5 valid reasons you should hire a subcontractor today

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Paraphrasing what the Beatles once famously sang, we can all get by with a little help.

And as that’s true in life, it’s also true of our freelance businesses. A time might come when you’ll be better off accepting help with your creative projects. For us freelancers, that help often comes in the form of subcontractors.

Fear of help equals loss of income

Personally, I went for years doing all I could not to hire help. My biggest reason was that I didn’t want to be someone’s boss.

I had been in a boss position at a company before going full speed ahead with my at-home career. A boss is not often viewed as a subordinate’s “friend.” You have to tell people what to do, and resentment can be the result.

Sidenote: Once you finish, read how 4 freelancers built recurring revenue models that changed their business. You'll love it.

I found it difficult to be social and make friends while being the boss, and I hated it. So I was scared to place myself in that position again.

But that wasn’t the only reason. Another was greed. I really didn’t want to share my income with someone else.

If I gave my hard-earned work hours to others, what would I do if those hours suddenly dried up? I was no longer boosted by the illusion of “permanent,” steady income that a corporation seemed to provide.

How could I risk giving up hours — and pay — when I had not only myself, but a family to care for?

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That was then. Twenty years later, times have changed, and so have I. Over the last two years, I’ve released a lot of the fear and other limiting beliefs I once had that surrounded outsourcing. 

In fact, the pendulum has swung in completely the opposite direction for me. Now, I’m deliberately looking for ways on a regular basis to outsource my work.

Five times when you should be hiring subcontractors

But when do you need help? How will you know when the time is right? Here are five specific times when you should be hiring subcontractors:

You have too much work

It might sound simple and obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I worked through the night to handle more clients and a larger workload. I figured I was putting more money in my own pocket. Looking back, I see what I really was doing was playing havoc with my health.

I was also fooling myself. I believed that taking on all that work by myself was actually making me money.

But, in actuality, I was losing money.

And here’s why: If I had hired people to pick up my extra work, that would have freed me up to look for more work and have more time to work more hours, and make even more money.

When you have so much work that — despite being as time efficient as possible — you are working more than a 40-hour week (or whatever personal, yet reasonable time limitation you’ve set for yourself), it’s time to hire help.

When you never have time for yourself

All work and no play will make Jack — and Jill — not only dull, but also burnt out.

Vacation time exists as a benefit perk for a reason. Human beings need to take time to rest, relax, and rejuvenate. Our bodies need it, and so do our minds.

But when you are running your own business, it’s easy to sacrifice break time for more work hours and more money.

But you — as a human — are so much more than just your business. You need time to enjoy life.

Even if you love what you do, if it’s all you do, and you never take a break to travel, be entertained, be waited on, and just generally do something different, you’re risking not only your physical well-being, but also the state of your mind and the creative juices that flow from it.

Back in the 80s, a book was written called “The Artist’s Way.” In it, author Julia Cameron talks about the need for creatives to “fill the well.” That was her way of saying that fun, joyful activity is necessary to help artists be creative — to have a “source” in their mind to pull out creative thoughts and inspiration. As that source gets “empty,” it has to be refilled. Enjoyable activities help us refill the well and continue to have a source of creativity from which to draw upon.

And I agree: Time to enjoy life is critical to your ability to be a decent artist and to do good creative work.

You want (and need) more freedom

Hiring subcontractors on your projects means freedom for you, and that freedom can manifest itself in a number of ways.

It can give you the freedom to be the idea person of your business. Think Steve Jobs. His role at Apple was purely to be the  “innovator.” If he were still busy putting parts in computers, he wouldn’t have had the time or space he needed to dream up the direction and set the course of Apple’s future.

It gives you the freedom to market your business. How many times have you thought you should be building your clientele base but couldn’t, simply because you were working? Income-producing activities are always the priority. But if you rest too much on your laurels and fail to market, what will you do when those IPAs run out, and there are no clients in the queue?

It gives you the freedom to do the tasks you excel at, while avoiding the tasks you either aren’t good at or simply dislike. For example, I’m not big on math and numbers. There’s no way I’m doing my own taxes. I farm that out to my tax preparer and allow him to do his thing.

But I save work like designing and writing, which I love, for myself. Those tasks are the main reasons my clients come to me. By performing that work, I also ensure that my visual and written communication “styles” continue to represent the brand of my business.

You want your business to grow

You’re only human. You only have so many hours in a day to work. Eventually, you are going to hit your high water mark, where you can do no more.

But what if you want your business — and your income — to grow? Sure, you can raise your rates, but there’s limit to that as well. You’ll only get what the market will bear.

Eventually, the only way left to grow your business is by hiring more help.

