How to Hire Independent Contractors

For many small businesses, the most daunting aspect of hiring independent contractors is the paperwork; it can seem confusing and time-consuming. To make the process less intimidating, just think of it as saying hello, inviting someone in, and saying goodbye. With each of these steps, there’s a small amount of administration—but nothing you can’t handle, chief.

Later, SUCKAS!

Later, SUCKAS!

Hello: w9

A w9 provides a small—but legally necessary—amount of information about a contractor. The most vital information is the contractor’s name, mailing address, and tax ID number (often a social security number if it’s an individual rather than a corporation). They’re used to giving them out, so don’t hesitate to ask any potential contractor for a w9. If they need a blank one, tell them about this thing called the Internet. It’s wondrous.

Come On In: IC Contract

If you’re savvy, you’ll use a short-term contract (after all, you’re hiring a “contractor”) with each worker-for-hire you use. These contracts can vary, but brevity is important. An overly wordy contract can not only make you look paranoid, but it can also scare away people who would normally want to work with you. So keep it simple.

In this case, you’ll use an Independent Contractor Contract, or an “IC contract.” They’re also known as “work-for-hire contracts.” This paperwork just outlines what tasks will be done by whom, how compensation will be handled, and what is expected of each party. There are many good templates online, but don’t simply cut and paste. Take the time to review any IC contract you’re considering using, and cater it to apply to your particular scenario. Certain touchstones span across entire industries, and should be in every IC contract.

In addition to rate (how much compensation the contractor receives per hour, or day), your IC Contract should also specify that the hired contractor be the one doing the work rather than a stand-in. This way, if your contractor agrees to work for you during a period of time but gets a better offer elsewhere, he or she can’t simply send a substitute unless you specifically permit it.

Another caveat is confidentiality. Make sure that anything business-related that this person sees, hears, overhears, reads, or contributes is protected from being repeated or explained to outsiders.

Goodbye: 1099

Finally, after each year, you will need to have your accountant or payroll company issue a 1099 to every contractor to whom you paid more than six hundred dollars. 1099s must be sent out by January 31st, so it’s important that, each January, you give your accountant a 1099 report with enough notice that he or she can generate the 1099s and mail them in time.

A 1099 report is simply a list. The list contains the name of every contractor who was paid by you throughout the previous year. It also contains the contractor’s address (for mailing the 1099 report), tax ID number, and amount earned during said year. As mentioned before, you must only provide 1099s to contractors to whom you paid more than six hundred dollars. Remember, the 1099 should only list the amount paid for services or rentals; reimbursements (paying someone back for out-of-pocket expenses, including for mileage) do not count, and should not be included.

Finally, keep all of this paperwork secure. If it’s on a computer, password-protect it. If it’s in an email, delete it after you’ve gleaned the necessary information. If it’s in a file cabinet, make sure it stays locked. An identity thief could do a lot of damage with a w9, since it often lists a person’s social security number, name, and address.

With the “hello, come on in, and goodbye” approach, you can remain confident—not to mention legally compliant—while hiring contractors to do your bidding; like, say, finish that bronze statue of you.


Recently, I had the opportunity to concept and create some inspired imagery for our new website. These are just a few of my favorite images from that shoot. I wanted to capture her movement to give the imagery a weightless and graceful quality. If you haven’t seen the new site, check it out here. You should also check out more work from the talented photographer, Jon Kownacki. I’ll be sharing more soon!

models shots-587BW copy

models shots-607BW

models shots-610BW

models shots-720BW

models shots-725BW

Owning Your Own Business…and Trying to Take a Vacation

Let’s face it: after being ingrained in the nine-to-five grind five days per week, fifty weeks per year, it’s hard for anyone who has regular work responsibilities to truly get into “vacation mode.” Typically, you finally feel like you’re starting to unwind the day before your vacation ends. Owning a small business is stressful–sometimes VERY stressful. If you are a small business owner, you know it’s not easy to a) find the time for a vacation, and b) actually take, and fully enjoy, one. Just like everyone else, we small business owners need time away to recharge, experience quality family time, and just cut loose. But after the hard work establishing and maintaining a business, it’s difficult to break the habit of reaching for the iPhone, just wanting to take a peek at emails to make sure everything is alright back at the office.

When there was only one set of footprints, that was me running away.

When there was only one set of footprints, that was me running away.

So how do we do it? What is the way to “responsibly vacation” when you own your own business? Is there such a thing? After years at the helm, I am still trying to figure that out. Here are a couple of observations from my recent family trip, and a couple of ideas on how I hope to improve my approach when taking the next one.

Observation one: I am a worry wart, and a bit of a control freak, so I’ve allowed technology to sabotage my relaxation with nagging thoughts like “dare I look at my email?” “Should I check in?” “Am I a bad business owner and employer if I don’t look?”

