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I'm starting to run into a small situation. I am a freelance web developer to build websites, build web applications and fix mistakes of past projects. I make pretty good money now doing this, but I am taking on a lot of work each week and month. I am starting to wonder if I should hire someone who can help me with these tasks and pay them an agreed-upon percentage.

Is it right to hire another freelancer friend to work with you on projects?

I'm floating some ideas of starting up a small company with him, but I usually go my own routes with everything; I am spontaneous with new projects, development of the web application and workflow.

  • We've already discussed this. Try searching my replies. Bottom line is "yes, it's ok, but you will not be able to side aside and another guy do the job. each project you outsource, it'll be as you are doing it yourself and you'll spend a lot of time monitoring the guy". – Peter MV Apr 22 '14 at 9:31
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Absolutely, it's allowable to get help with projects! But you take on a different type of role, depending on the project: the Project Manager.

First off, decide if you really need someone else coming on, and taking money from you. Yes, they may make you lots more money, but many people want to hire people for the lowest possible rate; can you accept that decent help costs decent money? Would you like being hired at $10/hr, while the project manager (or lead freelancer) is pulling in $100+ /hr? I know I would be pissed off about that...

When dealing with bringing people on, get a contract. No way around it. If you don't use a contract, you have NO protection from them, or the unknown. What happens if they get hit by a bus? What happens if they run away with your idea or proprietary code? Decide on what terms you want, and talk to a lawyer to get a proper contract written up.

Make sure before you start, you have a clear scope of what needs to be done, from start to end. Then, break up the steps. Do not tell them "I need you to make a database". Tell them "I have these requirements for a database, and these constraints. I need xx tables for y, and zz tables for n." You will need to be specific. If you leave the picture too broad, you'll never see the end of the project how you envisioned it.

If you decide to partner with someone on an ongoing basis, then good for you! Hopefully, it means you're busy enough to keep expanding. Make sure you vet your potential partners, as you now must be responsible for this new person. They say on their resume that they know C, but you constantly see goto statements? Red flag, don't you think?

Good luck! It's a great time when you can bring on help, and get more business and a better reputation! Keep up the good work.

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One or maybe two times it can be harmless to hire a friend of yours for help. On the long run, the work-relationship can't go so far, not if your friend will expect more than the hourly rate you pay him/her or if he or she requires more than a temporary job.

Closing this argument:

  • Hiring another freelancer to help you achieve the deadlines or for successfully handling the situations when you have more clients than you can manage by yourself is a good idea.
  • Hiring a friend is a complicated decision. On the long run it can hurt your friendship or it can do damages to your work achievements.

What about starting a small-business with your friend? Well, this isn't a bad idea. The only aspect you should keep present is the fact that in this case some-one has to handle the bureaucratic aspects:

  • Paperwork.
  • Accounting.
  • Strategy.
  • Budgeting.
  • Planning.
  • Managing.
  • Human resources.

Once you become a business each decision you take will affect others and this should always be in your attention. Moreover, if you will start this small-business with partners and not by yourself, than you should remember that their will sometimes trumps yours.

Right now you do things in your way. In the presence of some business partners, your freedom of decision making and vision will be somehow limited. And this, is a big "what if" you should think about before taking any action. If you are ready to change your habits and the way you do things than, you can consider building a team (the same if you have enough resources and afford to start the business with you as the sole partner - which is not too smart because you will bear all the costs and risks).

As a conclusion:

  • If you have to and if this should be the solution, hire a freelancer! Why not?
  • If you decide to hire a freelancer and you have options, hire the best event if this implies giving up on your friend.
  • When you hire a freelancer you become "the client". In this case, you have to protect your interests by means of a contract.
  • On the other hand, if this is the case, starting a small-business isn't a bad idea. But, pay attention at how you choose your partners and the implications of such a decision.
  • Don't over-think the problem. Start by taking small steps. First, ask your friend for help. If the situation repeat itself, ask again. Than, hire a freelancer, than, if the inflow of clients keeps growing, start searching for partners and consider the possibility of starting a small-business.
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Only ever risk your friendship for work if you are willing to forgo that friendship, for that is surely how it will end.

Only ever add someone to your business who can make you money. To do otherwise is to invite failure.

Structure your business so someone (you!) has a tie-breaking vote on how things get done.

Ensure you get a contract, ensure every piece of work you assign is accurately and completely described, and ensure you quality-inspect every result.

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