What can you ask of an Independent Contractor when it comes to schedules and deadlines and what’s off limits?
Answer: When it comes to working with Independent Contractors, there are many legal guidelines in place that govern the working relationship. For today’s purpose, I’ll touch on the two areas mentioned in the question above – schedules and deadlines.
Let’s start with the law, first. The IRS has established a general rule of thumb that states, “An individual is an Independent Contractor if the payor (the person paying for the services) has the right to control or direct only the result of the work – not what will be done or how it will be done.”
If the payor does not follow these guidelines and instead tries to control or dictate the work performed by the Independent Contractor, then the government may view the relationship as that of employer and employee. This means that the payor could become liable for paying employment taxes, insurance, benefits, and more (including back taxes and penalties) if audited.
Simply put, you can’t control an Independent Contractor’s
- schedule or what hours they perform the work, or
- how they perform the work.
Depending on how the Independent Contractor outlines her services, you may be able to hire her for a set number of hours per week or month. However, that’s at her discretion, not yours, and is based upon her business model, not necessarily your needs (although the two may align).You can’t control an Independent Contractor’s schedule or how he/she performs the work. Click To Tweet
You also cannot dictate when the Independent Contractor works on your project. If she wants to work on your project at 3:00am, then that’s up to her. As long as the work is completed by the agreed upon time, you can’t tell her when she should work on your project. Which leads me into the next topic – deadlines.
You can provide a deadline for your project and set that as a requirement for the scope of the project.
You may present your project requirements to an Independent Contractor and she may be willing and able to meet your expected deadline. However, you can’t force an Independent Contractor to accept your project or your deadline. In addition, you can’t enforce a deadline, unless the Independent Contractor has agreed to the project details and deadline beforehand.
I highly recommend that you have a service agreement or contract in place with all of your Independent Contractors that outlines the project scope and any deadlines. This will provide you with coverage and support you need in case the relationship takes a turn for the worse or the project isn’t completed on time.Working with an IC is like going to MD. They determine when & how they do the work - not you. Click To Tweet
Working with an Independent Contractor is like going to the doctor. You can tell the doctor that you need to have blood work done and that you want an annual physical. You can also tell the doctor that you’d like an appointment on or before May 31st. But you can’t control what hours the doctor’s office is open, how he performs the work, what tools he uses to do his job, or if he even has availability to see you prior to May 31st. You might have to find another doctor who can meet your needs. The same goes for working with an Independent Contractor.
- Listen in to my interview on the Legal Road Map Podcast with Autumn Witt Boyd, Episode 12: Hiring Contractors and Employees the Right Way for a more in-depth conversation on the many differences between hiring Independent Contractors and Employees.
- Grab your free worksheet, “Independent Contractors vs. Employees,” to help you determine which type of worker you should hire.
I hope this helps you establish a great (and legal) working relationship with all of your Independent Contractors now and in the future!