As a subcontractor, you obviously work for yourself (the ultimate dream). There are, however, pros and cons to working for yourself, but mostly pros, if you set yourself up right.

The pros of being a subbie are the obvious things:

  • working for yourself
  • you make the decisions
  • charge your own rates (while still being realistic)
  • you don’t have to report to anyone

You just need to know how to find construction work to really make it worth it.   

When it comes to the cons (if you really want to call them that) is that you don’t accumulate paid leave and you have to manage your own tax, super and accounts. You also don’t get paid to quote jobs so there’s a lot of leg work involved. But being your own boss and setting your own rates, that heavily outweighs this right?

The key to being a successful contractor is to build a great reputation and a big network to back you. Your main focus is to learn how to find subcontracting jobs to keep the workflow happening.

Your network shouldn’t just be limited to other subcontractors but head contractors, sometimes client direct and basically anyone with extended connections to help you out. 

Don’t stress though, we’ve got a few tips for subcontractors when it comes to finding construction jobs.

Where do I find subcontracting jobs?

Check out notice boards

Your first go-to will always be the notice boards. As you’d already know (because you’re on our website), that’s one of our core purposes, to provide you with endless jobs to look through. 

If you check out our tender notice board you’ll see you can search all different tenders by location and every trade specialty you could think of.  You can also set up job alerts for the right jobs to hit your inbox. 

But we’re not just here to plug our own noticeboard, we’re here to equip you with all the knowledge you need to really win those jobs and grow your business.

Notice boards are easily accessible on the internet or your subbie mates might know some good ways to find work too (we’ll talk about networking soon). 

It’s also worth jumping online to look at Facebook groups. Mostly there are groups designed to link up subbies for work when they need to fill some spots on a job but there’s always the potential to stumble across some work among the chatter so keep an eye out!

Network, network, network

As we all know, it’s not always what you know, but who you know. This couldn’t be any more true in the construction industry when it comes to finding a commercial construction job.

You should always try to strike up conversations where possible – always looking for that next job. 

Get to know everyone you can, whether they are other subbies on-site, head contractors and even sometimes you may interact with the clients who stroll through the sites. Make sure they remember you (in a good way)!

You can also directly reach out to contractors if you’re not currently on a job. If you have a profile with us, you can access our head contractor directory. From there, you can get their contact details and a list of their recent projects for reference. 

Keep in mind though, when reaching out to head contractors, remember that you are the master of your domain and have the power to provide expert advice on certain parts of a project. Use this as your ticket in to really give them a good impression of your skillset.

Industry associations

In the building industry, there are many different types of industry associations that you can join to gain many benefits. 

Industry associations provide you with specific advice around things like security of payments, contractual disputes (general advice, not legal advice) and so on. 

They can, however, also act as a connection with other subbies, whether it be through conferences or online forums. This is where your networking skills can come into play too. 

Associations like Master Builders Australia are a good starting point to check out. They represent the building and construction industry and are 32,000 members strong so you’re bound to make some connections.

A quick Google search though will give you a list of local industry associations that might be broader or more specific to your trade.

Let them come to you

While you can hunt down your own work, it’s always worth keeping in mind that you can influence how builders can naturally find your business on the internet especially. 

More often than not, contractors will vet subcontractors via good old Google. This means you need to set up a great website and practice good search engine optimisation (you might need to temporarily hire a digital marketing pro to help you out) so you can reach that first page of Google. 

You also need to make sure you have a good social media presence. Basically, use social media to communicate with everyone, with a focus on attracting new customers or contractors with work. 

Checking all of these channels is something contractors do regularly so it’s important to have a strong, professional presence. Just make sure you also have contact details easily available on your website and social media pages.

No matter what, you can always come back and check out our subbies notice board. We have jobs of all sizes, across all trades so you’re sure to find a tender that would be suited to you.

Don’t worry though, we can also help out with preparing responses for the construction tenders you want.

Commercial construction can be a funny old world. From BOQ to RFQ, there are so many niche terms and acronyms sometimes it sounds like a completely different language. We’ve pulled together a quick glossary so when it comes to getting on site you can both walk the walk, and talk the talk.

Who’s who on the job?

Client: This is the person or organisation who’s commissioning and paying for the building work. They are the key decision maker on any construction project.

Client side project manager: This is the representative of the client – their job is to make sure everything is built aligned to the clients needs (aka, done right and done on budget).

Head contractor: The head contractor – often referred to as the builder – is the company put in charge of the building project. They talk to the client and procure a series of subcontractors to ensure the project is built. 

Subcontractor: Affectionately referred to as a ‘subbie’, a subcontractor is a person or organisation contracted under the builder (head contractor) to perform a specific scope of works. 

When it comes to the docs:

RFQ: Request for quotation – These are the invitations head contractors send to subbies and suppliers asking them to price a project.

BOQ: Bill of quantities. Bill of quantities – an itemised list of the products to be supplied in the project.

EOI: Expression of interest – This is when a subcontractor expresses interest in supplying a quote for a project.

SOW: Scope of works – this is a list of all the requirements for a subcontractor to complete on the job. 

RFI: Request for information – An RFI is a formalised (i.e. in writing) communication between two parties when clarification around a particular piece of information is needed.

Drawing Register: A record of all drawings and schedules with their respective revisions. To an Estimator, it’s a spreadsheet used in the process of allocating drawings, specifications and other tender docs to specific trade packages.

Document Register: A list of documents given to a subcontractor. Used to make sure that the subcontractors quote has been sent in using the latest docs. 

Tender time:

Tender: A bid or offer to provide goods/or services for a stated fixed amount of money. A builder will submit a tender to the client basing their price off a series of subcontractor quotes. 

Estimator: A person responsible for constructing a price for a specific scope (or scopes) of work. The estimator for a builder will compile subcontractor quotes in order to put together an accurate and educated price to the client. 

Trade coverage: Also referred to as coverage, this refers to the amount of quotes a builder has received for each trade package. In order to put in an accurate and educated quote, builders require multiple quotes for each trade package. 

 Addendum: During a project’s life the drawings will need to be updated to reflect changes being made. An addendum is the process in which these documents are updated. 

Now you should be ready to get on site. If you’re looking to find more jobs in your area, find out how we could help with that here.