How to wind up a project with a contractor
July 10, 2018 11:15 AM   Subscribe

I've been unofficially managing a contractor (I am a contractor myself, hence unofficially) on a project for a couple of months. The project is unexpectedly effectively over, and I am struggling with how to communicate this to them, while also feeling them out for the next project down the line. Suggestions for wording the email? I have zero managerial experience or skills, and no idea what's appropriate. Specifics within!

We originally anticipated a gradual wind-down over the next 3 weeks. Over the course of those weeks there would have been a handful of assignments for this person and plenty of time to say, you know, FYI we're winding down by end of July. However, the powers that be decided we didn't have time for the wind-down and basically requested that we wrap up in about 3 days.* This decision was made during the July 4 holiday week, moreover, so the contractor in question was unavailable at the time.

So I feel kind of shitty, because I basically need to email saying sorry, there was supposed to be work but now surprise! there's not! Having been the recipient of several such emails over the years, I know how much it sucks, and how badly basically everyone has always handled it. So I would like to handle it not-terribly, if possible!

Relevant: one reason for the abrupt wind-up is that they want to start on a new project phase ASAP, and I would love to bring this contractor back on board once that's in motion. That said, I do not have enough info to say "...and this would start on X date." I can only ask whether they'd be interested, and give like the roughest possible time frame. Is this the appropriate time to sound them out?

Possibly relevant: I do have one last task I can give them, although I was planning on tackling it myself. So I can formulate this as, "here is a task if you are available; however, we're accelerating the wind-down and I don't anticipate anything else." But, you know, in a nice and not-a-robot way.

*Nobody's thrilled about this, but what can ya do.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is precisely why the "punchlist" exists. Create a punchlist.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:17 AM on July 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

It sounds like your superiors are calling the shots, so it seems fitting to say something like "hey, I'd love to give you work, but the bigwigs/fatcats downtown are calling the shots. Your work is great and I hope this snafu doesn't sour you on working with me/us."
posted by Dmenet at 11:21 AM on July 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh uh, sorry for the confusion. "Contractor" is just a legal term for a 1099 employee in this context; this is not in construction. There were no predetermined items to be completed by this individual, they were simply on board for tasks as needed/available.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:21 AM on July 10, 2018

Demenet's "piggy in the middle" strategy is the standard for this situation.
posted by rhizome at 11:30 AM on July 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Dear Contractor,
Unfortunately I've just learned the project is going to wrap up this Friday instead of the end of the month as originally planned. We're very pleased with the support you've provided and would love to work with you in the future on an additional project which we anticipate will begin later this year. I'll be in touch as soon as we know a more detailed timeline in hopes you are still available! In the meantime, I do have one remaining item on the current project that needs to be done. Can you help with this?
Thank you very much,
posted by something something at 11:33 AM on July 10, 2018 [10 favorites]

One point for clarification:

We originally anticipated a gradual wind-down over the next 3 weeks. Over the course of those weeks there would have been a handful of assignments for this person and plenty of time to say, you know, FYI we're winding down by end of July.

It's not clear from this if the contractor was expecting this to end at the end of the month, or if you were planning to tell them that now, before the bosses switched things up. If it's the former, it's a little easier, and something something's text is good. If they've been operating on the assumption that this would continue indefinitely, it's a lot harder and there may well be bad blood that you can't do too much about. In that case, I would try to have the conversation over the phone if possible.

I'm also a freelancer, and I would be mildly annoyed to have an engagement end a few weeks earlier than expected but not necessarily mad about it, especially if there was the possibility of more work down the line. But if I were expecting it to continue and then got just a few days' notice it was ending, I'd be frustrated.

BTW, you've probably thought about this, but does this person have an actual contract or Statement of Work? If so, make sure you take a look at it in case the company is on the hook to pay the contractor for more work.
posted by lunasol at 12:41 PM on July 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm a freelancer. I get these sorts of emails pretty regularly. The most important thing is that I know to stop as soon as possible, so I don't do work that will not be compensated by the client.

All you need to do is say:

"Hey XYZ,

Apparently the project is paused as of now. Do no more work and submit an invoice for unpaid work completed until today as soon as possible.

I've heard word a new project may be starting up. If so, I'll let you know."

No need to say "sorry" or whatever. Just need to make sure they know asap.
posted by JamesBay at 12:48 PM on July 10, 2018 [4 favorites]

Save any kind of, "I'm sorry, this really sucks - it's the powers that be's fault" type message for voice communication. E-mails have a tendency to get forwarded to people unexpectedly and the powers that be might not take kindly to it, no matter how accurate it might be.

If they're experienced contractors, they're used to it, it's just the nature of the work. That's part of what's supposed to be baked into their fees is covering for unexpected downtime.
posted by Candleman at 1:05 PM on July 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

Hey XX,

Great job on [RECENT TASK]. I hate to have to tell you this, but over the weekend the wind-down got wound down — instead of [X days], we're only going to have [X days] of work. Sorry about that, but it wasn't my call. I do have one last assignment, [brief description], and I'm working on putting together another project right now that I'd love to bring you along on. More details when I have them.
posted by klangklangston at 9:56 AM on July 11, 2018

« Older How to take a step back in a relationship (without...   |   Help me fix my life and marriage. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.