Subcontractor Management: Tips & Best Practices

In this guide, you’ll find best practices and software solutions for effective subcontractor management. Learn how to manage your crew for successful project outcomes.
subcontractor management
Construction Management Fundamentals
Roles & Responsibilities
Project Management
Tracking & Measuring Progress
Managing Cost & Budget
Quality & Risk Management
Leveraging Technology
Construction Management Fundamentals
Roles & Responsibilities
Project Management
Tracking & Measuring Progress
Managing Cost & Budget
Quality & Risk Management
Leveraging Technology

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If you’re in the construction industry, you know that subcontractors play a crucial role in the success of your projects. However, subcontractor management can be a daunting task. 

That’s why we’re here to help.

In this article, we’ll provide you with practical insights and expert advice to streamline your subcontractor management process.

Subcontractor management is more than just hiring and overseeing subcontractors. It involves a range of activities, from bid management and contract administration to communication and compliance. We understand the complexities and nuances of subcontractor management, and we’re here to help you navigate through them.

Whether you’re a seasoned contractor or a small business owner, this article is designed to equip you with the knowledge and tools you need to enhance your subcontractor management process. By implementing the things you learn here, you’ll be able to optimize project outcomes, foster positive subcontractor relationships, and drive overall success.

So, let’s uncover the secrets to effective subcontractor management!

What Is a Subcontractor?

Subcontractors play a crucial role in the construction industry and various other sectors. But what exactly is a subcontractor? 

In simple terms, a subcontractor is an individual or a company hired by a contractor to perform specific tasks or provide specialized services as part of a larger project. They are not direct employees of the contractor, rather, they work independently or as a separate entity.

How do we define a subcontractor?

  • A subcontractor is a skilled professional or a company that offers specialized services or performs specific tasks on behalf of a contractor.
  • They are hired on a project-by-project basis and operate independently.
  • Subcontractors may include electricians, plumbers, carpenters, HVAC technicians, painters, and many other specialized tradespeople.

Why do contractors use subcontractors?


Contractors often hire subcontractors for their specialized knowledge and skills in a particular trade. Subcontractors bring specific expertise and experience to the table, ensuring that each aspect of the project is handled by professionals who excel in their respective fields.

This allows contractors to deliver high-quality work in various areas without needing to employ a large, permanent workforce.


Subcontractors provide flexibility to contractors by allowing them to scale their workforce up or down as per project requirements. This helps contractors manage fluctuations in demand efficiently and allows them to take on larger or multiple projects simultaneously.

Cost Savings

Employing subcontractors can be cost-effective for contractors since they don’t have to bear the burden of full-time employee salaries, benefits, and other associated costs. Subcontractors are responsible for their own expenses, such as tools, insurance, and taxes.


Subcontractors often work on specialized tasks, which means they can complete their work more quickly and efficiently. This allows the overall project to progress smoothly and meet deadlines.

What is the Role of Subcontractors in Construction?

Now that we know subcontractors are a vital part of the construction industry, let’s take a closer look at their specific roles and responsibilities.

Specialized trade services

As we mentioned above, subcontractors are hired to handle specific trade services within a construction project, such as electrical work, plumbing, carpentry, HVAC installation, painting, and more.

They bring specialized knowledge, experience, and tools to execute these tasks efficiently and to industry standards.

Collaboration with the contractor

Subcontractors work closely with the main contractor to ensure smooth coordination and project progress.

They follow the project plans, specifications, and timelines provided by the contractor, aligning their work with the overall project goals.

Project execution

Subcontractors are responsible for executing their assigned tasks within the larger project.

They ensure that their work meets the required quality standards, adheres to safety regulations, and aligns with the project timeline.

Materials and equipment

Subcontractors are typically responsible for providing their own materials, tools, and equipment required to complete their specific trade services.

This includes specialized tools and machinery necessary to carry out their tasks effectively.

Site presence

Subcontractors are present on-site, working alongside other subcontractors and the contractor to complete their tasks.

They coordinate with other trades and ensure proper communication to prevent conflicts and delays.

Scope of work

The scope of work for subcontractors is clearly defined within the project contract or agreement.

They are responsible for completing their assigned tasks within the specified scope, ensuring the work meets the required quality and safety standards.

Supervision and management

Subcontractors are generally responsible for managing their own workforce, including any employees or subcontractors working under them.

