When You Need to Subcontract
Subcontracting can be useful for a freelancer: maybe a client wants a complete website and expects you to handle everything from design to content. If you’re primarily a web designer, you can subcontract the parts of the project dealing with content to a writer. You can wind up with some extra income from the project if you do it right. But how do you know just what is necessary to subcontract? Where do you find a subcontractor? How do you pay him?
Finding a Subcontractor
Most freelancers know a few other freelancers they’re comfortable handing projects off to, but what if all of your connections are booked or above the project’s budget? You may have to go looking for a subcontractor. A good starting point is typically the sites where you go to find work yourself, if you rely on job boards and the like. You’ll need a brief description of the project — think about what you would want to know before submitting samples of your work for a particular project — as well as some basic information, like how much the budget for the project offers.
Once you’ve posted a project on a site or two, you’ll start getting responses. Some will match your needs and some won’t. You’ll likely be able to filter out those responses that definitely won’t work, although narrowing the field to one specific freelancer you want to work with can be much harder. Take the time to ask questions and look at samples. Hopefully, if you knew that you would need to subcontract part of this project, you were able to include enough time to find a subcontractor in your schedule, as well as money to cover the time you’re spending on finding another freelancer.
Paying a Subcontractor
When you’re putting together an estimate for a project that will require you to subcontract certain project elements, it’s important to make sure that there is not only enough room in your budget to pay another freelancer but to cover your time and effort in managing that freelancer’s contributions to the project. You should have at least some profit for agreeing to take on something normally outside of the work you do.
In most subcontracting arrangements, the freelancer that you’ve brought in on the project will send you an invoice for his or her work. You’ll add that amount to the invoice you send to your client. When you receive your payment, you’ll turn around and pay your subcontractor out of the amount you’ve received. This can create a few problems if something goes wrong, unfortunately. Since you’re in the middle, if something happens that leads to a client not paying you, you can still be liable for paying your subcontractor. It’s important to make sure that you’re working with a client you can trust or take steps to protect yourself, such as making sure the initial deposit for a project is enough to cover your subcontractor’s fees.
It’s also useful to keep detailed records for any work that you subcontract. Not only should you ask for itemized invoices from any other freelancer you’re working for, but you also have an obligation to keep an eye on their work to ensure that your client is getting his money’s worth. In the event that something doesn’t work out, having good records can go a long way towards fixing most problems.
Making Sure Subcontracting Is Worth Your While
There are some projects that just have timelines or special requirements that mean one freelancer can’t do it on her own. Subcontracting is one way to get projects finished and turned into the client, but it’s worth taking a good look at the specific situation before subcontracting. Many clients do have resources that allow them to manage projects involving multiple freelancers and it may be better to let your clients do just that. It’s not always worthwhile to add management and subcontracting to your duties when you’re working on a difficult project or with a hard-to-satisfy client. Take a close look at the circumstances and then decide if the additional money you can charge is worth your time.