Part time employees vs contractors: Which is right for you?

  • Tips for Hiring
Contra Tips
· 10 min read

Picking between part time employees and independent contractors is a big decision for any business. Consider what sets them apart and how they could fit into your team. We'll cover the basics of part time work and what contracting involves, aiming to help you make the best choice for your business's needs.

We offer straightforward guidance if you're looking to cut expenses, add some flexibility, or grasp the complete picture of each hiring path. Choosing the ideal team member is vital; we're here to simplify that decision.

Understanding part time employees

  • Part time employees defined: These individuals clock in for fewer hours than their full time employees. This setup is ideal for tasks or busy seasons where you don't need full time coverage but require skilled help.
  • Legal side of part time work: Part time workers are protected under employment law, entitled to fair wages and sometimes benefits, depending on their working hours. Keeping up with these details ensures your business stays compliant and maintains a happy workforce.

Why go part time for your business?

  • Economical choice: Choosing part time staff can lead to more efficient payroll management. You avoid the extensive costs of full time benefits and salaries, allowing for smarter financial planning.
  • Flexible scaling: The ability to adjust your team size as needed gives your business the flexibility to respond to varying demands, whether handling a sudden uptick in work or a short-term project, without the overhead of permanent full time employees.

Opting for part time assistance is a savvy strategy, combining valuable expertise with the adaptability to manage changing business requirements smoothly.

Understanding the independent contractor role

  • What independent contractor employment entails: Independent contractors self employ themselves and are the go-to professionals for specific, often short-term projects, operating independently from the traditional employee framework. They offer their services across various businesses, bringing specialized skills for targeted needs without the ongoing commitment of full time staff.
  • Navigating independent contractor rights and responsibilities: There's a fine line between independent contractors and employees, especially regarding legalities. Independent contractors manage their business aspects, like self employment tax and insurance, which contrasts with full time employee benefits. Knowing these differences is vital to avoid misclassification and potential fines.
  • The effect of independent contractors on your business: Bringing an independent contractor into your team can offer a fresh perspective and specialized expertise, crucial for project-specific or seasonal demands. This setup enhances project flexibility and keeps your business agile, ready to adapt to new challenges without the heavier commitments of expanding your permanent staff.

By carefully considering when and how to integrate independent contractors, you position your business to tap into a flexible, highly skilled workforce that aligns with your operational needs and project goals while navigating the legal landscape confidently.

Part time employees vs. independent contractors

When you might lean towards part time employees

Think about the rhythm of your business. Is there a predictable pattern of busy and slow times? Here's when part time folks could be your best bet:

  • Consistent, not constant, need: You may have tasks that need doing week in and week out, but not enough to justify a full timer. Part time employees can step in here, offering regular support that flexes with your needs. Don't forget about the employee relationship value and not having to train someone new each time you need hourly workers.
  • Navigating peak periods: Consider the holiday frenzy work hour in Q4 or the busy stretch leading up to tax deadlines for accounting firms. During such times, part time staff instead of a contract worker can be crucial in managing the surge in tasks, helping you tackle the increased demand efficiently without straining your team or budget.
  • Economical hiring: When the budget is limited in your small business, but the demand for work remains, bringing on part time employees can be brilliant. They contribute to your team's capacity without the added expenses of full time benefits and salaries.

Why independent contractors could be your go-to:

Sometimes, the project in front of you is so specialized or temporary that to hire employees or even part time employees doesn't make sense. Here's why:

  • Project-specific skills: Do you need a website overhaul on the horizon or need someone to set up a new IT system? A contract employee with the right chops can come in, get the job done, and move on.
  • Clear start and end dates: Launching a new product? Contract workers can sign an independent contractor agreement and bring in the firepower for the push, then step back once it's out the door.
  • Maintaining agility: Startups and businesses aiming for flexibility hire contractors and find it to be invaluable. They bring specialized expertise without permanently increasing your team size, keeping your operations streamlined.
  • Benefits: You do not need to worry about the IRS fees, FICA tax, Medicare tax, worker compensation, payroll, and more with a contract worker. The contract employee may charge a little more, but will handle all of details themselves.

Choosing between part time staff and independent contractors goes beyond simply addressing immediate needs—strategically aligning with your business's operational demands, budgetary constraints, and growth objectives. By carefully selecting the correct type of support for specific tasks, you position your business for smoother, more productive workflows.

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Weighing the financial side: part time employees vs. independent contractors

When deciding to add to your team, there's much to consider, particularly in areas demanding high skill levels, such as software development.

