Hey, freelancer: go clone yourself!

Jun 2, 2017

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

I bet I know what your response to this title is. “I wish I could!”

Imagine what it would be like if you could just duplicate yourself when the work comes flooding in all at once. Then, when it all slows down (as it always does), you just send your clones to twiddle their thumbs or work on that marketing that never falls off your to-do list.

You could grow your client list (and your revenue) as big as you want

A Unique Twist to Outsourcing

If you think I’m talking about outsourcing, you’re heading in the right direction, but I want to suggest a different spin on the usual delegation answer. Because the one thing you can’t delegate is your core service, right?

YOU still need to do the work YOU are hired to do.

Actually... you don’t. That’s the twist. Instead of outsourcing your marketing, your bookkeeping and the administrative work of running your business, what if you hired your peers to share your workload so you could take on more clients? Could it work?

I know that it CAN work, because that is what I did. But I have seen other people fail trying to do the same thing.

Top Challenges of Subcontracting to Fellow Freelancers

There are five main challenges that you will face in trying the clone model.

Finding the Right Freelancers

I’m a freelance writer. Finding other freelance writers who are looking for work is no problem. Finding writers who can deliver the quality I need, on-time and who are willing to accept only a percentage of what my clients are paying – that’s not so easy. Determining what that percentage should be to make it fair to them and still profitable for you is part of this challenge.

Finding the Right Clients

If you provide very personalized service to your clients, will they accept a hand-off to one of your subcontractors? Are your projects structured so that they can be easily delegated to other freelancers? I found that some of my workload was ideal for handing off to subcontractors, but not all. Ongoing, monthly blog contracts for marketing firms were ideal for subcontracting out. Writing website content and other higher-level copy that required heavy client interaction, I needed to handle myself.

Project Management

As the workload for you and your team increases, so does the challenge of communication with subcontractors and your clients. An efficient and effective project management program becomes essential. You are the business owner. The buck stops with you. So, you need to know what is going on with all your projects at all times. I have used several different systems. I haven’t found a “perfect” system yet.

Quality Control

This is a big one. No matter how careful you are in vetting your subcontractors, there will always be issues. You need to have an onboarding system to train them in your processes and a legal contract that spells out the terms of assignments and payment. If someone ends up in the hospital with their project unfinished, how will you handle that? Will you be reviewing everything before it goes to your clients? If you build in too many layers of quality control, it can sink the ship. (I’ve seen that happen). But there will need be some type of review process in most cases.

Are You Ready for the Responsibility?

There is a lot of responsibility that goes with leading a team. When there isn’t enough work for everyone, you have to decide who gets assignments and who doesn’t. Plus, it will be hard to keep your best subcontractors committed to you if you aren’t out there growing your client list and keeping the work flowing. What if your client doesn’t pay? Can you still pay your subcontractor for their work? I care deeply about the writers and editors who subcontract work from me. If I lose a client, it affects them as well as me.

Several freelancers have asked me for advice on how to successfully transition to the subcontractor model that I have used to build my business. This is just a sampling of the challenges involved.

I wish I had someone to show me how to do it when I started, but I learned by trial and error. Those lessons tend to stick with you better than others. The greatest reward that has come from growing my business in this fashion has been the satisfaction of helping other freelancers build their careers and see them flourish in and outside by business.

Kathleen Krueger is a freelance writer who leads a team of writers providing blogs for businesses and marketing firms. Kathleen also teachings workshops on developing a freelance writing career and mentors writers via her email list. http://kathleenkrueger.com and http://businessblogwriting.com