I am fortunate to have a wonderful staff that is more than capable of handling things while I am away, yet I often insert myself into work situations by giving in and picking up the phone, checking emails, etc.

Idea one: Go somewhere where there is no cell service, completely isolated from the evil internet, allowing me to avoid falling into my own trap of insertion. Or use a second phone, without email set up, to which only the people who really need to reach me (family, one emergency contact at the office) have the number. And leave the work phone at home.

Observation two: I like to cross things off my list. Additionally, I don’t like the idea that a task is waiting on me for its completion. If you’re like me, you understand how it creates anxiety about returning to the office. Before you even leave for vacation, you’re already thinking of the things that won’t get done until you return.

Idea two: Plan vacation time around the pivotal points on current projects. Avoid sending out any invoices, estimates, or communications that may vie for for your attention while you’re away. Do your best to find a time to vacation that gives you a little break before and after your travel days.

Like I said, I am still learning how to have a guilt-free vacation. Next vacation, I’ll try my new ideas, track my progress, and keep you posted–but I’ll try not to dwell on it too much until I’m back in the office.

Attack of the Twelve-Pound Catalog

"Here's your hernia, ma'am."

“Here’s your hernia, ma’am.”

Anyone who has proclaimed print media “dead” must not be on the Restoration Hardware mailing list. If that’s the case, thank you. You’ve done your part for preserving both trees AND the overworked spines of UPS drivers across the country.

In May, at Vellum’s offices, we received a plastic-wrapped bundle of Restoration Hardware catalogs weighing seventeen pounds. SEVENTEEN POUNDS. Next month, at our homes, we received another bundle, but this one was a slimmed-down, eleven-to-twelve-pound, “fun size” version (you know, for households).

A local UPS driver, while catching his breath, told us that each driver, on average, delivers two hundred of these catalogs; and, while it can lead to some tasty overtime, it has put a temporary strain on his family life. According to this particular employee, UPS will have delivered 4.2 million of these catalogs by the time they’re finished.

While these catalog bundles (or “source books,” as Restoration Hardware calls them) make for great step stools and bludgeons, many consider them to be a space-hogging nuisance that, despite being made of some recycled paper, is also an unprecedented waste of resources. At Vellum, we frequently receive several redundant copies of catalogs (Crate & Barrel, I’m looking at you). But, unlike catalogs from Restoration Hardware, their combined weight coudn’t flatten a typical house pet.

Redundant Catalogs from Just Two Days in November

Redundant Catalogs from Just Two Days in November

The target audience for these RH catalogs seems to be “anyone who has ever ordered anything from us—or current resident.” I, for example, haven’t ordered anything from Restoration Hardware for at least three years, and I believe it was a few pencil holders when I did. Surely, the profit that RH garnered from said pencil holders pales in comparison to the production, and delivery, costs of their new source books.

Media outlets such as CBS This Morning and The Boston Globe have called attention to the behemoth books and the ensuing consumer woes, but these are solitary voices that were quickly lost in the crowded media landscape. In a brilliant public relations move, Restoration Hardware has long ago stopped using its Twitter feed, and it lacks an official Facebook page altogether; therefore, there is no central location at which consumers can meet to complain in unison. This could be one of the reasons that there hasn’t been a more centralized backlash.

According to, Restoration Hardware’s strategy started in 2011 when they sent out a large, three-pound catalog, which was met with consumer outcry…and then extremely high sales numbers. In 2013, the catalog weight doubled to six pounds, which again irked many consumers—yet, again, increased sales figures for the retailer. If the 2014 bundle leads to further increased sales, expect a delivery in 2015 weighing somewhere around two hundred and eleven pounds, give or take. Find a good chiropractor now. In fact, maybe your UPS driver can recommend one.




Recently photographed for Simmons Bedding Company: their newest product, ComforPedic iQ.

for Vellum: Jon Kownacki, Photographer; Kristen Luther, Creative Director; Katie Hunt, Prop Stylist; Jabe Mabrey, Wardrobe Stylist; Stephen Mancuso, Hair & Makeup

Haute and Happy Hue: Purple Orchid

With the year of Emerald Green in the rearview mirror, we now enter a new year with a Haute hue that exudes happiness: Radiant Orchid. The green of last year symbolized both growth and stability, as we were moving forward cautiously. Conversely, Pantone’s 2014 color, Radiant Orchid, is dramatic, rich, and seductive; the next, vibrant step from the dependable blue that we saw everywhere through last year. Radiant Orchid is a harmony of hot and cool (red and blue) and is not a purple we have seen in the past. This new hue is neither lavender, nor violet, nor lilac; it is an obscure mix with undertones of fuchsia and magenta. This shade of purple evokes a sense of originality and creativity, and is versatile when being used in small doses and specific designs. Radiant Orchard can be used in all types of applications, including make-up, fashion, packaging, product design, and interiors. See our mood board below, inspired by this new, whimsical color.