Subcontracting can be a very good choice for tradespersons and other professionals, as the actual contractor who hires you would do all the communication with clients and customers who need your services; a direct contractor may also manage payments, collections, work schedules, and the like. This leaves subcontractors to focusing on their craft while they earn money!
However, since subcontractors are not the ones working directly with clients and customers, this might make it a bit more challenging to actually find steady work in the first place. This doesn’t mean that subcontractors are always be “scrambling” for employment, as there are many ways on how subcontractors find work that ensure contractors find you when they need you, and ways you can make your company stand out from the competition.
If you’re a subcontractor or freelancer of any sort, note these 10 tips for finding work online, and in your local area. This will ensure you always have a steady stream of employment and compensation and are always in contact with local contractors who can provide you with work, no matter your field or industry.
Reach out to local contractors and keep reaching out!
Obviously, you’ll want to make yourself available to contractors when you work as a subcontractor, but don’t wait for them to find you! Keep a running list of local contractors in your area, along with their website, phone number, site manager, and other such information needed to maintain a good line of communication with those companies.
It’s also never good to make a few contacts with contractors in your area, and then assume that they will always provide you with all the work you need. Contractors often see their own work ebb and flow with the seasons and with their own marketing efforts, and may have a number of subcontractors from which to choose for each job, with new subcontractors reaching out to them every day.
In turn, it’s good to think of contacting local contractors as part of your everyday job, so you are always on the lookout for new contractors in your area, and are always reminding them of your availability. You might even set aside a particular day every week when you scour an online directory of your local area, noting any contractors you haven’t spoken with in some time, so you can send them your business card. This will ensure your name is always on their list of subcontractors to contact when they have work available.
Search online for “subcontractor wanted” ads
Searching online is a great way to find any type of work or job listing, but you need to use the right terms and phrases when you search, so you find the best ads in the shortest amount of time. This will also mean not overlooking ads that relate to the work you offer. Searching for “electrical jobs” or “freelance work” is good, but ensure you’re using the terms “subcontractor wanted” or “subcontractor jobs” as well, so that you find subcontractor work in particular.
You can also narrow down your search by using terms and words that are specific to your industry; this might include “new residential construction” or “apartment move out,” as examples. When you search for freelance work, note the type of work you’re interested in, including “creative writing,” “web design,” and the like. This will ensure you don’t spend hours on the internet, going through ads and job boards that offer nothing in your line of work, while also not overlooking ads that are meant for your industry and specialty in particular.
Maintain a “looking for subcontractor work” website
As a subcontractor, you may not think that you need a website, perhaps assuming that only contractors who work directly with clients and customers need to keep up a web presence. This just isn’t true, as anyone looking for regular jobs should be readily found online by customers and clients who are searching for their services!
Creating and maintaining a “looking for subcontractor work” website can allow contractors to find you quickly and easily, and it will also ensure those contractors know the type of work you offer. In turn, you waste less time on the phone or in emails, explaining your specialty and how those contractors can hire you for jobs.
You can also answer other basic questions through your website, such as the local areas in which you work, the licenses you have, your basic rates, work you actually don’t perform, the rate of your insurance coverage, and so on. This, too, also saves valuable time on the phone or online, answering basic questions that you can otherwise address in a FAQ page on a website.
As a subcontractor, maintaining a healthy online presence can seem daunting. To be quite honest, you should feel overwhelmed. While there are easy things to to to help keep your company relevant such as creating Facebook and Houzz business profiles, getting your own website to generate leads is quite a hard task. This is exactly why our company founded LeadsForward. Our mission is to send contractors job leads and only charge them a small commission on closed sales.
Network with local businesses
If your subcontracting work needs to stay local, meaning jobs like electrical, landscaping, painting, and so on, then you want to network with local businesses. This includes business that are frequented by local contractors who might be hiring subcontractors. You can then leave your business card, brochures, or other such material at those businesses, so those materials can be found by contractors.
Consider the types of businesses where contractors might be found, and where those contractors can then find your marketing information. This might include local hardware stores, stores that sell parts for heavy-duty commercial equipment, paint supply stores, gas stations that sell diesel fuel or propane, or even local diners near construction sites or construction supply stores! Ask these businesses if you can leave some business cards on their counter, or note if they have a corkboard where you can pin cards and brochures, to be found by contractors when they stop by.
Use classified ad websites
Many classified ads today are posted online, and even local newspaper may use a webpage for their ads versus putting them in print. If your work is always done locally, such as for construction or home improvement, make a list of all the local papers in your area, and then find their online classified websites. Consider running a long-term classified, which is often cheaper than composing an ad every week or every few weeks.
Larger, national sites are good for freelancers or subcontractors who work remotely; look for a section on the website that allows an ad to run nationwide, or choose a few major cities where your ad will get the widest audience. Be sure you note how long those ads will run, so you know to renew or upload them again as needed.
Write articles for websites
Websites get more visitors if they have more content, which is why many site owners will include informative articles or a blog on their site. Website owners also may allow, or even ask for, outside writers to contribute to their site. They might pay them for this, or allow them to contribute work in exchange for a byline, giving that writer credit along with displaying their email address, web address, and the like.
You can take advantage of this by writing, or hiring a freelancer to write, informative articles that relate to your own subcontracting business. You can then offer these articles to other website owners, in exchange for that byline.
