Whether you need a contingency plan or you just want to free up your schedule, at some point you’ll need to hire subcontractors. Though this practice is more common with freelancers, even teleworking employees are seeing the benefits of getting outside help.
For those who are new to the idea, the task of hiring subcontractors can seem daunting. While the process requires patience, leadership and business savvy, finding and managing the right subcontractor for your job is entirely possible.
Preparation and Managing Expectations
Check your existing arrangements first. Before you hire others to help you out, make sure your current arrangement with clients allow you to do so. Some of my project contracts include a clause that says that I can’t delegate my work to others without notifying my client first. If your existing contracts have this clause, make sure you get your client’s permission before you work with a subcontractor.
Prepare a written agreement. Just like any other business relationship, hiring a subcontractor requires a contract. While the legality of the contract is important, it’s also a gesture that both parties are getting into a serious business arrangement. If you want to draft the contract yourself, take a look at this sample contract from ILRG.com and the sample agreements on RocketLawyer (which Imran previously reviewed).
For big projects, have a manual ready. If your project needs detailed instructions, it’s best to have a single go-to reference ready for your subcontractors. This prevents you from having to send multiple emails that start with “I forgot to tell you…” Having everything in a single file is more convenient and less confusing for both parties.
You could include the following items in your manual:
- Project schedule.
- How to submit work.
- How deadlines and mistakes will be dealt with.
- List of recommended references.
- Examples of the finished product (for reference).
Know how to separate the hype from the reality. While outsourcing can work really well if you plan for it, the practice seems over-hyped in the media. It’s rare that the hiring and working process is as simple as it’s made out to be. In my experience, it always costs more and takes longer than I initially expected. Remember that you’ll have to spend a lot of time during the training phase and that your role as administrator is not as easy as it looks.
The Selection Process
You can start looking for candidates by placing ads at freelance job sites such as Odesk, Elance and GetAFreelancer. If you have a relatively popular blog, using it to place a “for hire” ad gives you the benefit of reaching out to people who are already familiar with your work.
Even if price is the driving force behind most bids on freelance job sites, you should never hire based on price alone. After all, hiring the wrong subcontractor can cost you more than just money. Act as if you are looking for an employee. What work experience does each candidate have? What shows up when you enter their names into Facebook or Google?
Apart from an applicant’s resume and portfolio, you also need to know their ability to communicate, stick to deadlines and follow instructions. You can usually assess this during the application process. For a more thorough approach, conduct a phone interview or ask for a list of professional references that you can talk to.
Once you’re ready to assign tasks it’s always a good idea to start with something small. Build up from that as your new hire gains your trust and displays effectiveness in her work. I had a friend who made the mistake of taking a leap and assigning 50 percent of his data entry work to a new subcontractor. When the new subcontractor failed to deliver, he lost some of his most valuable clients. You can easily avoid this by taking new working relationships one small step at a time.
Remember that in the end, outsourcing tasks is supposed to make your work easier. The hiring process may take a lot of initial effort, but if you are armed with a solid plan you’ll find that the results are well worth it.
Have you ever tried subcontracting work to others? What advice would you give to those who are trying it for the first time?