What is the best way to address confidentiality when hiring Independent Contractors or Freelancers? I’ve had challenges with Independent Contractors sharing intellectual property on social media and distributing draft copies of patterns to their friends.
Answer: Confidentiality and protecting your intellectual property are big topics of concern in the creative business world. If you’re still unsure of what’s considered “intellectual property,” it’s the intangible stuff your mind creates, like ideas or concepts, and typically anything that you can apply for a patent, copyright, or trademark on.
You pour your heart, soul, and talents into creating these works of art just for them to be ripped off and shared without permission. Not cool, right?Be proactive in protecting your business & work when hiring Independent Contractors with 4 tips. Click To Tweet
Here are four ways you can be proactive in protecting your business and your work when hiring Independent Contractors or Freelancers.
- Talk about confidentiality in the hiring process.
You don’t start thinking about adding chocolate chips to the cookie batter when the cookies are already in the oven baking, right? So you shouldn’t start thinking about confidentiality and protecting your business when you’re in the midst of a bad situation with a Contractor. Here are two ways you can avoid this:
- When you start looking for help, try to get referrals and recommendations from trusted sources who’ve worked with the Contractor or Freelancer before.
- During the initial inquiry or interview process, discuss confidentiality and protecting intellectual property rights. Ask something like:
- Tell me about a time when you worked on a very confidential project. What did you do to protect the intellectual property of the company you were working with?
- Have an Independent Contractor Agreement in place.
You should have an Independent Contractor Agreement in place anytime you hire someone to work in your business. This protects both you and the Contractor while you work together.A good agreement will outline the services being provided, timelines/deadlines for projects, how payments will be handled, how to handle things if something happens outside of your/their control (otherwise known “Acts of God”), how to break the agreement, and sometimes, even a section on confidentiality.A formal Agreement will make sure that you’re both singing out of the same songbook. And any time you can set clear expectations up front, the better off you’ll be in the long run. Again, it’s about proactively protecting your business.If the Contractor doesn’t provide you with an Agreement, it’s a good idea to have a copy of your own to make sure you start the relationship off with some protection.
- Consider having a Non-Disclosure Agreement, too.
Another great tool to help you protect your business is the Non-Disclosure Agreement (a.k.a. Confidentiality Agreement). This can be used alongside the Independent Contractor Agreement and adds an extra layer of protection. It more clearly spells out the terms of your working relationship and what is expected of the Contractor of Freelancer.
- Cover confidentiality again during the onboarding process.
Once you decide to work with a Contractor or Freelancer, there will be a period of time where you’re getting the working relationship started and you’re onboarding them to your business and the project. This is another great time to chat about expectations around confidentiality.Simply reminding the Contractor that they’ll be handling private information that should not be shared in any way, shape, or form, will help to solidify those expectations once more.
If you set and discuss your expectations up front around confidentiality, and offer multiple touch points for addressing it like outlined above, there will be less chance for confusion or breaks in confidentiality later on.
And if the Contractor or Freelancer feels uncomfortable at any point in the process, they can choose to decline the project. Don’t take it personally – it may very well be a blessing in disguise!Set expectations around confidentiality early on to avoid confusion later. #smallbusiness Click To Tweet
- Review your hiring process.
- Do you ask trusted sources for referrals or recommendations for Contractors?
- Are you talking about and asking questions around confidentiality and intellectual property in the initial inquiry or interview process?
- Consider purchasing an Independent Contractor Agreement and/or Non-Disclosure (Confidentiality) Agreement.
I’m not an attorney and don’t write contracts and agreements, but I know some pretty amazing people who do!
- Make a note in your onboarding process to cover confidentiality with your newest Independent Contractors and Freelancers, so you don’t forget next time you hire.
I hope this helps you establish a great (and legal) working relationship with all of your Independent Contractors now and in the future!