They oversee their team’s performance, ensuring proper training, adherence to safety protocols, and timely completion of tasks.

Payments and billing

Subcontractors submit invoices or payment requests to the contractor for the work completed as per the agreed terms.

Contractors are responsible for reviewing and processing these payments based on the agreed-upon terms and milestones.

Who Manages a Subcontractor?

In the construction industry, effective management of subcontractors is crucial for the successful completion of projects. Let’s delve into the few parties that may be involved in managing subcontractors.

The General Contractor

  • The general contractor serves as the main point of contact for the client and oversees the entire construction project.
  • They are responsible for managing and coordinating all subcontractors involved in the project.
  • The general contractor ensures that subcontractors are aligned with project goals, meet quality and safety standards, and adhere to the project timeline.
  • They handle contractual agreements, payments, and overall project management.

Project Manager

  • The project manager is responsible for overseeing specific aspects of the construction project.
  • They work closely with the general contractor and manage the day-to-day activities, including subcontractor coordination.
  • The project manager ensures that subcontractors have the necessary resources, materials, and information to carry out their work effectively.
  • They monitor subcontractor progress, resolve any issues or conflicts that may arise, and maintain clear communication channels.

Site Supervisor

  • The site supervisor plays a crucial role in managing subcontractors on-site.
  • They ensure that subcontractors comply with safety regulations and site-specific requirements.
  • The site supervisor oversees the sequencing of subcontractor work to maintain project flow and prevent delays.
  • They provide guidance and support to subcontractors, address any concerns, and ensure that work is carried out to the required quality standards.

Subcontractor Manager

  • In larger construction firms, a dedicated subcontractor manager may be responsible for managing all subcontractors across multiple projects.
  • The subcontractor manager liaises with subcontractors, monitors their performance, and resolves any issues or disputes.
  • They ensure that subcontractors meet contractual obligations, including scope of work, quality standards, and project timelines.
  • The subcontractor manager maintains relationships with subcontractors, assesses their capabilities, and identifies opportunities for improvement or collaboration.

Collaborative Efforts

  • Effective subcontractor management requires collaboration among all parties involved.
  • The general contractor, project manager, site supervisor, and subcontractor manager work together to ensure seamless coordination and communication.
  • Regular meetings, progress reports, and site visits facilitate open dialogue and address any challenges or changes that may arise during the project.

Each party plays a vital role in coordinating and overseeing subcontractor activities to ensure project success. Through effective communication, collaboration, and supervision, these stakeholders ensure that subcontractors work cohesively, meet project requirements, and contribute to the timely and successful completion of construction projects.

Mistakes to Avoid When Procuring & Managing Subcontractors

Effective subcontractor management is essential for the success of construction projects. However, there are common mistakes that contractors and project managers should avoid to ensure a smooth and efficient subcontractor procurement and management process. Let’s explore some key mistakes and how to steer clear of them.

1. Not Doing Your Due Diligence

When it comes to subcontractor selection, thorough research and due diligence are crucial. Failing to do so can lead to potential issues down the line. Here’s what to avoid.

Skipping background checks

It’s essential to thoroughly vet potential subcontractors before hiring them. Neglecting to check their credentials, licenses, certifications, and past performance can result in hiring unqualified or unreliable subcontractors.

Ignoring references and past projects

Contacting references and reviewing past projects can provide valuable insights into a subcontractor’s capabilities, work quality, and reliability. 

Skipping this step may lead to hiring subcontractors who are unable to meet project expectations.

Neglecting to review insurance and legal compliance

Ensure that subcontractors have proper insurance coverage, including liability and workers’ compensation. 

Failure to verify insurance and legal compliance may expose your project to unnecessary risks and potential legal issues.

2. Not Getting Multiple Bids

Obtaining multiple bids from different subcontractors is essential for ensuring competitive pricing and quality. Failing to seek multiple bids may result in overpaying or missing out on potential cost savings. Consider the following.

Solicit bids from multiple subcontractors

Reach out to several subcontractors who have the required expertise for your project. Request detailed bids that outline the scope of work, timelines, and pricing breakdowns.

Compare bids comprehensively

Review the bids carefully, comparing factors such as pricing, quality, project timeline, and any additional services offered. 

Ensure that the bids are comprehensive and clearly address the project requirements.

Don’t solely focus on price

While price is an important factor, it shouldn’t be the sole determining factor. 