Personally, I’d rather hire subcontractors than employees. A few 1099 preparations are nothing compared to what’s involved when having employees — benefits, health insurance, payroll issues, and other law conformities.

Furthermore, subcontractors understand the “finite” nature of their role. They know they’ve been hired for a project, and when it ends, so does their work. You can hire just as many subcontractors as you need for as long as you need — and not beyond that.

You maintain a Goldilocks workforce that is always “just right.” 

You decide you deserve it

I’ve currently found myself at a point in my career where I’d like to kick back a little. I want to work smarter, not harder. And at some point, I’d like to at least feel like I’m “retired” (even if I am still working to some degree). But I’ll still need money flowing in to survive.

By hiring subcontractors, I can assume the role of “project manager.” I can oversee the project, without being overly involved in its grunt work. I still make the ultimate, “executive” decisions. I still maintain quality. But the bulk of the work is being done by others.

Treat your business like a business

Of course, if you’re outsourcing work, you have to have some business savvy about it.

You don’t want to put yourself in the position of losing money. That being said, a good business person is taking a percentage of the pay that results from a subcontractor’s work.

Personally, I think that’s a given. However, I think some freelancers, especially at first, might feel guilt over paying less an hour to your subcontractors than you are charging the client.

But in business, that’s how money and profits are made. You pay out less than you bring in.

It’s Business 101, but a lot of creatives neither studied business, nor do we think like business owners. We were taught to be artists, and we think like artists, which can include (and rightly so) very lofty, idealistic thoughts — and with all that, often a desire to be both giving and “fair.”

So if it helps, think of profit margin this way: You worked hard to get that client. It might have taken years for you to secure and nurture a relationship of respect and trust with that client. You’ve demonstrated to that client your creative abilities, and you’ve made yourself desirable to that client. That’s definitely worth something — and it’s only fair that you are compensated.

Taking the first step

Beginning to hire subcontractors might feel difficult, but the only way to get past its “growing pains” is to take the first step.

To see if outsourcing work is right for you, start slow. Hire one subcontractor on a small part of a project, and see how it feels. If it’s right for you, you can add more and more subcontractors as time goes on and as the situations warrant the need.

Knowing when to hire subcontractors gives the gift of time. I’ve found it to be downright addictive. Once you have time, you’ll want more and more.

I’d love to keep the conversation going in the comments! What experiences have you had (good or bad) with hiring subcontractors?

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About Patricia LaCroix

Patricia LaCroix has had a career in marketing and publishing for longer than she cares to admit. But, despite that it reveals her age, she’s willing to say that she’s been working a creative business from home in some way, shape, or form since 1986. Her creative skills run the gamut and include expertise in both visual and written forms of communication. Patricia’s entrepreneurial yet giving spirit drives her to help others learn how to work from home and create their own “lifestyle” careers.

 

More about Patricia’s business: LaCroix Creative is a full-service creative business in Chicago’s northwest suburbs. Patricia leads a talented team of associates who assist her in creating effective graphic design and written content — in print and online. Decades of experience — partnered with caring, personal attention — make LaCroix Creative especially well equipped to serve solopreneurs, start-ups, educators, coaches, healthcare professionals, and self-publishing authors.

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  1. Hiring subcontractors can be helpful for many reasons but it is also important to cover your basis from a tax/labor perspective. If you are looking to use contractors, make sure you are aware of the Federal and State parameters. Done incorrectly, you’ll be footing the bill for penalties.

  2. Thanks for the article Patricia! That’s definitely a lesson I’m learning very slowly, but still trying to get a handle on. I’m hoping to start outsourcing to some local talent. I wrestle with finding someone who is affordable enough to give us decent margins but still can do things well—how does that tend to work for you?

    • Hi, Beau! I’ve been blessed to personally know and work with some great colleagues who have become my subcontracting associates. Knowing and working with them personally helped me to feel confident in their abilities. For these subcontractors, I’ve called the shots in terms of their rates, to which they’ve agreed. That’s given me huge control over my profit margins. In the case of larger businesses that have worked for me as a third-party, it’s been more of a trial-and-error process as far as quality is concerned. I get quotes from them upfront to know what I’m up against.

  3. Hello Patricia,
    What is your biggest concern when hiring contractors?
    And what do you feel about hiring contractors from Europe?

    • Always, my biggest concern is quality. If I’m having to “fix” work that should be finished and good to go, that pulls me back onto the project and causes me to lose valuable time. I need people who understand the project and get it right without going through several rounds of corrections. As for hiring contractors from Europe (or beyond the States in general), I haven’t done so directly. Not to say that I wouldn’t, but I’m very into the “trust” factor with my subcontractors. I find hiring subcontractors that I already know, like, and trust has faired out very well for me… And as they say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”