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  • Kristen Herring-Asleson

What Did You Say?

There's a difference between an employee and an independent contractor?



Contract workers are given a job, and it is up to them how they complete the work.


There was a point early in the 2000s when being the “knower and keeper” of knowledge was my forte. I liked knowing others would need to seek me out to ask questions in order to “be in the know” as well. That was pointed out to me at the time by a mentor, Jeff, whom I most likely looked at and said, “Nope, not me.” Shortly thereafter, I realized being the “knower” is awesome, but keeping the information to myself is not OK.

If you have knowledge, and others could benefit from the information stored in your brain, share it! Don’t get caught up in the delight of having someone have to seek you out and ask.


Occasionally, people will call and ask questions about this or that, but now it is because they know I love to help. No longer are the days when information was stored, kept and shared on a “need to know” basis.


This week, a fledgling, but growing, virtual assistant had a few questions in regard to going to a place of business and performing tasks on-site. This led to a discussion about the differences between an employee and an independent contractor.

If you are a business, you need to think about:

  • Do you intend to control what the worker does, how they do it, what hours they will work and where?

  • Will you offer benefits?

  • Will you dictate how the worker is paid, expenses are reimbursed, and who supplies the space and equipment?

If you answered yes to any, or all, of these questions, you need an employee.


On the flip side, there are items one needs to consider when looking to complete work as a contractor. For instance:


  • Will you be writing the contract, stating how the relationship will proceed, including permanency?

  • If the client needs you to sit at a desk, greet customers and answer the phones, then you would be considered an employee, not a contractor, as you would be in their space, using their equipment and following the hours the client requires. If you will be filing, and choose when you complete the task, that could be a contractor’s job.

  • Contractors get no benefits, such as insurance, a pension plan, vacation or sick pay.

If you remain a contractor, or freelancer, or 1099’d, then you are self-employed and will follow guidelines pertaining to a person who operates independently. Your projects and assignments, whether they be long- or short-term, will be explained by the organization who hires you to complete the work needed. Keep in mind, independent contractors write the contracts and can have contracts with multiple organizations simultaneously.


Although how one gets paid is a major difference, one must also consider the level of independence involved. An employee is handed a process manual and is trained how to do their job in a specific manner. Contractors, on the other hand, are given a job, project or assignment, and it is up to them how they complete the work and when.


For me, being a virtual assistant who is contracted by multiple organizations across the country, being self-employed fits me to a “T.” Most of my work gets done when kids are sleeping, and the house is quiet. Flexibility and autonomy are my “job satisfaction”.

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