Most businesses have some type of process for onboarding new employees. And if not, we’ve written several articles on the topic:

But when it comes to onboarding contractors, things get a little less defined and it becomes more of an ad-hoc thing. Since contractors aren’t permanent employees, it’s not as simple as mirroring your new hire onboarding process. Add on the fact that many companies only use contractors on an as-needed basis, it’s easy to see how (and why) the onboarding process for them can be overlooked.

However, if you want your contractors to be successful and do a good job for your company, you have to take onboarding them as seriously as you do anyone else that does work for your business. Not only will it help them get the job done well, but it’ll also make everyone’s life easier.

Here’s how to improve your contractor onboarding process.

Why (Effective) Contractor Onboarding is Important

We touched on it a little bit in the introduction, but having an efficient onboarding process delivers more benefits than most businesses even realize.

  • Improve the success rate: If contractors aren’t successfully onboarded, they’ll likely have unanswered questions, a lack of understanding of what’s to be done, zero understanding of your current processes and an overall lack of information. The end result is sloppy work. And as easy as it is to point the finger at the contractor, the reality is if you’re not putting in the effort to properly onboard them, you’ll have to shoulder some of the blame if things go wrong.
  • Get started quicker: Once a contractor agrees to do work for you, you likely want to get them started as soon as possible. Particularly if they’re working on a time-sensitive project. Having a clearly defined onboarding process means you’re able to cut out wasted time spent trying to get them set up with HR or with the finance team.
  • Easy to repeat: Similar to the previous point, once you have a system in place it’s easy to replicate for future contractors. Even if it’s a different type of contractor, the process for onboarding them will likely be similar.

Another one of the most important benefits of creating an effective contractor onboarding process is it’s easier to scale. This is particularly helpful for companies that rely on contractors rather than hiring full-time staff.

For example, take agencies. Some agencies outsource parts of their projects to contractors. Whether it’s writers, designers, videographers or other contractors, agencies often work with a large number of people.

Now if the agency were to see a surge of new projects come in that they need to outsource to contractors, there needs to be an easy to way to bring the contractors on board. Delays in contractor onboarding slow down the completion of the project as a whole, which looks bad on the agency.

So needless to say, you need to get your process down pact. Follow these tips to improve your contractor onboarding.

Before They Start

The onboarding process starts before the “start date”. The contractors should everything they need set up on the very first day. This is one of the differences between onboarding employees and contractors. For employees, the first week or so is expected to be spent getting set up and familiar with everything. With contractors, you need to be ready to go right out the gate.

Get the paperwork squared away

Nobody enjoys doing paperwork, but it’s a necessity to make sure you’re doing everything above board and legally. The paperwork you have prepared should include:

  • Tax documents like W-9’s or W-8
  • Contract/agreement that outlines the terms of the deal
  • Any confidentiality agreements or NDAs

Pretty much any type of document that needs to be signed should be prepared and ready to sign as soon as the contractor starts.

In order to make that process easy, use a tool like eversign to get documents electronically signed. You can upload templates of all the paperwork you need contractors to sign and customize them for each new person that needs to sign. Then send it via email and you’ll be able to see as soon as it’s signed/filled out. Doesn’t get much easier than that!

Make sure to check the laws in your state/country to find out all the documents you need contractors to sign in order to work for you. It’ll be different than the paperwork required for employees.

Grant Them Access to All The Necessary Tools

As a contractor, nothing is worse than getting signed up to work on a project, only to discover you don’t have access to the software, accounts or files you need to do your work.

Before the start date, make a list of any access the contractor might need in order to do the job. Whether it’s backend access to to your website, software or even keys to enter certain parts of your building, the contractor should have everything they need as soon as they start.

