SubcontractingHave you already turned away clients because your calendar is full, sent them to a competitor or tried to meet their needs with disastrous results. It’s happened to the best of us, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with too much work and not enough time. There is a better way.

As a successful home-based service provider you will soon realize, if you haven’t already, there are not enough hours in the day for all the projects you could be working on. You also may have discovered that you don’t have the skills necessary to complete every task your clients – or potential clients – need.

Hiring subcontractors with a complementary skill set can help you expand your services. For example, if you specialize in writing blog posts for your clients, you could hire a web design subcontractor to help those same clients set up new sites or change the design of existing ones. This way, the client can continue to work with you, the trusted VA, and you can meet more of the client’s needs. Alternatively, you can subcontract out to someone who does the same work as you, which is as close as you’ll get to cloning yourself and will allow you to take on more of the same work.

You definitely can’t grow your business alone. If you’re working alone and you can’t outsource projects to others then all you have is a job. If you get sick, have an accident or just want to go on holiday, you’re stuck. You need to find a good subcontractor, with rates below what your client is paying, so you can still make a profit on those extra hours, even though you did not do the work yourself. In this situation, you serve as a project manager, quality control officer and client liaison. In other words, you hand out assignments, inspect the work to make sure it’s up to standards and communicate with the client and with the subcontractor.

You’ll need to learn to let go and let other people handle some of the tasks in your business, including some of your client work. Of course, that doesn’t mean you just drag over the first subcontractor you see and throw some work at them.

10 Smart Ways to Subcontract

  1. Understand that building a subcontractor relationship takes time. You need to get to know your subcontractor and they need to get to know you.
  2. Before you even consider hiring someone, ask other Virtual Assistants for recommendations. A great recommendation will go a long way towards ensuring that you’re hiring someone who is good at what you need them to do. Join groups for people who have the skills you need e.g on Linked In or Facebook and watch out for people who comment knowledgeably on the subjects you need expertise in.
  3. Hire the best subcontractor you can afford, not the cheapest one you can find. You may pay more than you think you can afford, but this is preferable to throwing money down the drain on a bad situation that could hurt your reputation. It’s important to charge enough to cover your subcontractor’s fees and the time that you’ll have to invest in any project too.
  4. Get references. And actually call those references. If the references all give glowing reviews, you’re ready for the next step. If the references are less than glowing, you may want to find out why.
  5. Check the potential subcontractor’s portfolio and website. If their own site isn’t up to your standards, chances are, their work won’t be either.
  6. Consider a trial project. Contract them to do one small project and see how they handle it. If you ask them to edit a 500 word article that you wrote and they take 3 weeks, you know they’re not going to be a good fit. If they return 30 minutes later and have truly made the article better, you’re away. Make sure you do a trial before giving our any really important client work.
  7. Make sure you both sign a contract. Include how much they will be paid, allowances for increases in rates later on, a point at which the contract will be re-evaluated and specific instructions on what will happen if either one of you wants out of the contract. You’ll also need to include specific information on what happens if either one of you breaches the contract. You’ll also want to include a confidentiality clause. Include also about what happens if a client doesn’t pay. In this situation you may be tempted to ask the subcontractor to wait for their payment but our advice is that it’s your responsibility to make sure those working under you get paid, even if you don’t. It will also be your responsibility to seek payment from the client. Take care of your subcontractors, pay them well and make sure you charge your clients enough and your business will be much more successful for it.
  8. Communicate effectively. Make sure that you provide clear instructions and that your subcontractor understands what you are wanting. If a mistake does happen or there is a miscommunication, review the situation with your subcontractor so that both of you understand what went wrong. Emails are not always a reliable means of communication. Back them up with a good online project management system such as 5pm, Central Desktop or similar.
  9. Always review your subcontractor’s work. The only way you’ll be able to ensure your company’s quality is to review the work yourself (unless, of course, you’ve hired someone to serve as a project manager and that person knows exactly what you’re looking for).
  10. In the event that a subcontractor doesn’t work out, follow the steps you’ve laid out in the contract for termination. Don’t take it personally, don’t tell them they stink, but do give constructive feedback if they want it. Also, don’t let one bad experience turn you away from subcontracting.

Follow these ten tips and you can grow your business from a solo entrepreneurship to a company run on teamwork that handles several clients and many projects with ease. Always be on the lookout for new people you can add to your subcontractor list and keep them involved in your work so they don’t forget about you.