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As a freelancer, you might find yourself running out of time and energy to finish everything on your plate. You can only tackle so many projects, and you find yourself turning down legitimate work opportunities. Your revenue potential hits a ceiling because you’re already working all the hours you can.
But there’s a secret solution: hiring subcontractors to do some of your work for you.
In this arrangement, you hand off work to other freelancers while you remain the face of the project to clients. Subcontracting freelance work is the easiest way to free up time, make more money, and grow your business.
If you’re interested in venturing down this road, first consider these nine pro tips.
1. Subcontract work only when you’re making a profit
If you subcontract, you’ll need to share a considerable amount of what you’ve received from the client with your subcontractor. This is why it’s important to figure out which projects you can afford to subcontract.
You should be able to make enough profit to cover the time you spent finding the client and setting up the project, as well as the rates your subcontractors charge.
If your current pricing doesn’t provide enough profit margin to justify handing work over to other freelancers, it’s time to ask your clients for a price hike. If they say no, it might not be the right time to start subcontracting freelance work.
2. Create process documents to share with anyone you hire
If you’ve decided to subcontract freelance work, start by creating documentation for your future subcontractors. Write down what the projects will be, typical turnaround time, your budget, and any criteria you’ll use to measure whether the work was successful.
Create a step-by-step guide or walk-through assignment so your subcontractor is crystal clear on your expectations. Ideally, you can create a shared resource in Google Drive to share with new teammates you bring on.
Although laying out the groundwork takes time, remember you’re investing time upfront to save yourself time later. In the end, all this legwork will be worth the effort!
3. Choose the right job boards to find subcontractors
Subcontracting out work to friends, roommates, and coworkers is great, but in my opinion, it’s difficult to build a professional relationship with people you know on a personal level. You can also hand over work to fellow freelancers in your field as long as their rates aren’t far above your own.
If you don’t already know people in your network, I recommend using job boards to find subcontractors, such as Freelancer.com, Fiverr, or Upwork. If you’re building a team, you could also post the opportunity on a job board like Remote Bliss.
Finally, check out forums on Facebook or other social media sites to connect with subcontractors.
4. Give a test assignment before hiring
The best time to look for subcontractors is before you’re inundated with work. It takes time for professional relationships to develop, especially with new people.
Along with requesting samples of work, give a test assignment to three to four freelancers and see whether they deliver work in a timely manner, respond promptly, and follow guidelines.
Planning well in advance and trying out new freelancers will help you choose subcontractors for whom you can line up bigger gigs in in the future.
5. Have a contract in place to protect yourself legally
Before subcontracting freelance work, you must have a written agreement with your subcontractors. Even though the subcontractor might be completing certain tasks, it’s ultimately your reputation as a freelancer that’s at stake.
In this agreement, clearly define the deliverables, deadline, payment schedule, confidentiality terms, and the steps you’ll take if the work is turned in late, not at all, or doesn’t meet expectations.
If possible, consult a lawyer for help or buy a template online to guarantee all your ducks are in a row.
6. Create a team of subcontractors so you always have a backup
If you’re a freelancer, you should always have back-up plans, especially if you’re subcontracting freelance work. No matter how diligent you are, sometimes the best-laid plans go sideways. Your subcontractor could disappear mid-project, causing you to lose a client.
This is why it’s important to have a back-up writer, content editor, graphic designer, website developer, video editor, or whoever else in case things don’t work out with your first pick.
Here are some guidelines for developing a full subcontracting team:
- Build a core team of at five to six subcontractors as your go-to team to do last-minute work.
- Create a spreadsheet and group the freelancers as A, B, and C.
- Group A has your star performers.
- Those in Group B are good but not as solid as group A.
- Group C has the ones you go to when nothing else works out. Basically, they’re your last resort.
Along with lining up backup subcontractors, give yourself enough time so that unexpected events don’t leave you in a lurch. If your project is due on the 25th, for instance, tell your subcontractor it’s due on the 20th. This will give you wiggle room in case the work falls through.
7. Invest in project management tools to stay organized
Maintaining the same level of quality when you’re subcontracting freelance work can be a big challenge. As the main freelancer, you just can’t hand off work and forget about it.
You have to check in consistently to ensure your subcontractor is doing a good job. And review all the work before it gets submitted to the client because at the end of the day, your name is on the project.
Software tools such as Trello, Slack, Google Drive, Asana, Basecamp, and FreshBooks can help you manage your work. These tools let you oversee your team, communicate with them, and ensure things run smoothly for everyone.
At the same time, don’t fall into the trap of micro-managing. It won’t help your subcontractors perform, nor will it free up your time and energy (which is why you hired subcontractors in the first place).
Come up with a solid system of communication and accountability, but then trust your subcontractors to do their thing.
8. Maintain a healthy cash reserve for emergencies
When you’re subcontracting freelance work, you’re both employee and employer. But making sure everyone gets paid on time can be tough, especially if your primary client is slow to pay out.
One way to deal with this problem is to ask your clients for upfront payments or deposits. That way, you’ll get paid regularly and can pay your subcontractors consistently, too.
An old client who likes your work will understand you have payments to make, but a new client might see this as an unrealistic demand.
I highly recommend creating an emergency fund for uncertain situations like these. Set aside 10-20% of your income from each project and use it to pay your subcontractors even if your initial client hasn’t given you your paycheck yet.
9. Let your clients know if you’re subcontracting freelance work
In my experience, you should always tell your primary clients before subcontracting freelance work. If you’re going to outsource an assignment, I think your client deserves to know that.
Some clients will strictly say NO to subcontracting work, while others won’t mind as long as the task meets their standards and is delivered on time. The only way to know what your clients think is to ask them.
That said, too much transparency can be tricky here! If you say exactly who you’re subcontracting work to, your client might directly approach your subcontractor, thereby cutting their own costs.
That’s why it’s best to say that you and your team will handle the project. Reassure them that everyone on your team is experienced, and that regardless of who does the work, you’ll be overseeing everything.
Subcontracting freelance work can help you expand your business
Not only can subcontracting freelance work help you free up time and make more money, but it will also allow you to expand your freelancing business.
But for this arrangement to be a success, you must make sure to treat your subcontractors well, pay on time, reply to emails, share credit, and establish trust.
Being a freelancer yourself, you’re fully aware of what makes a good client. Now, it’s your opportunity to become one.
By maintaining a positive relationships with those who work for you, you’ll see your freelance business grow with the help of your talented, happy, and reliable team of subcontractors.
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