I had coffee with a friend of mine the other day who has sometimes done some freelance development work for us. He'd been speaking to a prospective client of his who was keen to take him on, but who had a few concerns about the extent of the service which could be provided by a single person.
Of course, the day rate of a single contractor should, in general, be less than that of an agency on the basis the former has fewer overheads. This is an attractive proposition for a lot of buyers. But, as well as the likelihood of one person not having a range of skills that match the breadth and depth of an agency, a solitary resource can be a bottleneck – a single point of failure which can't be expected to have 24/7/365 availability.
So, my friend was looking at how he might resolve that, giving his prospective client the cost benefit of a single contractor, alongside what would inevitably be a close working relationship, with agency resilience. And he thought we could help with that.
At miggle, we are all about helping to make clients self-sufficient by delivering what we call operational freedom. In one scenario, that might be for those who, with no digital capabilities, see us as a one-stop shop, delivered via a traditional client/supplier relationship. In another it might be for those who have a growing range of in-house digital skills and who want to partner with a firm like us to supplement, train or support those resources.
Over our coffee it quickly became apparent that us supporting a freelancer in this way would be the same as the second scenario – the partnership approach, being one where the contractor plugs our support into a range of their own client relationships, in a similar way to how internal client teams manage our engagement with their stakeholders.
For us, this could become a partnership where we can sell support and hosting agreements in the same way as we do today directly to clients, or one where we can contribute to moving a project throughout the entire product lifecycle when broader skills are needed, or when cover is needed if there's ever a bottleneck, or for holidays or sickness. I also think there must be plenty of times when contractors come across a requirement which is outside their skillset; a WordPress developer for example, who’s great with design and content, but who's never had to build a third party integration with a CRM, or even code much PHP.
The idea would be that the contractor retains certain services through us, primarily support.. That cost is passed on to the client by the contractor. For the client the total cost is more than it would be just to engage a contractor, but less than it is to engage an agency.
In terms of some of the details the way I’d see it working is as follows:
- That the end-client, contractor and us as a sub-contracted agency are all aware of each other’s involvement and have faith and trust in our respective abilities. As well as supplementary skills the contractors would also want us to have complementary skills
- The contractor is responsible for managing the client, either directly or by determining in what scenarios they’d want them to engage with us.
- The contractor determines how the retainer with us is used and draws down on the hours as needed. We provide a sub-contracted arrangement for the contractor.
- The contractor uses the tools we have in place which allow us to deliver resilience and which allow our services to be accountable. This includes things like Jira for Project Management, Slack for communications – even Toggl for timekeeping. We would determine with the contractor who takes responsibility for training and supporting the client in the use of any tools - but it’s usually something we take care of.
- As an agency we sign a statement of engagement with the contractor which respects their relationship with the client over a mutually agreed fixed term and which also ensures we’ll abide by their terms of confidentiality, or offer indemnities or warranties as required to allow the contractor to fulfill on their undertakings to their client.
I'd be interested in knowing what other contractors think of this. Do please let me know.
If you want to take back control of your web sites and applications then get in touch with miggle to see how we can deliver operational freedom for you in Drupal.