Tech & Work

TechRepublic members offer advice on subcontracting

In response to a recent article on subcontracting, several TechRepublic members advised that subcontractors are wise not to tie payment in to when the primary contractor is paid. Read on to see what other tips members had to offer.


Communicate often with your clients. Make sure that you're doing exactly what the customer wants. And always start your work with a solid contract.

These are some of the commonsense—but often overlooked—tips that TechRepublic members suggested in response to our article "Tips for success as a subcontractor." Here are some of the other suggestions offered by our members.

Read our three-part series on subcontracting
The first installment in this series discussed how to determine whether you need a subcontractor, three ways to find a subcontractor, and how to ease that person into the client relationship. Part two gave guidelines for establishing a successful relationship with a subcontractor, while part three showed subcontractors how to best use their time and resources.

Start with a contract
TechRepublic member lotta_anger, who has done both regular contracting and subcontracting, recommends using a contract as a way to make sure you're treated fairly.

"If I'm subcontracting and I disagree on a major point, I make it clear not only to the prime contractor but also to the end customer. If it turns out I'm the one who's wrong, then I live up to my responsibilities under my contract. If I'm correct—and they insist—I either get signed waivers or walk (my standard contract provides for this)."

Beware of "moving targets"
Another way to make sure the client is satisfied is to verify that the end user's goals and expectations are in line with the scope of work that your prime contractor gives you, according to Nyert. If not, you're inviting failure.

"Make sure that all specifications are solid and agreed upon before seriously getting into the work, lest you end up trying to hit moving targets," Nyert said. "My worst subcontract was the result of the prime deciding to tell the end users what they would get, instead of asking them what they wanted.

"My second-worst subcontract was the result of the prime promising features that neither he nor the end user understood, and both kept redefining the specifications as the project went along."

Sometimes, freedom comes with drawbacks
What's an advantage of being a subcontractor?

According to japdraw,  subcontracting frees consultants from spending time acquiring new contracts. Although a subcontractor's hourly rate is generally lower, a reduced rate has to be balanced against not spending "billable hours" on acquisition.

Japdraw said that as a subcontractor, "I did my work under the client management's direction. I always worked on-site, [but the primary contractor] was never on-site," japdraw said. "His only concern was that the client was satisfied. To enhance my communication with the client, he coached me when needed. I consider this an ideal situation."

However, the contract wasn't without problems. At the end of the project, the main contractor told japdraw that the client wasn't satisfied with some of the work and refused to pay for the last four weeks.

"The prime [contractor] had already paid me for two weeks, so I am short two weeks' pay. There is no use for any action against my prime, because he didn't get the money. I can't sue the client because I have no contract with them."

More collection problems
Japdraw wasn't the only member who talked about problems collecting from their clients. Even though California-based contractor Melissa Guzzetta tells contractors that payments are due within 15 days, "They often use the excuse that they have not been paid by their client, and until they do, they don't have the money to pay me."

How does she resolve the problem? When the contractor sends her work, "I give them low priority and will take other jobs first," Guzzetta says.

The collection solution: Don't conjoin payments
According to another member, capstone5,  the best way to ensure that subcontractors get paid on time is to strike clauses in contracts that say you will get paid when the contractor does.

"Never accept this term," capstone5 said. "If the client reneges, you as the subcontractor have no legal recourse with the client."

Payment woes
Ever had trouble collecting from a client? How did you resolve the problem? Are you still waiting for payment from a contractor? Give us your advice for resolving such dilemmas.

 

Communicate often with your clients. Make sure that you're doing exactly what the customer wants. And always start your work with a solid contract.

These are some of the commonsense—but often overlooked—tips that TechRepublic members suggested in response to our article "Tips for success as a subcontractor." Here are some of the other suggestions offered by our members.

Read our three-part series on subcontracting
The first installment in this series discussed how to determine whether you need a subcontractor, three ways to find a subcontractor, and how to ease that person into the client relationship. Part two gave guidelines for establishing a successful relationship with a subcontractor, while part three showed subcontractors how to best use their time and resources.

Start with a contract
TechRepublic member lotta_anger, who has done both regular contracting and subcontracting, recommends using a contract as a way to make sure you're treated fairly.

"If I'm subcontracting and I disagree on a major point, I make it clear not only to the prime contractor but also to the end customer. If it turns out I'm the one who's wrong, then I live up to my responsibilities under my contract. If I'm correct—and they insist—I either get signed waivers or walk (my standard contract provides for this)."

Beware of "moving targets"
Another way to make sure the client is satisfied is to verify that the end user's goals and expectations are in line with the scope of work that your prime contractor gives you, according to Nyert. If not, you're inviting failure.

"Make sure that all specifications are solid and agreed upon before seriously getting into the work, lest you end up trying to hit moving targets," Nyert said. "My worst subcontract was the result of the prime deciding to tell the end users what they would get, instead of asking them what they wanted.

"My second-worst subcontract was the result of the prime promising features that neither he nor the end user understood, and both kept redefining the specifications as the project went along."

Sometimes, freedom comes with drawbacks
What's an advantage of being a subcontractor?

According to japdraw,  subcontracting frees consultants from spending time acquiring new contracts. Although a subcontractor's hourly rate is generally lower, a reduced rate has to be balanced against not spending "billable hours" on acquisition.

Japdraw said that as a subcontractor, "I did my work under the client management's direction. I always worked on-site, [but the primary contractor] was never on-site," japdraw said. "His only concern was that the client was satisfied. To enhance my communication with the client, he coached me when needed. I consider this an ideal situation."

However, the contract wasn't without problems. At the end of the project, the main contractor told japdraw that the client wasn't satisfied with some of the work and refused to pay for the last four weeks.

"The prime [contractor] had already paid me for two weeks, so I am short two weeks' pay. There is no use for any action against my prime, because he didn't get the money. I can't sue the client because I have no contract with them."

More collection problems
Japdraw wasn't the only member who talked about problems collecting from their clients. Even though California-based contractor Melissa Guzzetta tells contractors that payments are due within 15 days, "They often use the excuse that they have not been paid by their client, and until they do, they don't have the money to pay me."

How does she resolve the problem? When the contractor sends her work, "I give them low priority and will take other jobs first," Guzzetta says.

The collection solution: Don't conjoin payments
According to another member, capstone5,  the best way to ensure that subcontractors get paid on time is to strike clauses in contracts that say you will get paid when the contractor does.

"Never accept this term," capstone5 said. "If the client reneges, you as the subcontractor have no legal recourse with the client."

Payment woes
Ever had trouble collecting from a client? How did you resolve the problem? Are you still waiting for payment from a contractor? Give us your advice for resolving such dilemmas.

 

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