Consider an example of how this works. If you’re a housepainter, you might write, or have a freelance writer compose for you, articles titled, “Understanding the Differences Between Flat, Gloss, and Semi-Gloss Paint,” or, “3 Steps Every Homeowner Forgets When Painting a Bathroom,” or something similar. You can then offer those articles to be used on the website of other contractors or subcontractors who offer similar services, such as electrical work or drywall repair, or who have some type of residential construction business.
If this other contractor or subcontractor publishes your article on their site, it then advertises your name, email address, web address, and other important information. You then have free advertising to anyone who visits their site and reads the article, and who might be interested in your services!
Find subcontractor jobs at expos
Many industries will have expos or tradeshows of one type or another, and these provide a great place for networking and for distributing marketing materials. If you perform commercial HVAC repair, as an example, you might attend a construction expo or tool show, as many contractors might attend such an event as well. Set up a booth with your information and business cards, and ask other attendees if you can add your business cards to their table.
Be sure to expand your search of expos, fairs, and shows you might attend, as you’ll find more contractors and clients this way. For example, home repair companies or new homebuilders might set up booths at bridal expos, for couples who are buying their first home together or who want one built for them after their wedding. Construction companies may be found at expos for first-time business owners, as those business owners might want to have an office, restaurant, or other business built for them. If you attend those expos, you might then find more contractors who would readily appreciate receiving your business card.
Look for “supplier connection” web pages
You may not think that nationally known, name brands of tools, lawn care equipment, construction equipment, and other such items would care about local subcontractors, but many websites for these brands will have a “supplier connection” page just for subcontractors like you. These pages may be set up like a typical phonebook, with a space for your name, contact information, an online map for areas serviced, your website, and so on.
Look for volunteer opportunities
Contractors often perform volunteer activities, either to simply improve and give back to the community, or as a way to advertise their services. Be alert to these volunteer activities so you can do the same, and then network with contractors and other potential customers and clients.
For example, you might see “ABC Construction” advertising that they will be helping to repair a local school on a certain Saturday; if you perform any type of construction or repair work, contact ABC Construction and ask if they can use your services that day! Construction and maintenance subcontractors might also volunteer for disaster recovery, low-income homebuilding, and other such activities that are performed through volunteer agencies, to network with contractors who are also volunteering for these agencies.
Freelancers can do the same; if you’re a writer or graphic designer, for example, you might volunteer to write a few blog posts or edit a newsletter or website for a charity, in exchange for a short byline at the end of the site. Anyone looking for services like yours might notice your information and be impressed by your services, and give you a call!
Remember, too, that this type of work can bolster your resume or portfolio; if you’re a landscaper, you might volunteer to spruce up the landscaping at a local business, and use the “before and after” photos on your website. Do the same if you’re a freelancer and you work remotely; include copies of designs or websites you’ve created in your portfolio. This can be invaluable for subcontractors who are just starting out, and who may not yet have much of a portfolio to show potential customers.
Get involved with civic organizations
It’s always good to get involved with your local chamber of commerce, small business administration, and any other civic organizations that offer support to the contractors who need to hire you. By attending their programs, buying ad space in their materials, or otherwise networking through these companies, you let them do the legwork of finding contacts and potential subcontracting jobs for you.
There may also be such organizations that cater to your industry in particular; for example, you might find an organization or even a union that supports local home improvement companies, or local electricians and plumbers, even if these ones are subcontractors and self-employed. You might need to pay a small fee to join these organizations, but it can be worth the investment if it means getting your organization found by contractors and clients in your area.
A few additional reminders when you are a subcontractor looking for work
Now that you know a bit about where and how to find subcontractor jobs, note a few additional tips that will help ensure steady, long-term employment:
- When looking for subcontracting jobs, you need to consider your job search as part of your everyday work. Don’t assume you can place even a long-term classified ad and always have contractors find you, as your online ad might get bumped by newer ads over time. You might also be using a free online site, only to find that the site has been taken down without your knowledge!
- Making contact with local contractors and potential clients should also be done regularly, as your business card might get shuffled to the bottom of a pile of new cards those contractors receive, so your marketing material is not as memorable as you assume. Consider, too, that a contractor might go through personnel changes, so the individual you spoke to about your services a month ago no longer works for that contractor, and the new person working there has never heard of you!
- Invest in professionally-produced marketing materials, including business cards, brochures, flyers, and the like. This will make your information stand out from your competition, and ensure those materials are also easy to understand. If you can’t afford a professional graphic designer, be sure to use a template you find online for these materials. Ask friends and family for input and listen to their feedback, so you know your materials look their best.
Remember, too, that it’s also good to keep an eye on your competition and how they are getting jobs. Do this by regularly scouring the websites of subcontractors and direct contractors who offer services that are similar to yours. Make note of what types of website designs are popular among subcontractors, the prices quoted by your competitors, any new services they offer that you might also consider adding to your portfolio, and so on.
Competitors may also list the contractors or companies who have hired them recently, on their website or on their marketing materials. You can then contact these same companies with your own business cards and offers to bid. You don’t need to mention your competitors or purposely try to sabotage or undercut their work, but if a certain contractor is listed on a competitor’s website, then you know that this contractor hires companies like yours. In turn, you can add them to the list of companies you want to target with business cards and other information about your subcontracting business!