One of the biggest adjustments that every freelancer must acclimate to is working independently. There is no one whom you can call in sick to, trade shifts with or defer an escalated customer service issue to. You suddenly must wear all the hats and manage all the responsibilities. However, just because you’re working independently does not mean you have to work alone. As a freelancer, you can build a team of other freelancers whom you subcontract freelance work to which can prove highly profitable if managed effectively.
What does it mean to subcontract?
To subcontract means that you will be arranging for contracted work to be done by another individual or individuals. The practice of subcontracting can be both helpful and valuable to you as a freelancer, because it can enable you to complete large scale projects that you would not otherwise be able to tackle on your own.
How do I know when I am ready to subcontract freelance work?
There are two primary reasons that freelancers often subcontract work to other freelancers. One of the most common reasons is skill; it can allow you to take on projects that include tasks outside of your skill set. For example, if a client wants a complete website overhaul and you’re a graphic designer and developer, you can subcontract a writer to create all of the website copy.
The second good reason is the factor of time. If your schedule is packed full for weeks in advance, or you are forced to turn down good, profitable projects, it’s time for you to start looking for some help. (Congratulations to you on your thriving business; too much work is not a terrible problem to have.) Often-times when freelancers are completely booked, we find ourselves referring potential clients to other freelancers. If you find yourself in this situation, subcontracting may be a better option for you. It allows you to utilize another freelancer’s time and skills while actually making a profit. Rather than sequestering the job entirely, you function as a sort of professional middleman.
Additionally, don’t forget that subcontracting is simply a great way to network with others. One of the common pitfalls with freelancing is that people tend to feel isolated, perhaps even alienated, from the 9-to-5ers. So subcontracting is a good way to keep in touch with other self-employed individuals.
Should I let my client know I am subcontracting his or her freelance work?
In a word: yes. But you don’t necessarily have to use the word “subcontract.” You may wish to refer to your “team” or your “partners.” Make sure not to refer to them as your employees, however. Technically, a subcontracted individual is not your employee, just as you are not an employee of your clients.
Because you will of course, only subcontract freelance work to highly skilled professionals whom you trust, don’t be shy about sharing this information with your clients. For example, if you’re a photographer and a prospective client emails you to find out if you also offer a videography package, let the prospective client know that you have a team member who is a great videographer and you’ll contact him in regards to his availability.
If you’re ready to start regularly utilizing subcontractors, you might wish to add a statement on your website such as “I work with a team of the industry’s best freelancers…” or even include a small profile and link to the websites of freelancers to whom you regularly subcontract work. Oftentimes, a client won’t mind at all whether you are doing the work yourself or someone else is, as long as the work is done according to his or her specifications.
The manner in which subcontractors fit into your business most seamlessly is with new projects and new clients. With current or returning clients, you may wish to consider whether a subcontractor could really seamlessly take over the job. For example, if you have a repeat design client who loves your personal style and expects you to apply this to other jobs, this may not be a good opportunity to subcontract. Other examples may be ongoing projects that require consistency, such as long-term writing or editing projects.
How much work is required on my part?
It doesn’t take a lot of work on your behalf to hire a subcontractor. However, you must remember that you are functioning as the middleman, so it will take a little bit of time and effort on your behalf to communicate between the client and the subcontractor. Each time you subcontract work, you should make sure to:
- Only subcontract to people who are trustworthy and professional.
- Provide a contract that clearly defines your relationship with the subcontractor, and what he or she is expected to deliver.
- Adjust your rates accordingly. Ideally, you will pay the subcontractor for his or her work while keeping a portion of the total fee for yourself since you have functioned as the middleman.