6 Tips to Help You Better Manage Event Contractors

April 23, 2018

Michelle Kiss

Michelle Kiss is a digital marketing specialist in San Francisco who focuses on employee productivity, business process management, and marketing automation. She deeply believes that a balanced diet is chocolate in both hands.

For many corporate marketing or event departments, getting approval to add employee headcount is close to impossible. You may only have enough work to justify a part-time resource, or your events may be seasonal. Hiring a contract event manager can be a great way to make sure you get what you pay for, without excess overhead.

What — you have some doubts? Let us guess: “But will they do as good of a job?” “How hard will they work, if they’re not officially part of the company?”

Important questions, certainly. Of course you want to hire professionals who believe that “do good work” is a sufficient enough goal. But there are also some things you can do to ensure you get the most from your contractors:

1. Describe the job or project clearly

The easiest way to make sure your contractor does what needs to be done is … to tell them! The more worked out your SOW (scope of work) is — details, timelines, expectations, schedules, methods for feedback — the fewer surprises await in the future. The events industry is all about details. If you want someone to plan a fabulous experience for your event attendees, think about the experience that you are providing to them.

“But what if I’m hiring a contractor to solve a problem nobody in my company can solve? What if I’m hiring them to do something, but nobody’s quite sure what that something is yet?” you may ask.

The answer: it doesn’t matter. Be as specific as you can at the time and include something in your contract that stipulates that you’ll revise later, as the details of the project become more clear. Events have a lot of moving parts, and it is easy to underestimate the amount of work involved. A good event contractor will work with you to flesh out the scope and details of what is needed to create that memorable experience.

2. Throw contract workers some recognition

Employers often worry that contractors won’t feel invested enough in the company. Here’s a way to encourage them: recognize their work. When a contractor does something outstanding, send a recognition email to anyone affected, acknowledging the contractor’s good work exactly as you would do for an employee.  

This goes a long way towards making a contractor feel like part of the team. It also makes your full-time employees more aware of the contractor, and what they’re doing. Some contractors may be ultimately looking to be brought on as staff, and this can help advance the case to do so, if and when headcount opens – either in your direct organization, or a related group.

3. Maintain communication — positive and negative

Sure, you’ve got 20 full-time employees to manage, a boss breathing down your neck, and enough paperwork to fill up a suburban pool. No wonder you’ve forgotten to ping the contract workers to see what’s up.

Sound familiar? Well, losing track is an easy way to end up getting an end result that’s not what you wanted and/or paying money for work you don’t need. The fix is pretty easy, though it requires you to be organized: communicate!

Set up a regular schedule for checking in and/or submitting work. Keep to it! And be sure to tell the contractor if things aren’t quite right. Make sure the boat is pointed in the right direction; this will save you time and money later.

4. Find the pay structure that works best for your business

Depending on what you’re looking for, it’s sometimes worth trying out different pay structures if your company will allow this type of flexibility.  If you’re worried about the contractor taking too much time to get something done, you can pay by the project. Sometimes paying by the hour can be most cost-effective. If your contractor is more of a consultant, you might try a retainer model. You can even break a larger project up into smaller parts and set the pay structure for each part.

One thing that employers rarely do, but which can be very effective: give bonuses! If your contractor’s done great work, why not slip them a little extra, to cultivate some loyalty? Check out How to Harness Employee Competition for more motivational ideas! Either way, it’s worth trying out different models to see what works best.

5. Utilize all of the contractor’s skills

Often, we hire contract workers because they possess a specific skill. As a result, their job description is often quite narrow. This can lead you to miss out on the other ideas or assistance a contractor can contribute.

How to fix this? Ask for feedback! Encourage contractors to give you ideas about your company, or about the things they know best. Be open to their suggestions, and if they suggest other things they can do for you, think hard about them. Sometimes it’s useful to think of your contractor as a one-trick pony, but it’s always worth checking to see if there’s more they can bring.

Most event planners, whether contract or employee, are very organized and excellent at project management. They are also used to multi-tasking. Others may also very strong in marketing communications. If your marketing staff is stretched thin, maybe the contractor could also take on the work of scripting the email communications or web copy.

6. Deliver when you say you’ll deliver

You know what will discourage good contractors from working with you? Not delivering when you say you will. Late payments, zero feedback, going weeks without responding to emails: unless your contractor’s hard up for work, they’ll walk. You’d be less than happy if you hired someone to do a job and they didn’t do it, particularly when there are deadlines that need to be met.

Sometimes, we can be a little overly ambitious when it comes to deadlines. Where events are concerned, missing one deadline is likely to have a cascade effect. So whether you're the employer or contract worker, simply communicate where you stand so as to avoid an unpleasant surprise! 

In short, if you treat your event contractor the same way you would treat an employee, you’re likely to get the best results.


Editor's Note: This article is from the Clicktime blog. The post has been updated to make it more directly applicable to the corporate events industry. You can read the original here.

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