Regardless of how challenging adapting to a contractor or agency might be, they can be a very useful asset to a business. Contractors, with their expertise, fill in gaps on subjects that fully onboarded employees may not have the skills or time for. However, in situations when contractors, or an agency, are hired, problems can occur when finding a middle ground between the client trusting them to complete the job while not directing their every move and still ensuring that the contractor isn’t careless or drifting away from the client’s needs. (For the sake of this article to express a similar idea, the terms agency and contractor will be used interchangeably.)   

Contractors are hired for their proficiency in a specific field. Despite this, it is not uncommon to have a copious amount of supervision by a client, leading to frustrated contractors and clients. Contractors, who often also run their own small business, understand how difficult it is to entrust putting a piece of their business in someone’s hands. But trust isn’t just a concept that small businesses struggle with. Corporate employees can also have a tough time depending on contractors; employees may recognize the project in question from previous encounters, making themselves out to be somewhat experts, but grapple to understand how previous experience may not apply to the one at hand. 

Not only are these external hires more inexpensive than onboarding a full-time employee, but they can bring a broader perspective from their experience with other companies, as well as burdening employees with extra work. Following is a starting point for an owner or employee of  any size business as they navigate and evaluate sessions with contractors.

Basics of Trust

When working with an agency, it’s essential for clients to outline expectations for the contractor in regards to the project/job. Before contractors approach a client, they should already understand the client’s conversion funnel and their pipeline concepts, meaning contractors should have foundational knowledge about the business before beginning their contractual work. This is because projects are custom tailored to each client. Nothing is a ‘one size fits all’. After the client’s need is expressed, they should trust their hired professional’s opinions and essentially ‘leave them’ to achieve results. No one is perfect; contractors can make mistakes, too. If the client is weary of the contractor’s thoughts they should consider a debate or a conversation about it, but not to brush off their advice.

When a contractor is hired, it is assumed they are hired because they know their field and how to do their job. In this type of business, it is an unwritten rule that a client hires a contractor for their experience, not to tell them what to do.  (Consider: if the client could undertake the assignment themselves, there would be no need to hire a contractor in the first place.) They must communicate what they need accomplished, not necessarily instruct the contractor on how to do it. Micromanaging rather than relying on their contractor’s experience will likely waste the client’s time and resources, and perhaps cause the loss of a great contractor. Remember, the client will be included in the contractor’s portfolio – their own contracting business is on the line as well.

Another thought is that an honest contractor wants to supply a candid service and sometimes this requires exposing how making certain decisions has consequences. To demonstrate, you call a plumber when your sink is backed up, and it turns out that there’s a tree root invading a pipe in the exterior of your home rather than just something clogging the sink drain. They know how to fix it and you trust them to make the necessary repairs. Sometimes we are told a few other problems exist than originally thought. It’s the same idea with an agency. A client might know they need to update their conversion funnel, but not know how to go about it, so they hire someone who does. They might be hired to boost organic leads to a website, but if the website is outdated or confusing, there’s more underlying issues than needing to draw in new customers! Be willing to listen to the hired agency when they have found additional strengths or weaknesses, which can happen.  To establish a situation where the client feels comfortable with a contractor, take note of the following suggestions.  

As a Client…

  • evaluate the agency beforehand and look at it with a critical eye. Would the client be comfortable utilizing the contractor’s services from what is seen either from previous work examples or from what is displayed by the agency’s own business? After some progress is complete, reevaluation and comparison of the completed work to what was formerly evaluated is a good practice. If it is not meeting original expectations, discuss this with the contractor. If satisfaction is still not reached, it might be time to consider changing professionals.
  • be prepared to listen to advice and follow the contractor’s lead on the project. Odds are, they have done this type of work more often than the client has. Trust their experience.   
  • expect timely communication. The contractor/agency should be meeting deadlines and updating if there are changes, as well as reaching out quickly when a problem occurs or when a question/concern arises. As much as a client needs to provide their customers a great user experience, an agency needs to provide their clients with a positive experience as well. 

Nevertheless, after considering the suggestions above, keep in mind that contractor situations are purely a case by case subject. These tips are a good rule of thumb, but there will always be circumstances when something different is required, so assess the conditions as needed. Many agencies offer a free consultation: don’t be afraid to ‘shop around’ and take stock to ensure they will be a proper fit, that their previous projects are appropriate and relevant, and that they can be trusted to fulfill the contracted assignment. If these prerequisites are met, trust in the hired professional and the client will not be disappointed.

Want to learn more about trust in the workplace? Check out these references!

  1. The Balance Small Business
  2. Behler-Young Company
  3. Smarp
  4. Aespire