15 Tips for being a successful subcontractor

I started my web design studio, Red Kite Creative, in 2005, but only in the past few months have I begun delegating occasional work to subcontractors. It’s very important to me that I retain close control over anything design-related, so mostly I’m subcontracting for programming, with a little templating thrown in.

I’ve learned a few things by being both a sub and a PC about how to make sure you get more than one opportunity to work with any given PC.  Here are 15 tips that will help you become a sub that gets asked back.

1. Don’t jump at every opportunity. All projects are not a good fit for you – be selective and don’t overcommit.

2. Take the time to understand the specs or project requirements before you agree to do the work. If you get started then realize you can’t do it, your PC is going to pay for your mistake.

3. Have a contract or agreement ready to sign. Make it easy for the PC to work with you on a professional level.

4. Don’t commit unless you have the time to do the work. If you’re overwhelmed with projects of your own, don’t offer to give 15 hours to someone else’s when you really can’t manage it.

5. The PC is your client. Treat them the same way you would a direct client.

6. Research on your own time unless you’re specifically paid to do it.

7. Be honest about your experience and capabilities. If you claim to be able to do something and have never done it, be prepared to spend your own time getting up to speed. Don’t stretch the extent of your capabilities too far (but a little bit of stretching can help you expand your skillset).

8.  If a problem arises with the schedule or the task, tell the primary contractor ASAP. If you know in advance that you’re going to be unavailable for a week right before a deadline, tell the PC as far in advance as possible. If you have an emergency appendectomy, let the PC know. He or she has made commitments to the client that depend on you.

9. Time really is money. Work efficiently but carefully, don’t go so fast you make mistakes. Check your work.

10. If you don’t know, ask. Don’t assume you know what the client wants if it’s not explicitly stated; ask the PC for clarification.

11. Don’t change the PC’s design without asking.

12. If you underestimated your time or effort, it’s not the PC’s problem. Everyone underestimates, especially when first starting out. The only way to get better is to do more estimating.

13. Be easy to contact during working hours – by email or IM, whichever method you agree upon.

14. Do more. No need to go overboard, but a little extra effort, like writing up a quick guide to using ____ plugin or ____ mod, will help the PC help the client. Those kinds of efforts are remembered by PC, believe me.

15. Do a good job, be professional and you’ll likely get invited back for more projects. Act like (or even worse, prove) you don’t take a job seriously, and you probably won’t be hired again.

Good subs are hard to find. Be a great sub and I promise you’ll really stand out from the crowd.

1 comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *