselves on doing their absolute best on your projects.

I have had the unfortunate experience of learning from a client six months post-project that the resource did not deliver exactly what was expected. It is never okay to not communicate an issue when it arises. Failure to deliver within scope and expectations can be avoided when problems are communicated early.

Communicating issues allows us the opportunity to go back to the contractor and correct work that is in progress. It also allows us to reset the contractor’s understanding of the project when needed. And occasionally we find that it is the client whose expectations need to be reset. In my experience, our contractors have always wanted that feedback to help them grow professionally. It is also important for us to continue providing you with quality work. It’s all about communication.

I also ask our contractors for feedback about our clients. Especially when working with a new client and a first-time engagement. My goal is two-fold. I want to ensure our client is happy with the contractor. I also want to verify that our contractors are treated well by the client. I have always appreciated the honest and professional feedback received from our contractors about the various projects and people they work with.

The result of communication is a satisfied client and happy contractors. Satisfied clients result in repeat business and long-term partnerships, which is our goal. It’s one of the things that makes my job at Content Rules so much fun!

Contractors are part of your team!

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, a large amount of today’s workforce is made-up of independent contractors. Either they work in your building, or remotely from their home offices. Regardless of their location, they are more successful and happier when they feel as a part of your team versus “hired help”. Research suggests there is a link between a workers’ happiness and their productivity. Happy employees can be between 12%-20% more productive. These findings apply not just to your hired staff, but also to your contract staff.

I have had contractors engaged with on-going jobs. After years of working with the same teams, they report that they are made to feel as if they are “just hired hands”. It could be that an editing team has put in place protocols to ensure that documents are not rewritten while they are being edited. Your staff is ignoring those protocols causing more work for the editing team. Re-editing the same document as a result ultimately increases the cost of the edit. In addition, the editors are frustrated and left to feel that their contribution is not valued by your organization. Productivity can decrease as a result.

Perhaps a writer is attempting to make your deadline and important questions they’ve asked your team are going unanswered. Your team may have decided that question is not important and can wait. It may not be intentional behavior from your permanent staff. We understand they are busy. However, the contractor doing the writing now feels that the project and their work are not important to your team.

Your contractor is an extension of your team. They are lightening someone’s to-do list and allowing that person to accomplish another task. They are providing value to you and your team. They are more effective when given respect from your team.

I also have contractors who work with teams and they feel a complete part of the team. They are even included in team happy hours after work. As a result, they are excited to continue taking on more projects for that company. They share with me how much they enjoy working for and with that team. Happy contractors are productive contractors!

Be sure to remind your staff that your contractor is an important part of the team. Your permanent hires would ask nothing less for themselves. To rephrase the Golden Rule, “Do to your independent contractor as you would have your independent contractor do to you.”

At Content Rules, we appreciate our contractors and our clients. We enjoy pairing amazing projects with the most talented people in the industry! We look forward to continuing in this trend of success for another 23 years.

Gaela Schlak
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