What Can You Do “Out of the Box”?

I’ve recently been reminded that sometimes, selling a service isn’t all that different from selling a physical product. When buying toys for Christmas morning, the three little words that strike terror into a parent’s heart are SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED.

When it comes to hiring help, the similar phrase SOME TRAINING REQUIRED causes equal dread.


Since I’m not looking for more involvement with the IRS, the last thing I want to do is to hire any “real” employees. I prefer to work with fellow freelancers. I’ll 1099 you… you can 1099 me. When I hire you, I won’t tell you when, where and how to complete the project and you do the same for me. That way, we can avoid W-4, W-2’s and any other W forms that might indicate a more significant relationship than we really have. That more “significant” relationship would mean that I have to pay federal withholding, FICA, Medicare, workman’s comp and the other delights associated with a formal “employer/employee” relationship.

I recently got an email from someone who used to work for a client of mine. She had heard I was busy and wondered if I needed help. After all, she’s eager to learn and I could easily TRAIN her to do what I needed done.

Let me get this straight… I’m busy doing work for people who are paying me money to perform certain services. You want me to teach you how to provide those services. I’m to invest my uncompensated time (which is currently filled performing services for people who PAY ME) into training you so I can then PAY you to do those services for me?

Not that I haven’t tripped lightly down that path a time or two or ten over the past 12 years. At one point, I was burning through sub contractors at an alarming rate. I am surprised how many self proclaimed freelancers I’ve hired who then expected to be trained to do the job they told me they could perform. Something I found even MORE alarming was the number of people who expected me to pay them on an hourly basis as they learned a new skill.

Asking an employer for training is something you can expect as an employee. As a freelancer, you had better come to me ready to work right out of the box with minimal supervision… just as the IRS requires.

As a business owner, you expect to train your employees to do a specific task which they will perform for you on a regular basis. When you hire someone to run the cash register, you don’t hire those people on an “as needed” basis.

“Jan! Hey, it’s me. I’ve got a customer here getting ready to check out. Can you run into the store and ring up this sale for me?”

That’s not how business supposed to work. (Although I have shopped at a couple of stores where that appeared to be the business model.)

I don’t need someone to run the register. I do sometimes need the services of other freelancers to help carry the load. That’s when I recognize the value of trustworthy contractors.