Subcontracting: A Good Fit for this Start-up

Guest Blogger: KassandraBrownis a new business owner who enjoys yoga, meditation, walks on the land and the freedom to focus her energy on the tasks that are important to her.

When starting my business I thought I would do everything myself. I’ve started a business before and did all of the website design and construction myself, did all of the advertising design and creation myself, and did all of the actual work myself. I figured I’d do it that way again.

My main motivations for doing it on my own fell into two categories. 1) I didn’t think I had the money to afford help. If my time is free, then the least expensive way to do anything is for me to do it myself.  2) I wanted to be seen by myself and others as being competent enough to know what I was doing. I was proving myself and somehow thought I was admitting to some lower level of capability if I asked someone else to do a task for me.



After all, it worked before so why change it?

It turns out there are good reasons to change the ‘do it yourself” paradigm for a start-up and an easy way to change it is with sub-contractors. But before I could benefit from hiring subs, I needed to examine some of my underlying beliefs – namely the ones listed above – and see what was really true.

3 Do It Yourself Myths

  1. I don’t have the money to afford help. Asking others to help me in their area of expertise means the work gets done faster and better than if I do it on my own. The increased professionalism of the end product can pay for itself in terms of helping create more customers through ease of use or appearing more competent through having nice presentation. This needs to be balanced and services paid for judiciously when one is on a tight budget, but it is not necessarily more expensive to hire help.
  2. My time is free but other people cost money. Undervaluing my own time makes everyone else seem very expensive. Having children and balancing time with my family helped me realize just how valuable my time is. This made it easier for me to hire a subcontractor for specific tasks and feel good about the investment.
  3. People will respect me more if I do-it-myself. Being capable is very respectable. Yet most of us want to be seen as capable in our chosen field or vocation. I realize I often have more respect for people who ask for help when they need it rather than maintaining a stoic struggle for independence.


Some tasks of a new start-up are best handled by the owners, but others can benefit from being delegated. I started by bringing in a friend to consult with me on the start-up and visioning. From there, I hired a subcontractor for my website. After I created the basic site and content, he came in and created a unified theme and easy-to-use forms. The subcontractor was hired for a specific task, given a specific budget, and expected to deliver within a specific timeline.

When the scope of all that was finished, our official relationship was also finished. I was left with none of the expectations I would have for an employee like continued production and my subcontractor had none of the expectations for an employer like continued compensation. Clear boundaries for the work, scope, and timeline are some of the best features of a subcontractor relationship.

There are some things that a business owner benefits by doing for themselves. There are other things that are very effective to subcontract. An example of a whole category of things that are good to subcontract – specific tasks requiring technical expertise you do not wish to acquire at this time. Subcontracting allows a business owner the flexibility to focus on the tasks that are important to them because they’ve hired some competent person to do the task they don’t want to do.

For instance, subcontracting aspects of my web development has been invaluable. I’ve saved time by asking my subcontractor to do targeted jobs, but I would not have benefited from subcontracting the entire development of the site. I needed to develop the content and going through that process helped clarify my vision.

I’ve also enjoyed the flip side of subcontracting. I’m currently blogging for  A Cooler Climate. Raising awareness about climate change is a mission I believe in but this business has no budget for hiring me as an employee. Subcontracting allows me to take on finite tasks for a known amount of money over a given time period. Both of us benefit from this clarity and flexibility.

What’s your favorite benefit of subcontracting? Known timeline? Ease of using the right people for the right tasks? Ease of budgeting? Or something else? We look forward to hearing from you.

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