Consider the overall value provided by each subcontractor, including their experience, expertise, reliability, and past performance.

3. Not Properly Vetting Contractors

Thoroughly vetting subcontractors during the selection process is crucial for the success of your construction project. Failing to do so can lead to hiring inexperienced or unreliable subcontractors who may not meet your project requirements. Here’s why proper vetting is important.

Quality of work

By conducting a comprehensive vetting process, you can assess a subcontractor’s capabilities, expertise, and past performance. 

This helps ensure that the subcontractor has the necessary skills and experience to deliver high-quality work.

Reliability and professionalism

Vetting subcontractors allows you to evaluate their reliability, professionalism, and adherence to project timelines. 

You want subcontractors who are responsive, communicative, and committed to meeting project milestones.

Legal and financial stability

Proper vetting includes verifying a subcontractor’s licenses, insurance coverage, and financial stability. 

This ensures that they are compliant with legal requirements and capable of fulfilling their contractual obligations.

For a more detailed guide on hiring subcontractors and vetting them effectively, refer to our article on ‘Hiring a Subcontractor.’

4. Not Getting Paid Invoices

Timely payment of subcontractor invoices is vital for maintaining positive relationships and ensuring continued collaboration. Failing to pay subcontractors on time can lead to strained relationships, delays, and disputes. Here’s why getting paid invoices is crucial.

Reliability and trust

Paying subcontractors promptly demonstrates your reliability as a contractor. 

It builds trust and strengthens the relationship, which can lead to better collaboration and a more positive working environment.

Continuity of work

Timely payment allows subcontractors to manage their cash flow effectively. 

It ensures that they have the resources to purchase materials, pay their employees, and continue working on your project without disruptions.

Legal and contractual obligations

Non-payment or delayed payment of subcontractor invoices may result in legal disputes or breaches of contract. 

It is essential to honor your payment obligations to maintain legal compliance and avoid potential legal issues.

Subcontractor Management: Tips and Best Practices

Developing effective strategies and adopting best practices for procuring and managing subcontractors is essential for successful construction projects. 

Let’s explore some key best practices that can enhance your subcontractor management process.

1. Develop Risk Management Strategies and Contingency Plans

Construction projects inherently involve risks and unforeseen circumstances. By developing risk management strategies and contingency plans, you can proactively address potential challenges and mitigate their impact. 

Identify potential risks

Conduct a thorough risk assessment to identify potential risks and challenges that may arise during the project. 

This could include issues such as weather delays, material shortages, or subcontractor performance issues.

Implement risk mitigation measures

Once risks are identified, develop strategies to mitigate their impact. 

This may involve developing alternative sourcing options, establishing backup plans for critical tasks, or creating contingency budgets.

Continuously monitor and evaluate risks

Regularly review and assess potential risks throughout the project lifecycle. 

Update your risk management strategies and contingency plans accordingly to ensure their effectiveness.

2. Foster Collaboration and Build Positive Relationships with a Pool of Subcontractors

Establishing collaborative relationships with subcontractors is vital for successful project execution. Building positive relationships fosters open communication, trust, and a shared commitment to project success. 

Maintain a network of reliable subcontractors

Cultivate relationships with a diverse pool of subcontractors who specialize in various trades. 

This allows for flexibility in subcontractor selection and ensures access to skilled professionals when needed.

Clearly communicate project expectations

Establish clear communication channels to convey project goals, specifications, and timelines. 

Ensure that subcontractors are aware of project requirements and expectations from the outset.

Encourage regular collaboration

Foster a collaborative environment where subcontractors actively engage with each other and share information. 

Encourage cooperation, problem-solving, and a team-oriented approach to project delivery.

3. Thoroughly Vet and Select Subcontractors Based on Qualifications and References

The selection process for subcontractors should involve a thorough vetting process to ensure their qualifications, experience, and reliability. 

Conduct comprehensive background checks

Verify the qualifications, licenses, certifications, and insurance coverage of potential subcontractors. Assess their experience, expertise, and past performance.

Contact references and review past projects

Reach out to references provided by subcontractors and inquire about their experiences. 

Review past projects completed by subcontractors to gauge their quality of work and adherence to timelines.

Consider reputation and track record

Research subcontractors online, read reviews, and seek feedback from industry professionals. Consider their reputation and track record in delivering projects similar to yours.

