Always Give a Trial Period When Hiring Subcontractors

The Setup

You’ve decided take the plunge and outsource some work to a subcontractor. So, you ask a couple of colleagues for recommendations and they suggest Susie Sub. They say Susie is a hard worker with a variety of skills and she’ll do an excellent job for you.

So you contact Susie Sub and agree upon a rate for your client’s project, sign a contract and you hand over the specifications. You expect Susie to have her work finished by the next week because of the glowing recommendations.

The next day, you email Susie for an update, thinking she might have some questions. As the project manager, you want to give her support. By that night though, you hear nothing back from Susie and start feeling a little worried.

You’re thinking there’s probably a good explanation. You figure she’s probably working so hard on your project, she’s forgotten all about email. She’ll answer your email the next morning.

The Problem

Three days later and you’re anxiously trying to contact Susie. You’ve called her, emailed her, tried to reach her in every way possible and there’s still no response.

Another day goes by and the client is asking questions, wanting to know how the project is going and asking for a few changes to the original project. You still can’t reach Susie and your stress level goes up, so you start working on the project yourself. You’ll have to work as fast as you can through the next day and night but aren’t sure if you can complete it by the due date.

Finally Susie emails you. She’s been visiting her friend out of town and there was no Internet. She did work on your project though and it’s all complete, right on time. You go through it, and the work is excellent. But she caused her so much stress that you almost don’t care.

The Solution

The moral of this story:

When you outsource work to a subcontractor or multi-VAs, always give a probationary or trial period to test if they’re suited to work with you.

A trial run would have helped you discover that Susie has a habit of not communicating during a project, even though she does the work, does it well, and does it cheerfully.

This situation may be difficult to handle and you need to make a choice. Either you can handle Susie’s silence because of her excellent work, or you’re going to be so stressed out by the absence of communication during the project that you can’t possibly work with her.

A trial period can also bring out other problems:

1. Work isn’t finished on time.

2. Refusal to follow your instructions.

3. Negative attitudes.

The Lesson

You may not notice all the problems during a trail period, but you can take quick action to address those that do, and possibly save yourself some headaches.

During the time you’re testing your subcontractor, make sure you are paying her. You may go ahead and sign a contract, including a provision for the trial period.

After a trial period is over, mentor your subcontractor and offer constructive feedback. The reason your colleagues may not worry about Susie is they’ve worked with her for years and know she always comes through. It’s important to tell Susie or other virtual assistant team members that you expect communication throughout the project. They may be happy to oblige.

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