21 May 2018
Business advice: employment vs subcontracting
Written by Doug D'Aubrey

When growing a successful business, the subject of taking on extra help is common. There are some rules of thumb to decide which is the right method.

Subcontracting in the early stages of growth

When a business starts to grow, there’s often a period whereby there’s too much work for the existing staff to handle. The amount or instability of this work may mean that permanently employing a new team member just isn’t viable. In this instance, subcontracting is the way to go.


If service delivery is where you need help, a freelancer can mop up your overspill work. For example, design agencies often use freelancers to cover when there is a sudden increase in workload or for holiday cover.

Subcontracting an activity

If it’s admin that’s causing your headaches, then subcontracting an activity could give you the space you need. Bookkeepers and call answering services are great examples of subcontracted business support. How many of us procrastinate on our bookkeeping because it’s less important than delivering our service?

Spot the signs when subcontracting has outgrown you

Of course, while subcontracting is a great quick fix, it can also be expensive. There will be a point at which the cost to your business is more than the equivalent daily rate to employ someone.

There are other issues to be careful of too. Regular subcontracting of the same person can be seen as an employee in disguise. If you find your business in this position, you will need to seek advice from an HR expert to ensure you act within employment law.

Using a variety of people isn’t necessarily the answer either, they will take more time getting to know your business and processes and you won’t build up in-house skills.

Finally, you may find your existing employees become disgruntled at being paid less than subcontractors.

Employment, where’s the tipping point?

So, when is it time to employ? You’ll know this through regular monitoring of your subcontractor usage. Evaluate your spend versus the cost to employ and understand where the tipping point is. A client of mine recently calculated that by employing someone, they could be making 50% extra profit per job because of the reduction in hourly rate.

Making employment work

There are plenty of horror stories about employing staff and I’ve lost count of the number of people that say it should be avoided! However, this is a complete myth. As long as the correct process is followed and employees are looked after, you’ll be inside the law, have a productive workforce and profitable business.

When you’re ready to employ, get expert advice from an HR consultant who will help you through this process.

If you need help managing workload or deciding whether to employ or subcontract, contact me for a Free Business Review. This is a genuinely free 2 hour session whereby I’ll come in and spend two hours giving you business advice for immediate implementation. Click here to arrange yours now.