How to Hire the Very Best Subcontractor

At some point during your freelance web design career, you may find yourself with more project work than you can handle. Whether you’ve overextended yourself or you’ve decided to expand your business to include other people, you need help. Getting the right people to work with you is important.

In fact, your reputation as a web designer is at stake. The people you hire and the work that they do represents you and your business. Your subcontractors can make or break your web design business.


In this post, I’ll discuss some tips for finding good subcontractors. At the end of the post, you’re invited to add your own thoughts and tips. If you liked this post, you may also like 5 Common Mistakes Made When Hiring a Web Designer.

What to Expect

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If you’ve never hired another freelancer before, you may not know what to expect.

Many freelancers hire a subcontractor without realizing that managing someone else involves a bit of work on their part. Hiring the right person as a subcontractor can save you time. But unless you have a longstanding relationship with your subcontractor, don’t expect that you can sit back and do nothing while your subcontractor completes the work.

Allow yourself enough time to:

  • Describe the project to subcontractor in detail. What you tell the subcontractor will determine the outcome you get. Be sure to provide enough details so that the subcontractor can do their job. Make sure that they clearly understand their responsibilities.
  • Answer subcontractor questions. Even though you describe the project as completely as you can, your subcontractor may still have questions you need to answer. For some questions, you may even need to go to the end client to get the answer (which can take time).
  • Check the subcontractor’s work. Allow yourself enough time to review your subcontractor’s work and make changes if needed. This means giving your subcontractor a deadline that allows you enough time to check their work before you turn the project over to your client.

Now that you’ve given hiring a subcontractor some thought, you are ready to start looking for a subcontractor for your project.

Where to Look for Subcontractors

There are three main places to find subcontractors:

  1. Through Your Professional Network. The best way to find a good subcontractor is to hire someone you already know. This is one reason why it’s important to network with other web designers. By hiring people you know and trust, you reduce the risk of problems. That’s one reason why I highly recommend re-using a small pool of trusted subcontractors if you can rather than hiring a new person each time you have a project.
  2. From a Referral. Another way to find a quality person to hire is by asking your contacts for referrals. Even if you don’t know someone who can do the work you need, your contacts might. Since referrals come from someone whose opinion you value, they are likely to be better qualified and more reliable than a complete stranger.
  3. Use a Job Board. Of course, you may not know anyone who can do the work and your contacts may not know anyone either. This sometimes happens when you need someone with a very specialized skillset or if you do not have a strong network. If you are in this situation, you may need to turn to a job board to find someone. Here is a list of Design and Development Job Boards where you may want to list your job.

After you’ve identified some possible subcontractors, your next step is to choose the best one for your project.

Criteria for Selecting a Web Design Contractor

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One thing that I hear over and over again from clients is that it is hard to find a good freelancer. Choosing a good subcontractor can be hard. There are literally hundreds of freelance web designers out there, and they are not all the same.

Here are some questions to help you identify the best talent. As you review each candidate, ask yourself:

  • How long have they been working as a web designer? While some newbies have a great deal of talent, experience can make a real difference in the quality of work.
  • Have they received any testimonials? Testimonials show what their clients think of their work. Don’t forget to check their LinkedIn profile for recommendations.
  • Do they have any formal training in web design? Some successful web designers are self-taught. However, if they’ve completed coursework, they may have that information listed on their website.
  • What does their portfolio look like? This is probably the most important criteria to consider in selecting a candidate. Their portfolio should give you an idea of what they are capable of doing.

If you are interested in a candidate, but can’t find the information you need on their website or LinkedIn profile–ask them. Most freelance web designers are more than happy to answer questions about their work, especially if they know that you are interested in hiring them.

Don’t Forget These Other Important Factors

You may think that you’ve thought of everything, but you may have overlooked a few important aspects of hiring a subcontractor. As quick reminder, don’t forget to:

  1. Decide whether to tell your end client. I make it a point to tell clients if I will be using a subcontractor, and this transparency is what I recommend to other freelancers as well. Either way, remember that you are ultimately responsible for the work your subcontractor produces.
  2. Pay fairly. You may think that you’re getting a good deal if you hire the cheapest subcontractor you can find, but often cost is an indicator of quality. Remember, many freelancers who are willing to work for next to nothing produce substandard work.
  3. Use a contract or written agreement. You may think the contract between you and your end client is the only one that is important, but you actually also need one with any subcontractors that you hire.
  4. Review the work before turning it over to your client. I stated the importance of a review earlier, but it’s worth mentioning again. Don’t just turn your subcontractor’s work over to your end client without first looking at it yourself.
  5. Don’t forget about the tax forms. If you live in the United States and you pay your subcontractor more than $600 total in a year, you may be required to send them a 1099 form for their year’s work. Your accountant can help you with the details.

Your Thoughts

Have you hired any subcontractors? What would you add? Share your experiences and tips in the comments.

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