The Future Church - A Church Communications Podcast
Church Media + Communications

E012 - Contractor and Client Communication Tips

James: On today's episode we're going to be talking about how to communicate between employer and contractor. And what are some some good expectations and some good tips in that communication process.

Joanna: Okay so I hire a lot of contractors to do all kinds of work. And I've learned over the years some best practices I guess you could say of how to communicate with them or how to make sure that we're on the same page. So some of that has to do with the tools that we use. Now with that said. James you're sitting here and you know that you and I have terrible etiquette when it comes to something it's like I'm literally texting you like on iMessage to talk about work projects. That isn't probably the best way the most professional way to get things done.

James: Especially at 10:00p.m. at night, the night before the projects due.

Joanna: So I think it's you know the nature of that we have a bit more of a friendly working relationship.

James: We are friends and not just just co-workers as well as we have years of history you know which really can play into it if you've known someone for four plus years and you've been working with you at that amount of time things definitely evolve and become more personal and more relaxed. But I think the number one thing when entering into a relationship like this would probably be to first set expectations especially as the employer. And it's good for me as the contractor to know what your expectation levels are like hey when we set a due date we expect everything to be done the week before and we expect you to respond within 24 hours of a message being sent because the last thing you want is for me to kind of if my if my comfort level is all I'll respond within a couple of days and you're sitting there you know hoping for a message back within the hour. We are going to run into the communication problems right off the hop regardless of what tools we're using. So I think especially when you're starting out with that relationship it's setting setting the boundaries. It's like any relationship like under both parties have to understand the expectations and the ability and the willingness of each each one another. And what you're going to kind of do as you're progressing forward.

Joanna: And even stuff like what are your working hours. Sometimes I'd like to know from a client not because I need to know all the details of it but what how many other projects are they working on right now. Not because I don't think they'll get ours done but because it gives me a better expectation of like I know that like a guy that I work with names Landon with graphic design I know that he's got a major project that he's working on this week that he has to deliver to a different client this small project we're working on that isn't very urgent. I know I'm probably not going to hear from this week for a couple days because he's got this other thing because we've talked back and forth and I understand that that's his reality versus like me being frustrated that I asked him a simple question and it took him two days to reply because I understand that he's working.

James: And that can change based on who you're hiring right? If you if you hire someone that is let's let's use graphic designers as an example because you just mentioned the guy that you work with that could that could vary based on. Is this their full time job. Are they full time graphic designing? Or is this someone who you've hired who is it's their side hustle? So they have a full time job maybe doing other work or graphic design at a company and then in the evenings they're doing contract work for people. And that's important for the contractor to communicate to you. And that's also important for you to ask at the onset of the project to know who am I dealing with. It's OK if this is your side hustle, I know it's not your full time thing because then that means we're probably gonna communicate a lot more in the evenings and less during regular work hours. Whereas if it's someone's full time job I think the expectation should be between nine and five and then it's probably personal or family time beyond that. So that can definitely change based on who you're hiring. And I think it's important for you as a communicator to know that I'm going to now have to put time in probably outside of regular hours in order to get this project done and now that'll be important for you to communicate to your boss to know that hey I'm going to be doing outside hours on this project.

Joanna: Well even thinking about people who work in a different time zone I for many years worked with a graphic designer who was three hours behind us. So on the West Coast in California and I'm on the East Coast, Toronto and so I was often working in evenings with her to finalize things to work on things or if I messaged her at 9:00a.m. my time like it's 6:00 in the morning for her. I Cannot expect her to have an answer to me at 6:00 in the morning.

James: So I think that's a good foundation to start from like you definitely need to start that because just like any relationship this needs to have expectations that are set and then then you know if you're outside the lines right then you know if something is going wrong because we've set this expectation and now the expectation was within 24 hours and now it's been 72 hours since you've responded we have a problem. And you can go back to that initial conversation say Hey we talked about this at the start and now we're kind of I'm starting to get a little worried we're falling outside of what we agreed on so it's important to kind of have that established. Now once you have that established then you've got to start talking about tools. And there are probably thousands of tools that people can imagine. There are just you know tools like email, texting or is it a shared you know Apple notes message or is it a Google Docs. Now Google Docs is probably really really great it's probably a winner for most people in that you can share it. Yeah it's free. It works across Windows and Mac different operating systems. You can have it on your phone. So Google Docs would probably a number one. You've also mentioned and you've used Basecamp in the past are you still using Basecamp?

Joanna: I went away from it for a little while and then I came back. I used Basecamp primarily as both for internal projects and then once I do with contractors it works it sets up to do lists you can have conversations around so you can upload files, download files, share deadlines. It works for me. Other tools people use or things like Trello or Asana.There are probably some others that are like less popular than that.

James: At the office here we use Google Docs a lot for a lot of things but even just for our daily tasks in the office here we use it like an app that's built in for Mac called WunderList. And it's really it's very basic you just make a thing and you can just tick it off when it's done. And we use that as our daily kind of like what we need to get accomplished today. And so that means that anytime I finish something in the office the other guys get a notification when they finish something whether it's regular hours or off hours. I get notification that's now being complete and it's just a nice quick and easy and free way to kind of keep track of very small little daily items but definitely Google Google Docs is a great way to track large projects and communicate and and work on scripts together and work on all kinds of different writing and even just scheduling really right.

Joanna: Like if you see for example you're not familiar with sharing Google Docs with other people right you can add a little comment box on the side you can assign tasks to people right in there you can see when you files are coming and going out of those folders that kind of stuff.

James: And so the next part of this I'm going to say this is gonna go out to all my fellow contractors out there. If you are a contractor you're being asked are you are asking hey pay me money for my work. I think the onus is on you to be the better communicator. Now that's not to say that like it's a free pass for people who are hiring you to not answer messages and not get back to you in a timely matter but if you're a contractor it is I think it is now you know it is now in your court all the time to make sure you are always meeting deadlines and always communicating well and always pushing it back towards a person is hiring. That's not that can be great for your business in the future if you are somewhere who is relied on. It builds trust but there I've heard too many horror stories from contractors who either don't answer messages on time don't finish projects well like if you sign up and you agree to do a project you should finish strong regardless of anything else maybe goes wrong with a project or it's not quite what you thought it would be or you're not even super proud of it let's say you need to finish strong and do a great job. You don't have to take the next job if you don't like working with a client. You don't have to take the next one but there's too many horror stories of people dropping the ball going MIA and just and just backing out because it's not what they wanted it.

Joanna: Yeah in an episode later this week we're and talk about when things don't go well and yeah I can share a few stories of like problems with contractors who don't communicate well but I mean it's also on us a clients to make sure that you know our expectations are appropriate reasonable. We've given them the information they need to succeed. And so for me my primary place to do that is with Basecamp and with e-mails. But yeah there's tons of tools we've just mentioned. So I hope people will go check those out online and we can put them in the show notes.