4. Ensure Subcontractors Are Properly Licensed, Insured, and Bonded during the Procurement Process

Verifying subcontractors’ licensing, insurance coverage, and bonding is crucial to protect your project from potential liabilities and risks. 

Confirm licenses and certifications

Check that subcontractors hold the required licenses and certifications for their specific trade. 

This ensures they meet the legal and regulatory requirements of your project.

Verify insurance coverage

Request proof of insurance coverage, including general liability and workers’ compensation. 

This protects your project from potential accidents or damages that may occur during construction.

Consider bonding requirements

Depending on the nature of your project, bonding may be necessary. 

Ensure that subcontractors meet any bonding requirements to provide financial security and protect against non-performance.

5. Establish Clear and Detailed Contracts

Clear and detailed contracts are the foundation for a successful working relationship with subcontractors. A well-drafted contract helps establish expectations, protects both parties’ interests, and ensures project alignment. 

Define project scope

Clearly outline the scope of work, specifying the tasks, deliverables, and timelines expected from the subcontractor.

Payment terms

Detail the payment structure, including milestone payments, retainage, invoicing procedures, and any penalties or bonuses related to timely completion.

Change orders

Establish a process for handling change orders to address potential modifications to the scope, timelines, or pricing.

Dispute resolution

Include provisions for dispute resolution, such as mediation or arbitration, to provide a mechanism for resolving conflicts amicably.

6. Adhere to Timely and Accurate Payment Processes

Timely and accurate payment is crucial for maintaining positive relationships with subcontractors and ensuring project progress. 

Prompt invoice processing

Establish a streamlined invoicing process that allows for efficient submission, review, and approval of subcontractor invoices.

Payment timelines

Clearly communicate the expected payment timelines to subcontractors. Adhere to the agreed-upon payment terms to ensure prompt and consistent payment.

Maintain accurate records

Keep track of subcontractor invoices, payments made, and any outstanding balances to ensure accuracy and transparency.

7. Regularly Evaluate Subcontractor Performance and Provide Feedback

Evaluating subcontractor performance is essential for ongoing improvement and ensuring project success. 

Performance metrics

Establish clear performance metrics and criteria to evaluate subcontractor performance consistently.

Regular assessments

Conduct periodic evaluations to assess subcontractor performance, including quality of work, adherence to timelines, and responsiveness.

Constructive feedback

Provide timely and constructive feedback to subcontractors, highlighting areas of improvement and acknowledging exceptional performance.

Collaboration for improvement

Engage in open dialogue with subcontractors to discuss challenges, address concerns, and find mutually beneficial solutions.

8. Maintain Open and Transparent Communication Channels

Effective communication is crucial throughout the project duration. Establish open and transparent communication channels to facilitate smooth collaboration. 

Regular meetings

Schedule regular meetings to discuss project progress, address concerns, and ensure alignment between subcontractors and your team.

Timely updates

Keep subcontractors informed about project changes, timelines, and any relevant updates in a timely manner.

Issue resolution

Encourage subcontractors to raise any issues or concerns promptly. Address them promptly to prevent escalation and maintain project momentum.

Documentation and record-keeping

Maintain clear documentation of all project-related communication, ensuring transparency and accountability.

The Benefits of Using Subcontractor Management Software

Subcontractor management software is a digital solution designed to streamline and automate the process of managing subcontractors. Let’s explore how subcontractor management software can help you.

Efficient Bid Management

Centralized bid tracking

Subcontractor management software allows you to store and track all bids received from subcontractors in a centralized system. This eliminates the need for manual paperwork and ensures easy access to bid details.

Automated bid comparison

The software enables automated comparison of bids based on predefined criteria, facilitating a more efficient evaluation process.

Improved decision-making

By providing a comprehensive overview of bids, the software helps you make informed decisions when selecting subcontractors based on factors such as price, qualifications, and past performance.

Streamlined Contract Administration

Contract creation and management

Subcontractor management software simplifies the process of creating contracts by providing templates and standard clauses. It allows you to generate contracts quickly and store them in a secure digital repository.

Document sharing and collaboration

The software enables seamless sharing and collaboration on contract documents with subcontractors. This promotes efficient communication, reduces errors, and ensures everyone has access to the latest contract versions.

Automated reminders and notifications

The software can send automated reminders for contract milestones, such as completion dates, payment terms, and deliverables. This helps you stay on top of contractual obligations and ensures timely compliance.

