How to take on overflow work from other freelancers

by Rachel Smith
30 January 2022

If you’re a Gold member of Rachel’s List, you’ll see that we’ve just opened up our private Facebook group to freelance overflow work. This means, along with the jobs board, you have double the opportunities to pick up work – while also building valuable work connections with equally experienced RL members.

I know lots of freelancers who sub-contract to other freelancers or pass on work to them that they can’t do, and this is a great way to keep your pipeline full and grow your bizz. After all, if you’re good, people will refer and recommend you.

That said, overflow work can be risky if you don’t have all the information, take on projects that are beyond you, or fail to protect yourself legally. Here’s what you need to know before you jump on these kinds of opportunities.

What is freelance overflow work?

If we’re talking in the context of freelancers offering work to other freelancers, it might be:

  • A freelancer seeking help with an aspect of their own business (writing, research, editing or proofreading, admin, VA duties, etc)
  • A freelancer passing on an existing client they can no longer work with because they’ve outgrown the client or have moved in a different direction
  • A freelancer passing on a work lead that’s not a great fit for them
  • A freelancer looking for help on a client project they’re working on
  • A freelancer seeking collaborators for a new group project
  • A freelancer hearing about a job and passing the information on.

These are just a few scenarios – the possibilities are endless.

What obligation do you have to a freelancer who gives you a lead or client?

Great question. I’ve worked with freelancers before who offered me leads and took a 20 percent cut of the initial project fee. After that, if the lead became a client of mine and I continued to work with them, the income was all mine. I’ve picked up several well-paying clients this way who I still work with.

On the flip side, some freelancers share leads and existing clients they’re looking to pass on without any financial cut – just to help others out. However, it’s always a good idea to ask what the freelancer’s process is, as everyone differs.

What should you ask for when taking on overflow work?

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to freelance overflow work, but there are some things you should do at the start, and to protect yourself.

If, say, you were responding to an overflow work request to work on a project that’s already in motion, you would want to know the following up front:

  1. The original brief / a new brief for the work required
  2. Whether you can look at the work already completed so you get a good feel for the project itself and the style/tone of the work
  3. The rate of pay, when you’ll be paid and how
  4. The terms of the agreement (who’ll end up with rights to the work?)

Will you have contact with the client?

If you’re just helping another freelancer with client work they can’t do, you probably won’t have any contact with the client yourself, but you should still ask to see the brief and know the scope of work and the rate of pay.

Knowing who the work will belong to and whether you’ll get any credit is also important information to have up front.

And, you’ll want to ensure you put a contract in place with the freelancer hiring you, outlining the terms of the arrangement, the agreed pay rate and any other details (we have different contract templates in the Toolkit if you need one).

Where can you find freelancers willing to share overflow work?

If you’re a Gold member of Rachel’s List, you can now find these opportunities in our private Facebook community. Joining the right Facebook groups in particular can be brilliant for making connections with others in your field and building deeper work relationships that result in referrals and overflow work opportunities.

Not all creative FB groups offer overflow work (and some ban it outright) so you may have to ask around. Generally, membership communities have a FB group attached where members can share leads and work, so joining a membership that aligns with your business goals is definitely something to consider.

They also offer some of the best right-place-right-time opportunities that other social platforms just don’t (with the exception perhaps of LinkedIn).

My advice would also be to build and expand your networks beyond social platforms, too. Stay in touch with people, work on making genuine connections, meet up with other freelancers regularly (Covid permitting), and offer work you can’t do to other freelancers you trust. It can quickly become a two-way street.

What if you’re the one offering overflow work?

In my experience, overflow work opportunities often crop up when a freelancer is overwhelmed with work, has hit a wall before a deadline – or is in the midst of a project that desperately needs resources. If that’s you, it’s a good idea to do the following:

  1. Write a short, succinct ad that outlines what you need, the project scope, the rate of pay and any deadlines the person will need to adhere to. Ask the people responding to leave a link to their portfolio or LinkedIn
  2. Always check out the respondees’ portfolios to see if they’re a good fit
  3. Always have a contract ready to go to cover you (and them)
  4. In the case of passing on a lead or existing client, if you charge a percentage amount on the first project fee, mention this up-front.

Are you a freelancer who offers overflow work, or do you take on overflow work yourself? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

Rachel Smith

One response on "How to take on overflow work from other freelancers"

  1. Lani says:

    Agree, subcontracting is a great way to pick up new and semi-regular work via other freelancers. I’ve also found a couple of freelancers that I regularly contract extra work to, which is great.

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