Are you preparing to submit a proposal for a big assignment you hope to win and know that the project specifications will cause you to subcontract some of the work? Congratulations! You will have the pleasure of hiring one or more of your Freelancer peers. Together, you will become a team whose mission will be to produce the client’s deliverables by achieving outcomes of the highest quality, on or in advance of the project deadline and on budget.
You, the external team leader, must understand the skills that the project requires, know how much it will cost to secure the services of your Freelancer team and write a winning proposal. Project management is an everyday reality for Freelance consultants and the bigger the project, the more planning is involved. Your reputation is forever on the line and when subcontracted work is involved, you must be diligent in your search to identify the best talent to bring on board. Read on and get some helpful advice on how to assemble a winning team that will enhance your brand and your billable hours, current and future.
Get budget estimate
Get a reliable project budget estimate from your client, if possible. If the client prefers playing possum with that amount, then make sure you are able to accurately estimate both the quantity and quality of work the project requires so that you can first, calculate your own labor cost and target profit margin and next, understand what you must budget to pay your subcontractors.
Directly ask candidates you interview and confirm that the skill you need is a competency in which that candidate excels and that s/he has performed often enough to claim deep experience. You are in no position to train someone on the job. You must guarantee superior results.
Why not ask candidates what they want to make as a subcontractor on the project? Start by researching the going rate range for that specialty, so that you’ll know what to expect to pay and you can rule out those who attempt to take advantage of you. People will do their best work when they feel valued. They’ll be happy to give extra to make you look good and make themselves shine along with you. They’ll go above and beyond because they’ll want to be hired to work with you again since you value their capabilities.
If you encounter someone who seems a perfect fit for the project but his/her subcontracting fee is somewhat beyond what you planned to offer, then ask what perks might make that person happy, in addition to money. You may be able to get who you want for a little less money if you give a little more in another area that demonstrates how you value the skill set.
Set clear expectations
If the project is on a tight time frame and in order to meet the deadline long hours and a seven-days-a-week schedule will be needed then you, the external team leader, must present this schedule information to your candidates in the interview. You need team members who are able to block out the necessary time and are willing to work hard. If time is an issue, expect to pay a premium to your subcontractors and add a premium to your own fee as well. Develop a contract for your subcontractors, so that all responsibilities, relevant milestones, the project deadline and the rate of pay are in writing.
Request weekly or bi-weekly written progress reports from your subcontractors and send similar updates to your client. Announce to the client and your subcontractors whenever a project milestone has been met. Interim victories will give you an opportunity to thank and congratulate your subcontractors and inspire them as you do. Learning that you and your team have reached a milestone gives your client confidence in you.
View work samples
In the subcontractor interviews, be sure that work samples provided correspond with the project specs, to confirm that you are evaluating what is relevant.
Ask to speak with two of your candidate’s clients. Confirm the type of work that the candidate has done for each reference. Inquire about the quality of that work and the candidate’s willingness to do what was needed to get the job done. Ask what it’s like to work with the candidate—is s/he positive and upbeat, or a constant complainer? Finally, ask if there’s anything else you should know about the experience of working with the candidate.
Once you understand the project specs, the role that your subcontractors will play and what you will pay for their services, you can then write a draft contract. Also, download from the IRS website tax form W-9 for your subcontractors to complete and return to you. You’ll retain the W-9 and use it to prepare and mail to subcontractors IRS form 1099 before January 31 of the following year if payments to any subcontractor reach $600.
Finally, set up an accounting method that will allow you to easily and accurately calculate hours worked and dollars earned for each subcontractor. If you’ve seldom worked with subcontractors, then speak with a bookkeeper or accountant for more information.
Thanks for reading,
Photograph: Seven Samurai (Japan, 1954) Directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune (foreground)