Five Warning Signs You Shouldn’t Trust An IT Contractor

IT ContractorWhether you need some coding work done or some hardware installed, there’s a good chance you might eventually need to bring in some outside talent. This is especially true if you’re running a smaller organization in which there may be significant skill gaps – one of your largest hurdles to growth. With that in mind, you need to be careful who you bring in.

In the same way that a good contractor can work wonders for your organization, a bad contractor can leave you regretting ever pulling out a contract. You rely on your IT infrastructure – both hardware and software – for just about everything. You don’t want to risk someone botching a job in that regard.

To that end, you need to teach yourself to recognize the warning signs that a contractor’s a dud. By knowing what to look for, you can ensure you only bring in people who know what they’re doing. Let’s talk about that.

They’re Bad At Keeping In Touch

You can tell a lot about how someone will work based on how they communicate. People who are organized and on top of their job will be quick to respond to client emails, open about their rates and experience, and timely with their work. By that same vein, when a contractor seems to struggle with communication, it could be indicative that something else is going on beneath the surface – something that should make you concerned about hiring them.

“Your resume and experience might be enough to get you the gig, but how you communicate will be the number one factor in whether or not you keep it,” reads a freelancing advice column on Mackenzie Wilson. “I can’t stress this enough: freelance doesn’t mean free-to-reply-whenever-you-want. If you take a job, no matter how big or small, be available — no news, is not good news to someone who is paying you to complete a task. It’s easy as a freelancer to get on your high horse and feel as though you don’t owe anyone, anything, but you do. You owe them the common courtesy of letting them know where you’re at with a project, don’t make them ask. Be honest and upfront, especially when things aren’t going right.”

They Want To Work Under The Table

Does a prospective contractor insist you work off-the-record? Do they immediately request that you pay in cash or some similarly-untraceable medium? These are two things that should be deal-breaker straight out the door.

If a contractor wants to be paid in cash, they’re either trying to avoid taxes or trying to avoid leaving a paper trail. Either way, the quality of their work will be suspect. That’s doubly true if they try to insist that they work on an oral contract (or no contract at all).

A contractor that’s worth your time will be amenable to working within a set of rules.

They’re Vague

Does it seem like the freelancer you’re talking to might not know what they’re talking about? Are they flighty about exactly what they’ll be doing for you and how they’ll be doing it?

Ideally, your contractor should be willing to discuss the following:

  • Their former clients. What work did they do for them? Were they satisfied with that work?
  • Current projects, if any. What are they working on? How do those projects relate to what you’re hiring them to do?
  • A detailed cost estimate. This estimate should factor everything about the work they’ll be doing for you – complexity, repeat costs, different steps in the process, and so on.

They’re Overly Pushy

The moment you start feeling like you’re talking to a used car salesman is the moment you should walk away from negotiations with a client. Anyone who uses high-pressure sales tactics, overtly badmouths their competitors or tries for scare tactics isn’t someone you want to work with.

A good contractor knows that they can stand on their own merits. They don’t need to rely on underhanded tactics to pull in clients. They can bring people in on their own.

There’s Just Something Off About Them

Last but certainly not least, trust your gut. If there’s something you don’t like about a particular contractor, but you can’t quite put your finger on what, talk to your colleagues and employees about it. There’s a good chance that at least a few of them got the same feeling.

And there’s a good chance that feeling has roots in fact.

“Trusting your gut is trusting the collection of all your subconscious experiences,” says Professor Melody Wilding, speaking to Fast Company. “Your gut is this collection of heuristic shortcuts. It’s this unconscious-conscious learned experience center that you can draw on from your years of being alive. It holds insights that aren’t immediately available to your conscious mind right now, but they’re all things that you’ve learned and felt. In the moment, we might not be readily able to access specific information, but our gut has it at the ready.”

Closing Thoughts

Your business’s IT infrastructure is critical to its success. You can’t allow just anyone to muddle about in it. By learning to recognize the red flags of a bad contractor, you can ensure that you hire only the best.

Matthew Davis is a technical writer and Linux geek for Future Hosting.

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