The Way We Work
January 5, 2011 by Erica Benton

While you might like to think that the success of a project depends entirely on hiring stellar contractors, the truth is that much of it depends on you. You can hire the most competent contractor in the business, but if you do not hold up your end of the bargain when it comes to clear communication, your project might be in danger of failure.

Here are some tips to keep the lines of communication open between you and your contractors:

1. Use a New Hire Checklist. After hiring a new contractor, immediately provide him with a care package with all the information he may need - including a list of email address and phone numbers that you use most often. It's important, in the event of questions or even emergencies, that your contractor know how to reach you.

2. Communicate Your Response Routine. If you typically only answer emails at the end of the day, let the contractor know. If you rarely pick up the phone, but always answer text messages, say so. Tell your contractor how long they may wait between their message and your response. If your response time is a day or two, let them know this is what they should expect. (A word of caution: If you delay your response, you may be delaying your own project's progress.)

3. Set Check In Dates or Deadlines. Never leave an assignment open-ended. If setting a realistic deadline isn't possible, then set check points along the way. This way both you and your contractors know that if all other efforts to connect fail, communication will happen on this date. It's a safety net for both you and the contractor.

4. Be More Available to New Hires. While some of your long-term contractors may need little input from you to keep on task, it's more likely a new hire will have questions and concerns as he embarks on his first assignment for you. Be aware of this and make an effort to respond quickly in the early days of a new working relationship, so your contractor does not become frustrated with the project or your lack of input. If you demonstrate a lack of concern for the project, the contractor might begin to do the same.

Remember that the results of a working relationship will be directly related to the communication you put into it, so keep the lines of communication open. Both you and your contractor will reap the benefits.

What have you learned about keeping in contact with your contractors? Let us know in the comments!

Erica Benton

Social Media Guru

Erica Benton joined oDesk in 2009, bringing with her nearly a decade of small business and freelance experience, and a love of all things social. Her passion for startups, technology and marketing was born during her tenure with Kulesa Faul Public Relations, while she learned the art of entrepreneurship firsthand through Equine Alternatives, a business she founded while earning her Bachelor of Science degree from… read more

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  • Victoria

    What a great article, I'm a newbie with Odesk on my first job as a contractor, so far, so good, but it was really hard the first couple of days when I had to constantly find means to reach my Employer, its good to know that the communication is an obligatory two way street. I also think that there are helpful pointers that I can suggest to my employer from this article in case of his new hires.

    • Erica

      Glad you found it helpful, Victoria! Best of luck with your contract work career - looks like you're off to a great start!

  • Janell Williams

    This is even good for those of us who are the contractors so we can ask these questions if we are not asked them.

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  • http://thefreelancepinoy.com/ Stephanie

    I can't stress enough how important communication and reliability is for contractors. So many clients leave an assignment open and hanging for so long that the contractor is left wondering what he should do next.

    In the case of oDesk contracts, we don't want to close the assignment for fear that the client might leave negative feedback for the uncalled action. On the other hand, leaving assignments open for months may leave other clients wondering if we have the time and dedication to give for their own projects.