Sometimes when you own a business, especially a services business, the only way to meet a deadline and keep your clients happy is to outsource work and hire subcontractors.
According to Clutch, more than half of small businesses (52%) planned to outsource in 2019, which can reduce demands, accelerate projects, and if managed properly, increase profits.”
Unfortunately, outsourcing often gets a bad rap from high-end agencies and service providers who sell premium work and outsource it to unqualified (or underpaid) subcontractors who deliver subpar results.
Luckily, with the right approach and considerations you can successfully outsource and build mutually beneficial subcontractor relationships.
If you’re a freelancer looking to grow your business and expand into a small agency, or you’re a small agency that wants to expand, I have eight outsourcing tips that can help.
Eight Tips For Hiring Subcontractors
Over the years, I have done a fair amount of work as a contractor for other creative agencies and I have hired subcontractors to produce specialty work. In both roles—the person hiring a contractor and the person working as a contractor—I learned eight important lessons that have helped create positive, lucrative relationships.
These lessons are the difference between projects that flow smoothly and projects that struggle to get finished.
1. Vet Contractors Well
With social media, being present and visible often equates to being well known and internet famous. While these people are often looked at as leaders in their industries, being visible doesn’t always equate to quality work and high performance.
When hiring contractors, the first step is to vet them vet them very carefully:
- Review their portfolio and real work samples.
- Ask questions about previous projects, their role, challenges faced, and how the challenges were solved.
- Ask for references, speak with them, get first-hand feedback. Ask about their ability to meet deadlines and their communication style.
- Do a trial project to experience their work product first-hand. Provide clear instructions and see if they can listen and follow directions. Throw a wrench in the mix to test how they handle it. Evaluate their communication skills.
2. Prepare In Advance
The more prepared you are to onboard a contractor, the more successful they will be.
If you want subcontractors to excel, you need to have systems and processes in place to empower them, which means providing documented procedures and all of the assets needed to complete the project.
3. Detailed Scope Of Work
Every project needs to have a clear scope of work (SOW), but this becomes even more important when outsourcing work to a subcontractor. They haven’t spoken with your client, they don’t have the historical knowledge you do, and they may not have access to the client.
This means that often subcontractors are working from a SOW, so make sure to provide the exact deliverables outlined in the timeline specified.
4. Clear Instructions And Expectations
Make sure to provide clear instructions and expectations up front to subcontractors.
While it would be nice, no subcontractor can read your mind. That means you have to be upfront and crystal clear about the work, the deliverables, and the expectations. If possible, provide examples of similar projects you’d like quality to be equal to. Leave nothing up to chance.
5. Respect Their Time
It’s important to be clear yet realistic about the project schedule and deadline requirements. Project timelines can have a huge impact on project costs, especially if you’re expecting a subcontractor to work nights and/or weekends to finish a project on time.
You also need to make sure you have time built into your schedule to answer their questions, provide feedback, and manage them well. The “hurry up and wait” situation—where a subcontractor works quickly to meet a deadline only to be “blown off” because you’re too busy—creates unrest, and if done repeatedly, can cause resentment and damage a relationship.
6. Document Everything
As part of your working relationship, provide all subcontractors a shared folder (like those with Dropbox or Google Drive) where all completed and unfinished files and work product will live.
This ensures that at any time during the project, you can access the files and work completed to date by the subcontractor, which is incredibly helpful if they get sick, go on vacation, or ghost you.”
If the subcontractor is working on something locally and can’t work within the shared folder, set specific check-in deadlines, where they upload everything done to date. This will help prevent unfortunate client project delays that happen when subcontractors fail to deliver the final work product on time.
7. Be Proactive About Deadlines
You can help your subcontractors be successful and meet deadlines. The key is to check-in periodically throughout the project, set internal milestone deadlines along the way, and set the final deadlines earlier than you actually need them.
For example, if a client deadline is on Thursday, set the deadline for the subcontractor to provide the completed work on Monday. This gives you extra buffer to fix/address anything that may need to be tweaked before sending it to the client.
8. Provide Feedback And Praise
Say thank you, provide feedback, and praise your subcontractors on a job well done.
If you want your subcontractors to do great work and happily over-deliver, you have to make them feel valued and appreciated. You do that by letting them know they did a good job and saying thank you.
It has always amazed me at how many people hire a contractor, receive the final work product the contractor worked hard on, and never say thank you or a single kind word. Instead, they immediately point out something they don’t like or something they want changed. That type of behavior doesn’t inspire your subcontractors to go the extra mile for you.
The Most Important Thing To Understand About Working With Subcontractors
If there is only one thing you take away from this article, understand that a prosperous subcontractor relationship is a two-way street—it requires both parties to be equally respectful and committed to the success of the project.
If a subcontractor relationship isn’t working out, you can’t be afraid to have the tough conversation needed to assess fit, or part ways and move on if need be.
Remember, not every subcontractor you work with will be a perfect fit. It takes a few tries to find one you click with and love. So when you find a fabulous subcontractor, treasure them, make them feel like a rock star, and pay them well—because when you do, they’ll bend over backward for you with a smile on their face.