What to know about working with subcontractors

As a freelancer, you’re bound to run into a project where you can’t do it all by yourself. At that point, you’ve usually got a couple of options. You can turn around and run or you can find somebody who’s able to help you out. In the business world those awesome people are known as subcontractors.

They’re a super valuable resource. They can help you get through large projects and open you up to new potential business opportunities.

However, it can be tough to ask for help the first time. It was for me, and I needed to remind myself there was no shame in asking for or needing help. As a matter of fact, everyone needs to do it from time to time. In my case, it ended up making my business grow even more. I was able to find subcontractors who not only were able to help me, but had projects I was able to help them on, too.

Even if you don’t need a subcontractor right now, it’s good to start reaching out and making contacts. I learned early on how difficult it is to meet one and then jump right into a gigantic project. There’s all sorts of unknowns, including how well (or not) you work together. By building a relationship before you need their help, you can determine how best to work together or, if you can’t work together at all. It’s no fun being midway through a project and realizing you can’t stand working with someone!

If you have the time, it’s worth finding a small and quick project to test things out with. It puts things to the test and, if it works out, you both know what to expect when a larger project comes along. You can iron out any problem areas and reasonably expect that you can work well together. On the flip side, if it didn’t work out, there’s no harm and no foul You can both move on your separate ways.

Before you get too excited and jump headfirst into work, its important to remember that you need a contract with any subcontractors you work with. Obviously, you should have one with your client. The beauty about a subcontract is that it likely will mirror that main one. However, it may go into more detail about deadlines, deliverables or even checkpoints along the way. And on the subject of checkpoints: they can be extremely valuable. It allows you to keep tabs on the progress of things and, if something isn’t to your clients standard, you can step in to get it on track again.

Pad some time between when your subcontractor delivers their work and when your client expects it, too. No matter how much you trust the people you work with, it’s good to give everything a once over and make sure you’re delivering what your client is expecting. 

Ideally, this is never an issue — you’re likely hiring someone at or around your skill level.

The last thing I enjoy about working with subcontractors, is that it can be a good way to push yourself too. It’s refreshing to see new ways of doing business or approaching projects. It’s very tempting as a freelancer to do everything ourselves. With a little help though, we can tackle larger projects and clients that we may not have been able to otherwise. Getting a team of people behind you that you can trust is a great way to get you to a new level of client work and even higher paying projects — which we can all agree is what we want at the end of the day.

Sign up for Finally Friday

Get weekly updates from me, as well as a free sample copy of my typeface Harvest Stout!

Daniel Nisbet will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing. You acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.