Tips to Help Subcontractors Win Jobs and Get Paid

If you’re a subcontractor, the process that GCs use to choose who to hire may be seem a little unclear to you. But understanding what GCs look for in subs is a big step toward landing more jobs. If you’re looking for ways to improve your next bid and start winning jobs, keep these tips in mind:

Know What Your Strengths Are

Bidding on a subcontracting job is extremely competitive, and often the GC can’t see any difference between different subs other than price. That’s why bidding can sometimes feel like a race to the bottom — who can offer the lowest fee for the most work. You can help your bid stand out by applying a little marketing know-how to your approach. This starts with knowing what, exactly, you do differently from your competitors that makes you the better choice. Whether you regularly attend training to keep up with the latest procedures, have a bigger crew to get the job done faster, or have a proven safety record, setting yourself apart from the competition can help your bid make its way to the top.

Brush Up on Your Marketing Skills

Once you start thinking that subcontracting jobs are awarded solely based on price, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that marketing doesn’t really matter for you. But the truth is, a good marketing plan is just as important for subcontractors as it is for any other business.

Start by knowing who you’re marketing to — including who the decision makers are and what their biggest needs and problems are. This will likely involve more than one person at each firm, since most GCs have multiple decision makers for choosing subs. Once you’ve identified them, address their specific needs and problems in your marketing materials. For example, learning about upcoming jobs early enough to form an accurate bid is one challenge most GCs face. By forming relationships with GCs and letting them know about new jobs you hear about, you can make their job easier — and their appreciation will move your name a little farther up their subcontractor list. Here, too, you’ll have to know what your competitors are doing, and how you’re different from the crowd. Successful marketing relies on being able to show how you’re different, and how you can make your client’s life easier.

Learn Successful Marketing Tactics

Here are a few ways you can market your services to a GC. Note that not all of these involve actually sending marketing materials — much of the marketing you do comes from the reputation you build on previous jobs.

  • Keep an eye out for upcoming jobs and forward valuable leads to the GCs with whom you have a relationship (as described earlier).
  • On jobs you win, help the GC give presentations to the owners — cementing your reputation as an asset to a job can help you get an edge over competitors.
  • Point out potential pitfalls to your GC — such as legal liabilities related to your field that could affect the build.
  • Offer ongoing training programs to your team to make sure their skills are up-to-date…and then publicize that fact. If you have a website and social media accounts, these are good places to mention your ongoing training efforts.

Be Professional

This final point may seem obvious, but presenting a professional image is crucial to your long-term success as a subcontractor. Make sure your finances are in order so you’ll never seem desperate to get paid. Most GCs have a regular payment schedule, and many operate on net 30 payment terms for subs — if you insist on immediate payment because of various business requirements on your end, you’re unlikely to win another bid from that GC. Conduct weekly safety meetings so your crew can help ensure jobsite safety, and things like making sure your guys clean up after every day’s work. Leaving a cluttered jobsite will reflect poorly on you, and your GC will likely remember it when the next bid comes around.

These are just a few ways you can boost your chances of winning bids and making more money. Got some great ideas for landing more jobs? Share them in the comments, and help other subs around the country learn from what works for you.