5 Options to DIY

Are you independent? A self-starter? Do you love to be in complete control of your projects?

If you just read that and you thought “yes…yes…yes,” then you have a lot in common with many other freelance web designers.

We freelancers are known for our independent ways. We tend to be self-starters. And one of the big pulls for many of us is the chance to exercise more control over our work.

That’s why a lot of us tend to do almost everything ourselves.
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Do-it-yourself can be a good way to run a freelancing business…for a while. But eventually, there will come a time when you can’t handle everything you have to do. This post will help you deal with that time.

In this post, I’ll explain when you need to look into getting some help. I’ll also discuss the pros and cons of five alternatives to doing everything yourself.


When to Get Help

There are times when you can’t do everything yourself. It may go against your natural inclination, but you know it’s time to get help when you:

  • Consistently have more work than you can do
  • Don’t have the skill set to do all or part of project
  • Face an unexpected crisis
  • Need to schedule time off, but can’t due to your heavy workload
  • Could accept more work, but don’t have the time to do it
  • Would like to grow your business larger

If you can relate to one or more of the previous bullet points, it may be time to move away from doing everything yourself. It may be time to get someone to help you with your web design business.

No matter which help alternative you choose, it’s a good idea to formalize your agreement with your helper in the form of a written work agreement or contract. Make sure to spell out who is responsible for what and how finances (and in particular, pay) will be handled.

Option #1: Find a Partner

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The first option to doing everything yourself is to find a partner. You can team up with another freelance professional on a long-term basis, or you can team up for a project or two. (The first choice involves changing the structure of your business.)

There are several advantages to working with a partner:

  • It provides another set of eyes to review work.
  • The partner’s skills may complement your own.
  • Now two people are marketing the business.
  • It expands your professional network.
  • There’s increased accountability when someone else is involved.

However, you also need to consider these potential problems with having a partner:

  • Your partner may disagree on major issues.
  • The partnership work may not be shared equitably.
  • Circumstances may change for one or more partners.

When partnerships work well, they can be wonderful. At the same time, when they fail it can be devastating for both partners. Nearly everyone knows some friends who got along great–until they started working together.

Option #2: Outsource It

A partnership is not the only way to go if you are thinking of sharing some of your workload. Outsourcing is another alternative.

Here on Vandelay Design Blog, we’ve discussed the pros and cons of outsourcing in detail in the post titled Pros and Cons of Outsourcing.

A few additional points to consider if you decide to outsource all or part of a project include:

  • Price the project high enough so that you can afford to hire someone else.
  • Allow yourself time enough to manage the project. This includes answering questions from both the client and the worker you hire.
  • Select your workers very, very carefully. Review their portfolio and any testimonials they have.
  • Thoroughly review all work before you turn it over to the client to ensure quality.
  • Pay enough for the project to attract quality workers.
  • Turnover tends to be high among those who do outsourced work, so plan on hiring fairly often.
  • If you go through a job board to find your candidates, remember that some boards charge a percentage to applicants.
  • Depending on how much you pay your contractor and where you live, you may need to send out a 1099 form at the end of the year.

Option #3: Collaborate

Another alternative to doing everything yourself is collaboration. With collaboration, you work closely with another professional in your field to complete a project.

The other professional may be someone selected by the client, or even one of the client’s employees.

For collaboration to work smoothly, be sure to clarify who is responsible for each aspect of the project before your start. Communication is key to collaboration. So make sure to communicate with your collaborator(s) clearly and accurately. You may also need to schedule some additional time for group meetings.

Here are some advantages of collaborating:

  • A good team may come up with better and more inspired work than an individual.
  • The right collaborators will stimulate each other’s creativity.
  • There are many great tools out there to make collaboration even easier.

A couple of disadvantages to be careful about:

  • Personality conflicts
  • Who gets credit for the work
  • Getting stalled

Option #4: Hire Someone

Conceptional chalk drawing - Help needed

A more permanent solution to not doing everything yourself, is to hire someone (like a virtual assistant) to help you. This is a good idea if you find yourself bogged down by routine tasks.

Here are some advantages to hiring an employee:

  • Frees you up to work on higher level tasks directly related to your profession
  • May increase your freelancing income as you take on more billable hours
  • Allows you to spend more time on personal projects or with friends and family
  • Can provide you with peace of mind that tasks you dislike are getting done

However, there are some disadvantages:

  • You’ll need to pay an employee even when things are slow.
  • In the U.S., you’ll have to deal with some tax issues (such as withholding tax and sending out a W-2 form).

Option #5: Give a Referral

A final option to doing everything yourself is to refer some work to other freelancers. This is a particularly good option if you are asked to do something outside of your field.

The advantages to giving a referral include:

  • Maintains good will with a client or potential client
  • The other freelancer may eventually return the favor

Of course, the disadvantage to sending work elsewhere is that you do not typically receive any income from work you refer to others. For that reason, many freelancers are hesitant to do it. (Rarely, one freelancer may pay another a small finder’s fee for referred work.)

Your Turn

Are you a DIY freelancer or have you turned to others to get help? Did I forget any advantages or disadvantages?

Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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