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Writing compliant job posts

Community Manager
Lena E Community Manager Member Since: Apr 7, 2015
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When writing a project description for an independent contractor, it’s easy to unknowingly make a compliance error that can get the company in trouble. Here’s how to write a compliant post that keeps the company safe, and helps you get your work done.

Anatomy of a project post

To remain compliant, try to avoid talking about the person who will do the work (e.g., “looking for an enthusiastic self-starter”). Only talk about the work you need done. Your project post should include three main parts:

  1. Project name: Clearly state what you need
  2. Description: Briefly describe the work to be done
  3. Project scope: Specify all deadlines, deliverables, plus project start and end dates

As you can see from the sample below, the post doesn’t need to be long. It just needs to provide enough detail to attract the right talent, and for them to submit an accurate proposal.




Freelancers and other independent contractors (ICs) operate like a business, but here’s where it can get tricky. Under current U.S. law, there are two types of classification: “employees,” who are subject to the control of their employer, and “independent contractors,” who are self-employed and run their own businesses. Misclassifying workers as ICs when they should be employees can lead to serious fines and penalties.

To decrease misclassification risk when you’re seeking an IC, your project description should never:

  • Describe the type of person you’re seeking; instead, only describe the work needed
  • Require a specific work location or work hours
  • Instruct how to do the work or specify processes or work methods
  • Prevent talent from delegating tasks to their subcontractors or employees
  • Require talent attend regular meetings

What’s more, you should never require ICs to perform work that’s not specified in an agreed-upon contract. As part of the investment in their business, ICs have expertise and the tools to perform their services. You should never provide tools, training, or equipment to do the work.

For U.S. workers, this at-a-glance chart shows the general differences between an independent contractor and an employee, which can vary based on the applicable law and circumstances:

Screen Shot 2020-04-27 at 3.55.32 PM.png

When to get help

If you have high demand for ICs, or you have longer-term projects, consider using a compliance service. In most cases, an outside compliance service is safer and often less expensive than handling classification in-house.


Be sure to choose a service that sweats the details. “If you use a compliance service, make sure it doesn’t take a once and done approach,” suggests Kim Owens, senior employment counsel at Upwork. “A compliance service should classify for every project, and do so for every location where you may engage talent.”

Partner with someone like the Upwork Compliance Solution, which handles everything and offers indemnification from risk. Then you can focus on your work without worrying about misclassification risk. Until then, follow these tips to writing effective and safe project descriptions.