Should You Outsource Large Freelance Projects? 8 Tips to Help


You need help. You’ve landed a great new project. Good news, right?

Landing a big project should be good news.

The trouble with this particular project is that it is just too big. You can’t do it all by yourself and still meet the project deadline.

What are you going to do?

Have you ever been in this situation and wondered what to do next?

Fortunately, as a freelancer, you have several options:

  • You can bring in another freelancer as a subcontractor (outsourcing).
  • You can try to negotiate a longer deadline or negotiate to reduce the scope of the work.
  • You can work day and night like a maniac and eventually burn out.

In this post, I’ll briefly take a look at all three options. I’ll explain why the first option is often the best. I’ll also provide eight tips for working with subcontractors.

Why Hiring a Subcontractor Works for Big Projects

Negotiations are a good tactic for dealing with a large project…except when they don’t work.

If a client has a big project and they are willing to pay your top rates for it, sometimes they aren’t willing to budge on the deadline or the scope. Even if you do manage to talk them into extending the deadline or reducing the scope, they might unconsciously feel that they aren’t really getting what they wanted. This could make them vulnerable to a pitch from another freelancer–even if you are the most qualified for the job.

Knowing that negotiations are likely to fail for your project, you might be tempted to bite the bullet and work nights and weekends to make your client happy. However, if we’re talking about a big project my advice is: don’t do it. Here’s why working 24/7 to meet a deadline can backfire on you:

  • You won’t be able to keep it up. Most freelancers work overtime occasionally (as do most employees), but over time you’ll burn out. You may find yourself getting sick. You may find yourself struggling with your other life responsibilities. You may even start to resent the work.
  • One word: mistakes. A burnt out, stressed out freelancer does not produce high quality work. You’re only human, after all. Despite your best efforts, working overtime usually results in lower quality work and more mistakes. It can become a vicious cycle as you then work even more hours to fix the problems.

In the next section, we’ll look at a better solution–getting help.

Tips for Getting the Project Help You Really Need

Getting help with a large project can be a win-win. Your client stays happy and you don’t burn out.

Here are eight tips to help you outsource a freelancing project:

  1. Have a contract. Not only do you need a contract between you and the end client, you need a contract between you and the freelancer you will be outsourcing some of the work to. Having something in writing can help ensure that you are both in agreement about project responsibilities and terms.
  2. First choice: someone you know. Outsourcing is one reason why you should network with other professionals in your field as well as with potential clients. You may need to hire another freelancer one day, and freelancers sometimes do hire others in their field.
  3. Second choice: referrals. While it’s best to be familiar and have trust built up with the individual you will be outsourcing work to, it’s not always possible. If they are not available, your networked contacts may be able to point you to a trustworthy freelancer.
  4. Be a good client. If you choose to outsource work to another freelancer, you become their client. As a client, you have the responsibility to be a good one. Pay on time. Answer questions. I find it upsetting when freelancers don’t treat each other well.
  5. Communicate clearly. Miscommunication with their clients is one of the biggest obstacles freelancers face. If you are subcontracting work to another freelancer, the problem is compounded as you try to convey the end client’s wishes to your subcontractor.
  6. Let the client know. Many clients will be okay with you getting trusted help on board–especially if you already have a good relationship with the client. However, a few will be upset if you outsource work and don’t tell them. It’s best to be upfront about the outsourcing.
  7. Use the appropriate tools. There are many tools available, such as Google Drive, that make sharing information and ideas easier. Learn which tools are best for your project and be sure to use them.
  8. Work in some management/coordination time. Even if you’ve brought extra help on board, you will still need to oversee what they are doing. The work they turn in represents your freelancing business, so you will have to make sure that it is top-notch.

Your Turn

Have you ever outsourced work to another freelancer? What tips would you add?


  1. says

    Obviously if you have too much work, you have a deadline and you are a freelancer, you must get help outside.
    So, if you are a freelancer, you should really put this article in practice NOW. I’ve found it very useful, thanks.

  2. says

    Mark Ford–Thanks for your comment.

    It’s true that some freelancers aren’t cut out for project management. It’s good to know that up front and if you aren’t comfortable managing other freelancers, be sure not to take too much work.

  3. says

    I can’t emphasize how important item 1 can be! Three years ago I worked on a HUGE project with a programmer and SEO expert. By the time we were finished, I wondered if I would have a reputation or a client left! They missed deadlines and made so many mistakes it made my head spin. But I didn’t have any kind of written contract with them, even though I had one with the client. Now I know — contract with your contractors!

  4. says

    Catena Creations–This is absolutely true. I’m sorry you had a bad experience with hiring a subcontractor. As you point out, it’s just as important to have a contractual relationship there as it is with a client.

  5. says

    My contractors often afraid if they see i am outsourcing my work. They always ensure that person they hire is to be the person who work on their project. How to deal with these type of clients?

    • Ryan Domm-Thomas says

      Hi Saurabh,

      That’s a great question! Dealing with these types of clients can be difficult if you are unsure how to approach the subject. One of the best things that you can do, is reassure your client.

      Let him/her know that while you do work with a team, you will oversee the project in its entirety. This could be edits along the way, it could be one big editing effort at the end before the project is finalized. However you choose to be involved, just let your client know that you are there every step of the way and that you aren’t simply passing them off.

      Whether you’re an individual doing all the work or you have a group/team, communicating openly with your client is the best way to reassure them that they will receive your very best work!

      Thanks for the read – keep checking back for more excellent material!

  6. says

    I had a friend who wrote for (it’s an open source wiki) and he decided that he would outsource the bulk of his material to someone else. It turned out a couple of months later that the person he subcontracted was just copying text word-for-word from textbooks. The reason he was paying a subcontractor in the first place was because you can make money writing for Devtome and he wanted to pump up his earnings and he ended up paying it back.

    The moral of that story is… you had better be sure that your subcontractor is trustworthy and will not plagiarize his/her assigned work.

    • Ryan Domm-Thomas says

      That stinks that it happened to someone you know – and it’s so unfortunate that it happens all the time. You are correct though, the biggest and most important key to subcontracting is to find one who is trustworthy. Thanks for your comments Zimmy – keep ‘em coming!


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