5 Tips For Working With Contract Engineers


Hiring engineers on a freelance basis provides a number of benefits to solution providers, including payroll flexibility, the opportunity to take on jobs that require specific technical capabilities they may lack in-house, and the ability to provide services beyond their geographic scope. But employing freelance workers does have some risks.

Here are five ways solution providers can ensure success.

1. Carefully Vet Contract Engineer Candidates

A freelancer may be a temporary hire, but for the short time they are on a job they are representing your company. “Do I want to put my brand on the line with someone who is not an employee?” asked Steve Stark, president and founder of DigX Solutions, a startup solution provider in Groton, Mass., that plans to rely on contract engineers for some customer jobs.

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Online services such as Checkr, Instant Checkmate and Intelius provide background checks on prospective freelancers, everything from work history to criminal records. Technical certification claims, such as possessing the coveted Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE), should be checked with the certifying vendor or organization.

2. Provide A Detailed Job Description

The job description, or “Statement of Work,” is the road map that engineers working on contract jobs follow. It also sets the expectations that the employer has for the job in writing so as to minimize any confusion or discrepancies down the line. The job order should be as detailed as possible, providing step-by-step descriptions of the work to be performed, the location and time of the job, and a proposed hourly rate or fixed-rate fee.

Contract employers that create Statements of Work where the scope and requirements of a job are unclear can cause friction between the business and the freelance engineer.

Gerald Monks, a contract engineer in Joliet, Ill., who regularly takes on jobs through Field Engineer, notes that work orders issued through the Field Engineer platform even include a map with directions to job sites.

3. Communicate With Freelancers During The Work

Whether the contract engineer is working on a two-hour job or a lengthy multiweek project, employers need to maintain regular contact with the contract worker to make sure the work is progressing as expected and—perhaps more importantly—to provide assistance if problems crop up.

Some platforms, including the Field Engineer system, automate processes with task tracking, chat and other capabilities. With the Field Engineer service, “You have someone there to help you,” said Monks. With other services “you really don’t have any support. You have to Figure it out yourself.”

4. Develop Long-Term Relationships With Contract Engineers

This may seem counterintuitive given that the whole idea of hiring contract workers is to employ workers on a temporary basis. But often a company will need freelance workers on a recurring basis for similar jobs or jobs in the same geographic location. A contract engineer that has proven himself or herself in terms of technical skills, reliability and ability to work with customers is worth hanging onto.

While freelance workers might like the flexibility the Gig Economy provides, few enjoy the never-ending chore of Finding and securing new jobs. Providing a trusted contract engineer with steady work is a good way to build loyalty.

5. Pay Contract Workers Promptly

No one likes to wait for their money. Dragging your feet in submitting payments to freelancers will not only discourage those contract engineers from working with you ever again, it could give your company a reputation of being difficult or unpleasant to work with.

Some services that match employers and freelancers, including Field Engineer, automate the payment process to ensure contract workers get paid in a timely manner.