Help! My self-employed contractor isn't as good as I expected!

Loads of small businesses hire self-employed contractors or freelancers. Usually because they need specific expertise that they don’t have in-house. For example, web design or language translation.

It’s a great way to tap into external talent, without having the overheads or commitment that comes with hiring an employee. And what’s more, there are over two million freelancers in the UK to choose from!

But, when you’re unhappy with the service you’re paying for, it can be incredibly irritating 😡 

I FEEL YOUR FREELANCE FRUSTRATIONS

A self-employed contractor or freelancer is never gonna be your BFF. You might not even get to meet them in the flesh 

Remember that:

🙅 You probably won’t be their only client.

🙅 You can’t always dictate the hours they work.

🙅 You can’t always control when they’re available.

All this flexibility on their part, can sometimes be frustrating for you, right? Even though you knew this when you started using their services.

And it’s these challenges, combined with quality of work issues, that can often prompt small business owners to cut their losses.

ARE YOU THE PROBLEM?

Before doing anything, it’s worth asking yourself if you’re the problem.

Are you properly describing WHAT you want and WHEN you want it by? In other words, providing a proper brief 📑

Are you making sure you’re using their specific skills, as opposed to treating them as an extra pair of hands for other stuff you need doing? 👐

I see and hear business leaders getting annoyed with the service they’re getting from their self-employed contractor or freelancer. But when I dig deeper, it’s sometimes because they’ve shifted the goal posts over time. Or, they’re not being clear about their requirements.

For example, I spoke to one business owner who was using his freelance Virtual Assistant (VA) to create marketing collateral. His VA had agreed to this. Mainly because she wanted to keep him happy. And of course, she wasn’t going to turn away billable hours, was she? But, was she the right person for the job? No!

BE UPFRONT AND HONEST

If you’re unhappy with the service you’re getting from your self-employed contractor or freelancer, tell them! 💬

It’s easier said than done, I know. You’re probably a nice person, they’re probably a nice person. It can all feel a bit awkward.

But at the end of the day, you’re paying for a service. And, if you’re not getting what you want, be honest. Then, either walk away, or give them one more chance if you feel like they’re worth holding onto (or if you feel like you’re a bit to blame 😳)

When you’re providing feedback, be factual about it, by using SPECIFIC examples to make your point.

Any self-employed contractor or freelancer worth their salt, will discount the services you’re dissatisfied with.

END THE RELATIONSHIP IN A FORMAL WAY

If you’ve decided it’s time to part company, do it in a formal way. Just because they’re not an employee, doesn’t mean you should skip the formalities.

Here are my tips:

✅ If there’s a contract between you, check what’s in it. This will determine things like how much notice you need to give them. If a contract doesn’t exist, the notice period should allow for a decent handover.

✅ Tell the person over the phone, or face to face. It’s better than them finding out via a text or WhatsApp message.

✅ Follow it up with a termination letter (even if you don’t have a contract). This will protect you from any negative repercussions that could crop up in the future.

For example, I’ve come across contractors claiming they weren’t told an agreement had ended, leaving the small business owner with an unexpected invoice to settle.

Visit my online shop and pick up a LETTER TO TERMINATE (END) A CONTRACTOR AGREEMENT for just £9.95. That’s a complete steal for the protection it’ll give you 🔐

NEVER CROSS THE LINE

Employees and self-employed contractors shouldn’t be treated in the same way. This is so important. But, if you fail to recognise this, you could find yourself in legal hot water 🔥

It all boils down to two things: employment status and tax implications. In other words, a person’s employment status defines the benefits they get, and the tax you both have to pay. If you muddle those up, you could be in trouble with HMRC 😱

Employees have more rights. For example, some get redundancy pay. So, if you hire a self-employed contractor, but treat them like an employee, they could demand the same rights as an employee.

For more detail on the pros and cons of employees versus contractors, check out my blog.

A TRUE STORY TO PROVE MY POINT

Mindy (not Mandy!) ran an online business and hired a lady called Jane, who was a self-employed contractor.

When Mindy closed her business – due to personal reasons – she gave Jane one week’s notice.

Jane took this very badly and demanded redundancy pay. Mindy explained she wasn’t entitled to this, because Jane was a self-employed contractor.

Jane wasn’t happy and took Mindy to an employment tribunal. Her argument was that Mindy had treated Jane like an employee, and therefore she should have the same rights as an employee.

To cut a long story short, Jane won her case. And Mindy had to fork out 💷 for Jane’s redundancy payment.

⚠This situation could have been avoided, if Mindy had known a bit more about the difference between an employee and a self-employed contractor.

To read more, real-life HR nightmares 😱 download my FREE HR guide. It’ll help you to avoid making the mistakes that could get you sued or fined.

TO SUM THINGS UP THEN

👥 Self-employed contractors or freelancers, are very useful to small businesses who need specific expertise.

😡 But, when they don’t deliver for you, it can be very frustrating.

🤔 Like every situation in life, it’s always worth putting yourself in their shoes. Perhaps you’re the problem?

💬 Giving feedback is the best place to start if you feel like they’re worth holding onto.

📑 However, when the time comes to end the relationship, don’t skip the formalities.

❌ And, never cross the line and treat them like an employee. Otherwise, they could claim the same rights as an employee!

Mandy Hamerla

Mandy Hamerla​


Virtual HR Director & Leadership Mentor. I create game-changing HR & Hiring Strategies for ambitious small businesses in the UK and support you to lead your team with confidence. Check out my shop to download HR Templates & Contracts designed to make life easier. 

​www.modernhr.co.uk