What Is Contract Rate vs. Salary in the Workplace?

Have you ever wondered if you should hire a pool of contractors at an hourly rate or an employee with a base salary, or annual salary when you’re looking to build a team for your business?

Before you start interviewing candidates do know that there is a difference between a contract rate and a salary when it comes to the workplace.

For instance, contractors are sometimes called independent workers or freelancers while a full-time employee can be referred to as a salaried employee.

contract employee

Here are some other factors to look at when distinguishing between offering a contractor a position at a contract rate or someone a full-time salary.

This article is intended to assist business owners who want to understand how to classify workers and steer clear of any mishaps, or issues with labor laws.

What is a Contractor?

A contractor is a self-employed worker who operates independently on a contract basis. They are not an employee and run their entity, such as a sole proprietorship, limited liability company, or limited liability partnership. Organizations contract them out to work on specific projects or assignments, which can be either short- or long-term. A contractor can be employed by a company but is not considered an official employee. They can work for multiple companies simultaneously at said contracting jobs for so many hours per week.

Contractors aren’t full-time workers by any means and have more independence. However, they can offer in many cases a dash of entrepreneurial flair, and other fine skill sets whether it’s at a staffing agency or small business firm.

Payment, Taxation, and Benefits

One of the key distinctions between contractors and salaried employment personnel lies within their payment and taxation methods, as employees receive their wages or salary directly from the company and have taxes withheld, including federal income tax, Social Security tax, and Medicare tax. Also, employers often cover employee benefits which can include mandatory employment benefits, benefits packages such as health insurance, dental plans, and other desirable benefits, like as flexible spending accounts (FSAs), health reimbursement accounts (HRAs), health savings accounts (HSAs), paid vacation, commuter benefits, retirement plan, 401k matching, and stock options.

And, the organization or business pays contractors a fixed wage; contractors must also pay their own taxes and choose to buy their own benefits.


One of the biggest differences between a contractor and an employee pertains to their degree of autonomy.

Many people think the major difference between an independent contractor and an employee is how they are paid, it’s not.

In addition to compensation, independent contractors have more autonomy in their work than those with a salaried position.

The rule of thumb is that employees are hired to perform specific work under the direction of the employer, while independent contractors are usually assigned a job or project to work on without the company regulating the timing and methods of completion.

Onboarding and Training

Furthermore, the onboarding and training procedures vary between contractors and employees, with contractors being provided with project-specific information. Full-time employees need sufficient time to become acquainted with their team, company culture, and objectives.

Hiring Goals

The hiring goals for employees and contractors are also different and as such companies should recognize that contractors have a different mindset compared to full-time employees. Those who are contractors may find that their contractor role may be different. Why? They are constantly seeking new opportunities as they may be in a different financial position and/or may not have the same level of commitment to long-term goals.

True, businesses are constantly on the hunt for the type of contractor with unique expertise, valuing their skills and knowledge for particular projects or assignments, even if it means engaging them only for a short period.


When it comes to work, employees and contractors differ in the level of flexibility they have. While employees are bound to one company and must abide by its rules and responsibilities, business goals, and other business decisions within that company, contractors are free birds who can spread their wings and work on their terms. In a world of endless possibilities, a contractor holds the power to choose their path, whether it be a singular organization or a multitude of opportunities. It is not unusual for contract workers usually handle multiple clients at once.

Flexibility can be good or bad, depending on the type of work-life balance you want. Contractors can take time off whenever they want, but they won’t earn money during that time.

The distinctions between contractors and employees encompass factors such as compensation, taxation, benefits, independence, adaptability, proficiency, integration, and education.

Distinguishing Independent Contractors from Employees

When it comes to classifying workers, the IRS takes into account a variety of factors to determine whether they should be considered independent contractors or employees of a company.

These questions can assist in determining the classification of a worker:

Where and how is the work done? Is it done at the employer’s place or remotely by the independent contractor? Who sets the hours and provides the tools, the employer or the independent contractor? Is the worker required to complete company training? Is the worker doing full-time or temporary work? Is the worker paid hourly, weekly, or monthly? Or do they get paid once an entire project is complete?

In regards to travel expenses, companies typically reimburse their employees while independent contractors are responsible for covering their own travel costs. However, independent contractors often earn enough from their projects to compensate for these expenses.

Technically, the IRS has about 20 factors that it looks at in determining whether someone’s an employee or an independent contractor. However, the ones listed above are the most commonly used, experts state.

When deciding whether to categorize workers as employees or contractors, take into account factors such as the when, where, and how of their work, their payment structure, and the need for any specialized training provided by the company.

Consequences of Worker Misclassification

The fate of misclassification hangs in the balance, with consequences that range from a mere oversight to a deliberate act of deception.

According to experts, it is common for companies to be obligated to repay taxes, along with fines and penalties. These fines and penalties can be calculated based on the number of IRS Form W-2s that were not filed due to misclassification, as well as a percentage of wages for which the company failed to withhold the correct taxes.

In the most dire of circumstances, businesses may find themselves facing criminal consequences. Furthermore, an employee who has been wrongly classified could potentially be entitled to overtime compensation for any hours worked beyond the standard 40 per week. Moreover, if the employee successfully takes legal action against the company, they may also be awarded supplementary funds, including punitive damages or liquidated damages.

In addition to financial consequences, disputes may arise regarding ownership of the created work.

In essence, the business typically owns employees’ work but independent contractors’ work must be signed by the company in a separate contract.


An employee is compensated by a company for adhering to its policies and demonstrating loyalty, receiving wages and benefits in return.

A contractor is a self-employed individual who works independently and does not receive traditional employment benefits.

Misclassifying a worker can lead to disastrous financial and legal repercussions, including hefty back taxes, crippling fines, punishing penalties, and intense legal battles.

Opting for a contract worker instead of a full-time employee reduces costs associated with expenses such as health insurance, 401(k) matches, vacation time, and other benefits. However, it is important to be aware of the limitations and potential risks. Understanding the distinctions between contractors and employees and the implications of misclassifying workers is crucial before making any hiring decisions.

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Let Search Masters be your secret weapon for crafting irresistible job postings or looking for salaried employees or the perfect contractors. Whether it’s sifting through resumes with a fine-tooth comb or doing the interviews, we’ve got you covered.

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