You’ve decided to jump in head first and hire a subcontractor. So, you ask a couple of colleagues for recommendations and they suggest Susie Sub. They say Susie is a hard worker and she’ll do a wonderful job for you. She’s very talented.

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

The next day, you email Susie for an update, thinking she might have some questions and knowing that you need to be a supportive project manager. By that night though, you have heard nothing back from Susie.

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.

Except that’s not what happens. Three days later, you’re frantically trying to contact Susie. You’ve called her, emailed her, done everything short of hop a plane and fly out to her house to make sure she hasn’t been kidnapped.

Another day passes 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, so you start working on the project yourself. If you work straight through the next day and night, you might be able to meet the deadline.

And then Susie emails. She’s been off at her sister’s house, which has 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 you’re so worn out at this point, you almost don’t care.

The moral of this story:
Make sure you give your subcontractor a trial period before you give her any really important client work.

Had you put Susie through her paces first, you’d discovered that she 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 or may not be a deal breaker for you – either you can handle Susie’s silence because of her excellent work, or you’re going to be so stressed out by the lack of communication during the project that you can’t possibly work with her.

A trial period can also bring out other issues:

  1. Inability to do the requested work.
  2. Busting deadlines.
  3. Negative attitudes.

Some problems may not arise during the trial, but you can take quick action to address those that do, and possibly save yourself some headaches.

When you do run a trial period, make sure you are paying your subcontractor for her work. You may go ahead and sign a contract, including a provision for the trial period.

You’ll also want to be sure and give your subcontractor constructive feedback after the trial period is over. After all, Susie may have worked for your colleague for years, and the colleague never worries because Susie always comes through. If you ask Susie to be available for communication throughout the project, she may be more than happy to do so.

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