7 Warning Signs to Watch for When Working with Subcontractors
Subcontractors can make a world of difference when it comes to how quickly you can complete a project. But if a problem creeps in, the back and forth with a subcontractor can drag out a project.
Making sure that you work with reliable people, whether we’re talking about a subcontractor you work with normally or another freelancer you’re bringing in just for a particular project, is important.
After all, on a project subcontractors are helping you with, you’re ultimately responsible for their work, as well as your own. If anything goes wrong, you have to fix it or take the ding to your professional reputation.
There are certain warning signs that are worth looking for, to make sure that you have the best opportunity for a smooth project. If you see any of the signs listed below, it may be worth choosing another subcontractor.
- Your subcontractor takes forever to get back to you. Just how long is too long when you’re trying to complete a project depends on your timeline. But a slow response at the beginning stages of a project could mean very bad things if you’re not sure it won’t happen near deadline.
- Your subcontractor tries to argue with you about the scope, timeline or other details of the project. I’m not talking about the freelancer that says, ‘It would be nice to have an extra day on this part of the project.’ I’m talking about the subcontractor who tries to convince you you’re doing it all wrong and wants to change major facets of the project. There are all sorts of potential problems that can grow out of that sort of situation, but don’t be surprised if a particularly argumentative subcontractor goes over your head to your client at some point.
- Your subcontractor can’t easily answer questions about the parts of the project you need her to do. You may be bringing in a newer freelancer on some projects and that’s a problem, but if you’re talking about something like a web design project and your subcontractor isn’t using the jargon of the profession — terms like CSS or content management system — step back and check if she really has the experience you need.
- Your subcontractor is uncomfortable with your contract, invoicing system or any other details of how you run your freelance business. You’re essentially the client in this situation and you set the expectations. An argument over whose contract to use, for instance, can turn into a big deal very quickly.
- Your subcontractor can’t give you examples of other projects he’s worked on. It’s not uncommon for freelancers to take on fairly wide ranges of projects, as we all know. But your subcontractor should be able to show you examples of work and, if you want them, provide references from clients he’s worked with in the past.
- Your subcontractor mixes his professional work with his personal life. You may be working with a freelancer you consider to be a friend, but no matter your relationship the rest of the time, when you’re working on a project together, you need a subcontractor who is professional.
- Your due diligence turns up anything that makes you think twice. What? You don’t check out subcontractors, at least for little projects? Even just running a couple of searches for the freelancer in question’s name, along with maybe checking out what people say about her on social media, can save you a world of trouble in the long run.
For many freelancers, subcontracting is a big shift: we’re effectively taking on the role of client with another freelancer. A good general rule is that if you wouldn’t act in a certain way towards a client, you shouldn’t tolerate that behavior in a subcontractor. Since your reputation is on the line with your client with any project a subcontractor helps you with, there’s nothing wrong with being picky about who you work with.
Don’t be afraid to consider multiple subcontractors before choosing one for a big project. Even for small projects, make sure you’re dealing with someone who will do the work right.