The Way We Work
November 17, 2010 by Tamara Rice

One of the most important things you can do when hiring a contractor is setting a schedule. It will establish expectations for progress to guide your contractor and your project to success.

Make these essential scheduling steps a habit each time you begin an assignment with a contractor:

1. Set a clear and reasonable DEADLINE. A surprising number of employers forget this important detail or assume that 'ASAP' is mutually understood. Be clear from day one -- give your contractor a date and a time of day (as in "by end of business day" or "by midnight Pacific Time") in writing. When you are detailed about your deadline, it communicates the importance and relative priority to your contractor. She is more likely to meet the deadline (or at least give you a proper warning if she cannot), when she knows you have specific and clear expectations.

2. Schedule a few MILESTONES or checkpoints. Figure out the points at which you'd like review and plan next steps with your contractor. For example, if the contractor is building your website, let him know you want to see the site map as a first check-in. Put these milestones on the calendar for both you and your contractor like mini-deadlines. If you aren't sure how realistic your timeline is, schedule these milestones during a phone call with your contractor -- he'll know how fast he can get each part accomplished. Why do this? Milestones are an opportunity for you to be sure the work is being done according to your expectations, rather than waiting until the end and getting a finished product that doesn't work for you.

employer schedule one3. Put CONFERENCE CALLS on the calendar at regular intervals. In addition to setting milestones, you'll want to have scheduled telephone or Skype calls on a regular basis. It's okay to cancel on occasion, but keep these calls as often as you can. The conversation don't need to be long:

•  Ask how the project is going and if there are any questions. •  Get an update on the progress toward the deadline(s).  •  Get feedback about the project as a whole.

4. Put EMAIL REMINDERS on your own calendar. In order to keep the lines of communication open, send your contractor an email at least once a week. Whether a post-mortem on a recent meeting or a standalone check-in note, an email is a great way to remind your contractor that you are available for any questions and reiterate the timing of the next milestone, call or deadline.

employer schedule two5. Schedule a THANK YOU note. That's right. Put it on your calendar, for the day after the deadline. When the work is done, give a quick thanks -- no need to gush unless you really want to. Yes, you are already paying for the work, but  everybody wants to feel appreciated. Think of this step as professional manners and a way to win your contractor's loyalty.

Tell us: When you hire a contractor, how do you go about setting a schedule for the work? Do you do milestones or just a final deadline?

Tamara Rice

Freelance Writer and Editor

Tamara Rice is one of several freelance writers on the oDesk Blog team. She joined the oDesk marketplace in 2009, after more than six years on staff at an award-winning national magazine.

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  • Janell Williams

    I ask many of these things as questions so that I am clear as the employer on what needs to be done.

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