Too-independent Contractors

The problem with independent contracting in radiology.

Moving from my last employee position into my current gig as an independent contractor involved a lot of variables. Most of the details weren’t things I could control; I pretty much had to size up the entire situation and decide whether or not, as a whole, it was the right thing for me to do.

One of the things I probably would have opted out of, otherwise, was my new status as an independent contractor. Don’t get me wrong, there are positives to it, but for me the negatives outweighed them. For instance, yes, it was nice to be able to deduct more things from my taxes, and to have a much higher ceiling on how much I could, pre-tax, sock away for my retirement. However, that came at the cost of paying more taxes on the rest of my income, and having no benefits such as health insurance. Although, come to think of the plan that was offered at my last job, maybe the word “benefit” is a bit generous.

I’ve seen independent contractors in another light, too, especially in recent years, and it’s not been a favorable one. In particular, it’s been to the detriment of businesses with which I’ve worked (or tried to) when they got a little too free-handed in contracting out positions and departments that, in my estimation, they might have been better off keeping “in-house.”

Now, I’m not saying that employees are always gung-ho, yay-team loyal. All too often, companies, knowingly or not, maintain morale juuuuust above the level at which people would go find work somewhere else. Still, it is not unheard of for an employee to take pride in his job. It might be the job’s title, its responsibilities, or the number of rungs said employee has climbed on the ladder within the hierarchy. It might also be a hope of expectation of further growth within the organization.

For an independent contractor, there are fewer ways such a sense of loyalty might develop. Unless a given client is particularly easy to work for, or pays very generously, the contractor’s loyalty to him ends when the current contract is fulfilled, and vice versa. A contractor always has to be thinking about what his next gig(s) might be, and not uncommonly has more than one project going on at a time.

So, while an in-house techie is thoroughly committed to your computers chugging along without a hitch, and might expect himself to be working on them for the visible future, an outside tech support service might have half a dozen other clients that will get serviced before you do. Or, seeing a huge task impending with his contract expiring next week, might be more of a mind to “run down the clock” than to get cracking on it.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"56783","attributes":{"alt":"Radiology contracting","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_3863095538995","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"7140","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"height: 153px; width: 170px; border-width: 0px; border-style: solid; margin: 1px; float: right;","title":"©Ikon Grafix/","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

Most often, I’ve been disappointed by situations in which the contracting out pertains to stuff like sales and marketing. Having no personal connection to the goods or services they are supposed to be hyping and moving, they seem to lose focus and motivation easily. Maybe it’s because they always have their eyes on a bigger deal, or are taking on too many projects at once…but unreturned phone calls, forgotten details, and a general sense that the sales/marketers aren’t “hungry” are not positive influences on their performance.

The following scenario has happened to me more than once, as a potential customer: I approach a business, and communicate what I might want to buy from them. Employee A does a hand-off, introducing me to Contractor B who will handle my inquiry and potential transaction. I discuss details with B, but after one or two interactions B stops being so responsive, giving me half-answers or no reply at all. I re-contact A, only to find that B is no longer contracting with them…but Contractor C will be happy to help me.

C, of course, has no familiarity with me or my needs, so now, for a third time, I have to go over, in detail, what I’m seeking. That is, assuming I have any patience left to do so at this point. Certainly, by the time C flakes out or otherwise fumbles the ball, and A is finally willing to personally help me (or to introduce me to Employee D, who will theoretically do better), I’ll have lost all faith in the business, and probably never want to contact them again for anything else.