  • For part time pros: They clock in fewer hours, which might mean a smaller hourly wage bill than full timers, but remember those pesky payroll taxes and any benefits you choose to offer. Even if they're working less, these extras can accumulate. Keep in mind you have to think about employment tax and unemployment tax that occurs when you hire employees.
  • Independent contractor costs: They might seem pricier at first glance because of their higher hourly rates. They're covering their bases—think self employment taxes and health insurance. But here's the twist: You're off the hook for the additional benefits and long-term commitments, making them a smart pick for project-specific or peak-season needs. Make sure you have an independent contractor agreement in place.

Benefits beyond dollars and cents

It's not all about the budget. The value each group brings to your projects and team dynamic is just as crucial.

  • Independent contractor know-how: Need an expert in a niche area for a short stint in your small business? Independent contractors are your go-to. They jump in with their specialized skills, tackle the project, accept compensation, and head off to their next gig. This approach can dramatically shift the outcome for projects requiring specialized skills or additional support when deadlines loom.
  • The value of part time contributions: The enduring presence of part time employees, even on a less than full time employment, brings a unique advantage. They become well-acquainted with your business operations and work schedule. They can integrate seamlessly with the rest of your team, creating employment benefit and offering a consistency and familiarity that temporary assistance can't match.

Ultimately, finding the perfect equilibrium tailored to your immediate objectives and long-term vision is critical. In sum, it's about striking the right balance for your current needs and plans. Whether it's the adaptability of independent contractors or the steady support from part time staff, choosing with a clear understanding of both cost implications and the unique advantages they offer can set your projects on the path to success.


Navigating legal waters in hiring: part time employees vs. independent contractors

Understanding the legal landscape is paramount when navigating between part time employees and contractors, choices that significantly affect both workflow and labor law compliance.

Distinguishing part time employees from independent contractors

  • Employee vs. Independent contractor distinction: Recognizing the difference between employees and independent contractors is essential for tax obligations and legal clarity in a small business or any business. The IRS issues guidelines that clarify this distinction, focusing on how much control an employer exerts over the worker and how independently the worker operates.
  • Contract work vs. employee tasks: Knowing what constitutes contract jobs is vital to this differentiation. These roles are usually for specific projects, offering more flexibility and autonomy than the structured environment typical for full time employees.
  • Full time employee vs. Hire contractor employee: Choosing whether to hire full time staff or independent contractors requires carefully assessing your needs within the legal frameworks provided. Each option carries its own set of responsibilities concerning employment taxes and benefits.

Reducing legal risks in employment decisions

  • Ensuring compliance: Avoiding the complications of worker misclassification begins with a clear understanding of the differences between independent contractors and employees. Wrongly categorizing a full time employee as a independent contractor might lead to substantial fines and IRS legal challenges.
  • Best practices in recruitment: For hiring, whether you're looking at a part time contract or a more permanent contract role, drafting detailed contracts and consistently ensuring accurate worker classification are essential steps. Utilizing platforms like Contra can assist in this process, offering a streamlined way to connect with professionals while aiding in compliance with classification standards.
  • Understanding benefits and tax responsibilities: It's vital to navigate the distinctions between hiring independent contractors and employing staff, particularly in payroll taxes, worker's compensation, and unemployment benefits. Independent contractors handle their tax commitments, a clear divergence from the benefits that may be extended to part time and full time employees through your company.


Making savvy hiring decisions hinges on a solid comprehension of the legal landscape affecting part time personnel and independent contractors. Utilizing platforms like Contra can streamline this process, offering a centralized way to connect with and manage independent contractors while ensuring compliance with IRS and employment law. This strategic approach aids in maintaining an efficient and compliant workforce, ensuring your business's operations proceed without a hitch.


Enhancing business agility and expansion through thoughtful hiring

Selecting the optimal hiring choices, be they part time employees or independent contractors, is crucial for matching your business's objectives and encouraging development. It extends beyond merely addressing immediate needs; choosing the option most effectively complements your strategic goals and operational demands.

  • Tailoring hiring to your business goals: Opting between part time staff and independent contractors is strategic. Independent contractors bring unparalleled adaptability and niche expertise, ideal for specific projects or scaling quickly in response to project demands. Meanwhile, part time employees contribute a steady presence and grow alongside your business, offering a blend of reliability, employment benefit and commitment crucial for building a cohesive team.
  • Leveraging flexible hiring for business evolution: The agility offered by engaging with contract workers and hiring part time staff allows your business to respond to fluctuating market needs efficiently. This strategic flexibility is invaluable, enabling you to adjust your workforce and payroll based on current business volumes and opportunities without the long-term overheads of full time employment.

Integrating independent contractors and part time roles into your staffing strategy is not just about addressing immediate needs but about planning for future growth. By evaluating the advantages of each hiring option in the context of your business objectives, you position your company for sustained success and resilience in a competitive marketplace.

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