If you’re not 100% sure what they need access to, just ask. By taking care of this step ahead early on, you’ll save time scrambling at the last minute trying to figure out who you need to contact in order to give the contractor access to specific tools and resources.Create Documentation

Even if your onboarding process is perfect, there are always some questions that’ll pop up. Creating some sort of knowledge base that documents everything your contractors need to know (including points of contact, processes and other vital information) will help your contractors work much more efficiently.

This will likely be the most time-consuming part of creating a contractor onboarding process, but it’ll be well worth it once it’s completed. Make sure that there are different iterations of it depending on the type of contractor.

For instance, contractors that will be working on your website will have different requirements from someone in IT or building maintenance. Start by making an overall documentation template. Then, have the different departments create documentation specifically for contractors they’ll work with.

Some of the things to outline will be:

  • Who to go to: If they have a question about getting paid, where to send invoices to, how to login to your system or anything else, your documentation should lay out exactly who they can ask (name and email).
  • All your processes: Do you have a process in place for adding new pages to your website? Sending documents out? Or any other task. Make sure any business process is laid out so they don’t have to guess or make assumptions.
  • Building information: If the contractor will be in your office/building, make sure they know everything they need to know about the building including office hours, access codes or anything else. These seemingly small details can cause issues for contractors if they’re not outlined.

Once you have all your documentation laid out, share it with your contractors before they start working so they have a chance to review it. Then they can reference whenever they need to. Also, be sure to include the email address for whoever their main point of contact is in case they have any other questions.

During the First Week/Day

Now that the busywork is out of the way, that doesn’t mean onboarding is finished. Depending on the type of work you’re contracting, the first day or week will be very important to ensure the project goes smoothly. Here are some tips.

Go Over Everything Again

On the first day, it’s a good idea to do a quick refresher of the project at hand. This is particularly helpful if some time has passed from the time you originally agreed to hire them and the actual start date.

Use it as an opportunity to go over the expectations, deliverables, deadlines and any potential dependencies. If anything is unclear about the project, this is the time to address it. Because the last thing you want is to get halfway through the project only to find out there was some miscommunication about the scope of the project.

Do Any Type of Training

Most contractors prefer to handle any paperwork prior to their “start date”. But if there’s any training needed, they’ll want to wait until they’ve officially started to begin that since it’ll take up a decent amount of time.

This is applicable for contractors that need to be familiar with your software for instance. You should spend time during the first week getting them trained on how to use it and answer any initial questions. That way as they start working it’ll be smooth sailing.

Ask Them How Everything’s Going

Once a project is underway, it’s easy for both you and the contractor to just assume everything’s going as planned. But within that first week, make sure you keep the lines of communication open.

When some contractors run into issues, they’ll simply put it on the backburner and move on to doing other tasks. But if you ask if everything’s ok, they’ll bring it up early on so you can take care of it right away and prevent any delays.

A Few Weeks or a Month

This last section is meant for long-term contractors. If you’ve only hired them to work on a project for a week, it’s not as crucial. But here are some tips to improve the onboarding process for contractors who work with you for more than a few weeks.

Schedule Check-ins

If the only times you communicate with your contractors are when they first start and when they’re done, you’re leaving a lot of room for error. You should have regular check-ins scheduled to check on the status of the project and to make sure everything’s going as planned.

It’s smart to agree to these check-in dates in the beginning. For instance, during your day-1 meeting, agree on monthly or bi-weekly check-ins, whatever makes the most sense for the project.

Ask for Feedback

Most companies today ask for employee feedback, but very few seek feedback from contractors. Getting feedback about what went well, what could’ve been better and their overall experience working with you will allow you to make changes to your contractor onboarding process in the future.

It can be as simple as creating a quick questionnaire with Google Forms to send over after the job is completed. That way the contractor feels more comfortable giving honest feedback than they would if you were to ask them in person.

Nail Your Contractor Onboarding Process!

Use this framework to streamline your contractor onboarding process. With each new contractor you bring on board, you should be able to become more efficient and effective until you eventually have a bulletproof system for finding and hiring contractors for your business.