Among the core ideas behind freelancing is that you can work with whomever you want. It’s one reason why so many web designers are attracted to this type of business. You get to define your niche. Then you can go out and find clients to match.
But there’s a twist that we don’t often talk about: freelancers who work as sub-contractors. This might entail helping another design agency with projects. Or you might supplement an organization’s in-house team. Other scenarios could also come into play.
Sub-contracting can be lucrative and keep your schedule full. It may mean not having to worry about hunting for new projects. It’s also a decidedly different path – one that comes with unique challenges.
Curious about the benefits and drawbacks of sub-contracting? You’ve come to the right place! Here’s some advice for determining if it’s right for you.
A Chance for Security, While Maintaining Flexibility
Working as a sub-contractor can be as flexible (or not) as you’d like. Much of it depends on your goals and the available opportunities.
It’s possible to find a long-term working relationship. Some clients need a designer or developer who has regular availability. They may not have the resources or workload to hire someone on a full-time basis. Thus, bringing in a contractor makes perfect sense.
Perhaps the biggest positive is having the best of both worlds. You can get steady work and a dependable income. But you’ll also have the freedom to work on other projects.
Conversely, there are also opportunities for picking up short-term gigs. These tend to be situations where a client could use a helping hand with a particular project. It could be weeks, months, or just a few small tasks.
This is a great arrangement if you enjoy variety. It’s a chance to meet new people and experience how different organizations work. There’s always something new to engage your mind.
The Ability to Work Behind the Scenes
Not everyone enjoys working directly with clients. It can be stressful. Plus, the time commitment is an obstacle to getting things done. Endless meetings, complicated email chains…who needs it?
The challenge for most freelancers is that client relations are part of the job. And when you work solo, there’s no one else to do it for you.
That’s one advantage of sub-contracting with a web design agency. In many cases, they’re the ones dealing with clients. Thus, you can happily do your work behind the scenes.
Even better is that you could end up with a single point of contact. Imagine working with the same person throughout multiple projects. It could lead to greater efficiency, provided everyone has solid communication skills.
That last point is an important one. If there’s a communication breakdown, that could make the whole process harder. However, this is something that can improve with experience. Even if the first few projects are messy – give it time.
This type of working relationship takes some effort. But it can be well worth it if you want to focus on code and design, rather than figuring out what a client needs.
A Look at Potential Drawbacks
There are no guarantees of perfection. Working as a subcontractor often means balancing your needs with what’s available. Therefore, it can be a bit of a journey until you find the right fit.
With that, here are some potential drawbacks to consider before jumping in.
It Can Be Hard To Find What You’re Looking For
Many opportunities exist for web designers looking for sub-contracting work. But that doesn’t mean you’ll find one that has everything you want.
Pricing and workload are among the hardest items to match. For instance, many clients have a specific price range in mind. If your pricing is on the higher side, they may not be willing to adjust.
When it comes to workload, this can be all over the map. Finding a client that offers a suitable amount of work isn’t easy.
Thus, compromise may be your best bet. If both parties are willing to negotiate in these areas, it’s a signal that you can work well together.
You May Have To Adapt to a Different Workflow
Agency clients tend to have an established workflow. They have preferred tools, coding standards, and protocols for documenting their work. As a freelancer, you’ll likely have to adapt to their way of doing things.
If you’re not familiar with how they work, it can be a difficult adjustment. And some agencies may not be willing to fully train you or provide access to tools. Rather, they may be looking for someone who can jump right in.
Clients that work with open-source tools like WordPress could make the transition easier. But commercial tools could mean spending your own hard-earned money. You’ll have to judge whether that sort of investment will be worthwhile.
You’re Often the Last To Know
When working with sub-contractors, most clients are welcoming and inclusive. But you can also find yourself out of the loop when it comes to details.
Much depends on how communication is structured. If you’re part of a large team, you may have access to a project management app. That’s great for staying in the know and asking questions.
But if communication is a one-to-one affair, the task can be more difficult. You’re relying on someone to tell you what you need to know. If they’re not detail-oriented, you may be missing some key information.
This can lead to having to build (and rebuild) various aspects of a project. Not very fun!
The Time Commitment Could Limit Other Opportunities
Let’s assume that you find a sub-contracting gig that keeps you busy. There are plenty of positives that come with steady work. But it can be limiting as well.
For one, you might have to turn down other opportunities. A schedule that’s full of contract work could prevent you from taking on anything new.
And it could also leave little time for growth. Sometimes, contract work has a sameness to it. This is great for efficiency. But the downside is that you can’t branch out and expand your skill set.
Therefore, it’s worth taking a hard look at your priorities before signing on with a client. If you don’t want a gig to monopolize your time or growth potential, look for opportunities that require less commitment.
A Web Design Career Path Worth Exploring
Freelancers face a lot of uncertainty. Maintaining a steady flow of new projects is daunting – even in the best of economic times.
Working as a sub-contractor is one way to add some predictability. If you find the right opportunity, you could be set up with a foundation of work and income for the long term.
Just know that it will likely require patience and good judgment to get there. Finding the right client isn’t easy. And you need the foresight to see the potential in some arrangements.
It’s also worth noting that there’s nothing wrong with starting small. If you feel like there’s potential for a working relationship to grow, take a chance and see where it goes. That’s better than getting in over your head.
Is working as a sub-contractor right for you? Take time and think about your goals. It might end up being exactly what you need.
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