How to Subcontract Work to Grow Your Freelance Business8 min read
There are a number of milestones worth celebrating when you’re a freelancer.
- Your first client.
- Your first big client.
- Your last day at a normal 9-to-5 job.
- Your first day freelancing full-time.
- The day you realize you can no longer manage the workload on your plate as a team of one.
What’s funny about the final point is that the realizations often come about somewhat unexpectedly. Some of that is because you don’t know what you don’t know. And a lot of freelancers don’t know that hiring an extra set of hands is even an option.
I mean, you may know it’s an option but do you know it’s an option for you?
Freelancing is a gamble in a lot of ways and when you set out at the start, there aren’t necessarily grand plans in the works for what you expect your business to become. For many, the motivators start out small.
You want flexibility. You want to be your own boss. You want to do work you’re really passionate about. Perhaps you also want to transition into a nomadic lifestyle.
It isn’t until you’re in the grind and finding success in your efforts that you see those original motivators evolve and expand. This is business in a nutshell — regardless of how it’s registered on paper — a vision that grows and scales over time.
As a freelancer, you don’t have to work long hours and operate off zero work-life balance to be successful. You can have it all and then some when you make the decision to hire help.
Why You Should Consider Hiring to Grow Your Freelance Business
If you haven’t read The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss just yet, put it on your list of to dos.
He’s got this great quote that I try to live by in my own business: “Focus on being productive instead of busy”.
It’s certainly easy to stay busy — but it takes effort to actually get things done. And it’s not reliant on the amount of time you’re putting in. Just take Microsoft’s results from an experiment with a 4-day workweek in Japan as an example.
The bottom line is that you need to be using your time wisely as a freelancer if you want to boost your outputs.
Here’s why you should consider learning how to subcontract work:
Increase Your Capacity
Peel the layers back from the service provided to clients and what you’re really selling as a freelancer is time.
It takes a certain number of hours to achieve the promised results — hours that you can’t multiply or sustainably take away from other areas of your life (e.g. sleep) in order to accommodate the workload.
Hiring gives you more hours to work with. It increases your capacity to take on more work and focus on the otherwise neglected areas of your freelance business in need of attention.
Keep Your Freelance Business Running (Even When You’re Not)
Many freelancers are at the mercy of their billable hours. Meaning that if they want to take a vacation or even a sick day, they must do so without pay. Not exactly ideal!
When you hire help, you make it possible to run a business without having to be on all the time. This capability naturally increases with the more employees you take on but even one set of extra hands can do a lot for your peace of mind.
Better Balance Rush Orders and Client Emergencies
When you’re an operation of one, everything falls on you. Your clients aren’t coordinating their needs conveniently around each other. They’re making requests based on their own timing and priorities alone.
Having employees to help you pick up the slack when emergencies and last-minute requests arise benefits both your revenue and relationships. It speaks to your professionalism and accountability, which in turn snowballs into more trust, referrals, and business over time.
Different Types of Help to Hire
You can take a few different routes with the help you choose to hire. It’s all dependent on where your business is at financially and what you have time to manage in the present.
Different types of help to consider hiring as a freelancer most commonly include:
- Virtual assistants: these are people typically hired to help with research, administration, and other operational tasks as they arise in your business.
- Subcontractor: these tend to be more specialized workers (i.e. freelancers who serve a specific industry), who might help you consistently or on a project-by-project basis.
- A full-time or part-time employee: these workers often fall into more dedicated departments of your business, putting in a set amount of hours weekly.
Naturally, there’s a variety of other worker types out there. What you choose to go with will be important in terms of payroll taxes and benefits.
Where to Look for a Virtual Assistant
As someone with ample experience finding, hiring and growing a business with virtual assistants, I’ll say that some are definitely better than others. I even teach an entire class on the subject for all my structured, more visual learners out there.
In general, the trick is to find someone that allows you to make a profit, accounting for the time it’ll take to manage and review their work. But how do you find this person?
Do your research and hit up popular marketplaces for virtual assistants like Fiverr and Craigslist. Since referrals are always preferable in the hiring world, you can also take it to social networks like LinkedIn for recommendations on talent that best aligns with the level of experience you’re looking for.
Tasks You Should Consider Delegating
Once you’ve recruited, interviewed, and hired on your first employee, the work really begins. There will be some growing pains to get used to, especially if this is your first time managing people. The key: be purposeful and organized in the delegation of tasks.
Remember, having more hours to work with won’t automatically increase what you’re capable of getting done. You need to make sure both your own hours and those of your hires are productive.
Here are a handful of tasks to consider delegating for the sake of growing your freelance business’ potential.
Stuff You Hate Doing
There are bound to be things that you hate doing as a business owner, either because you’re not good at them, have other more important things to do, or some combination of the two.
The rub here is that the stuff you hate is usually still important. For me, this was bookkeeping. I hired someone to handle that for me — giving me more time to focus on the areas of my business that I’m most passionate about.
Subsections of a Project and Specialized Work
A project’s size and complexity may require some assistance — especially if it involves an area of expertise you’re not exactly a master at. For example, maybe you’ve been contracted to create a 60-page whitepaper.
If you’re a writer by trade, having a subcontracted graphic designer at your disposal puts you in a better position to deliver on an end-product you can feel truly proud of. So put the strengths of your team to the best possible use.
Administrative and Client-Facing Tasks
Despite the many online resources and tools out there for running a business, managing them still takes time. As does managing your client workload.
We often underestimate just how time-consuming administrative tasks can be in the day-to-day.
This is where having help from a virtual assistant can come in clutch. Start with the small stuff when delegating tasks to new hires and you’re still likely to see a big difference in how much more time you can focus your own efforts elsewhere.
Depending on the number of clients currently in your repertoire, it might be worth putting together an intranet using Google Sites. Your intranet can serve as a centralized location for detailing nuances across clients, as well as documenting processes and minimizing errors. Breaking down every client task into a checklist is great for this — as long as you make sure to actually follow your checklist.
Many freelancers aren’t salespeople by trade. They have to learn the art of pitching in real-time, while also delivering on what’s already been sold.
Offload some of this burden by delegating sales-related tasks to your hires. Relevant tasks could involve updating or building out lead-generation campaigns on your website, sending out cold emails, creating an email marketing flow, or researching potential blogs to create guest posts for.
All of these tie back to driving more sales and nurturing relationships at varying stages of interest.
Final Thoughts: How to Subcontract Work to Grow Your Freelance Business
As a freelancer, it’s important to realize just how resilient and bold you are in choosing to pursue this career path. It doesn’t come easy and the fear involved in running your own show is enough to keep many from ever taking those first steps.
Your business is capable of returning on so much more than working from home in your pajamas. Take the leap into hiring, make mistakes, and learn as you go. As long as you’re trying, you’re growing.
And even if you’re not ready to hire help just yet, there’s a good chance that you can still create efficiencies by adding automation to your workflow. Find tools that increase your productivity instead of creating additional work for you.
How has hiring helped in growing your freelance business? What tips would you offer those bringing on their first employee and learning how to subcontract work? Tweet your answers at @andco.