You can become a subcontractor by applying for the position, by submitting a bid in response to an open invitation, or by networking. A subcontractor works on jobs as an individual or through a company he owns. You look for subcontracting opportunities in the same way as you would look for any other job or cultivate a client. Your success in becoming a subcontractor on any contract depends on your ability to market your talents and position yourself to be selected.
Subcontractors are hired by principal or general contractors to perform all or part of an existing contract. The chain of authority for a job using subcontractors is from the client to the principal contractor, then from the principal contractor to any number of subcontractors necessary to get the job done. To become a subcontractor on a job, you have to position yourself to be selected, be qualified for whatever work the principal contractor has parsed off from the main contract, and have relevant qualifications and experience. Subcontractors compete for jobs just like any person or company looking to be hired.
Once you have established that you are qualified for a particular job, you can become a subcontractor in one of three typical ways. Some subcontracting opportunities are advertised on job boards and classified sections. You can apply for the position by sending in a letter of introduction and a resume or business portfolio. Employers select candidates for interviews and hire the one who best meets their needs. The selected candidate signs a contract with the principal contractor that is subordinate to the main contract between the principal and the client.
Another way to become a subcontractor is to bid on opportunities. Principal contractors and government agencies with large projects that require transparency in the contract award process will typically open subcontracting opportunities for general bidding by the public. In this instance, you would monitor bid notification publications, lists, and websites and prepare a bid package and job quote for any opportunity that aligned with your knowledge and expertise. Contracts in this scenario are often awarded to the lowest bid by a qualified individual or company.
You can also become a subcontractor by networking in your local business community. Projects tied to a locality typically require principal contractors to hire subcontractors that are local small businesses or employ local residents. This is particularly true if the principal contractor is a large company that is based outside of the community. Community projects with funding from local government agencies will often have contract terms that award the principal contractor benefits for using subcontractors with certain designations, such as small business, locally-sourced, or minority- or women-owned.