Enhanced Communication and Collaboration

Centralized communication hub

Subcontractor management software provides a centralized platform for communication between contractors and subcontractors. It allows for efficient messaging, file sharing, and real-time updates, reducing reliance on email and facilitating better collaboration.

Task assignment and tracking

The software enables you to assign tasks to subcontractors and track their progress. This promotes accountability and ensures that project milestones are met in a timely manner.

Streamlined change order management

The software simplifies the process of managing change orders by providing a structured workflow. It allows you to document change requests, track approvals, and communicate updates to subcontractors.

Efficient Document Management

Centralized document storage

Subcontractor management software serves as a centralized repository for storing all project-related documents, including bids, contracts, change orders, and project plans. This eliminates the need for manual paperwork and reduces the risk of document loss or misplacement.

Version control and access control

The software ensures version control by maintaining a history of document revisions. It also enables you to control access to sensitive documents, ensuring that only authorized personnel can view or edit them.

Document tracking and retrieval

With the software, you can easily search and retrieve specific documents, saving time and eliminating the hassle of manually searching through physical files.

Subcontractors vs. 1099 Workers

If managing a small construction business or procurement for a large enterprise, it’s important to understand the difference between subcontractors and 1099 workers for accurate payroll processing and compliance.

Subcontractors are independent entities or businesses that are contracted to perform specific tasks or provide services within a construction project. 

They operate independently, set their own working hours, use their own tools and equipment, and are responsible for their own taxes and insurance. Subcontractors are typically hired for a specific project or portion of a project and are not considered employees of the contracting company.

On the other hand, 1099 workers, also known as independent contractors, are individuals who are engaged in a working relationship with a company but are not considered traditional employees. 

They are typically hired on a temporary or project basis and are responsible for their own taxes and insurance. 1099 workers are often hired for specialized tasks or short-term assignments and are not subject to the same employment regulations as traditional employees.

Try Workyard for 1099 Employees

Workyard is a comprehensive construction management software that offers robust features for effectively managing 1099 workers. 

Workyard is an intuitive app that 1099 workers can learn to use in minutes. From the device in their pocket, they can easily log working hours, view upcoming tasks, and communicate progress in real-time. This ensures accurate time records, boosts productivity, and ultimately reduces risk.

Furthermore, Workyard streamlines payroll management by automating wage calculations and generating accurate pay reports for 1099 workers. This saves you time and eliminates errors.

Sign up for a free trial of Workyard today and experience firsthand the benefits of using a comprehensive construction management solution.

See how Workyard makes time tracking easy for subcontractors

Subcontractor Management Software Examples

Let’s explore a side-by-side comparison of popular subcontractor management software. 


  • Organize and store project documents: Streamline communication and document sharing, fostering collaboration among team members.
  • Monitor labor hours and expenses: Accurately track and manage time and expenses, ensuring accurate project costing and streamlined invoicing processes.
  • Track and manage the submittal process: Streamline the submittal process, ensuring timely review, approval, and delivery of project documentation.
  • Manage RFIs and track change orders: Streamline the process of managing RFIs and change orders, reducing delays and minimizing the risk of miscommunication.


  • Store and manage subcontractor information: Maintain a comprehensive database of subcontractors, ensuring easy access to contact details, qualifications, and performance history.
  • Monitor subcontractor compliance: Easily track and manage subcontractor compliance requirements, such as licenses and insurance, ensuring adherence to legal and regulatory standards.
  • Track and evaluate subcontractor bids: Simplify the process of managing subcontractor bids, facilitating efficient evaluation and selection based on predefined criteria.
  • Share project documents with subcontractors: Enhance communication and collaboration by providing subcontractors with easy access to project documents and information.


  • Assess subcontractor qualifications: Evaluate subcontractor qualifications and capabilities to ensure they meet project requirements and standards.
  • Track and manage submittals and RFIs: Facilitate the exchange of submittals and RFIs, improving collaboration and minimizing delays in the approval process.
  • Manage subcontractor commitments and contracts: Effectively manage subcontractor commitments and contracts, ensuring adherence to project requirements and terms.
  • Monitor subcontractor performance: Track subcontractor performance, identify strengths and areas for improvement, and make informed decisions for future projects.

The Bottom Line on Subcontractor Management

Effective subcontractor management is a critical component of successful construction projects. By implementing the tips and best practices outlined in this article, you can streamline your processes, mitigate risks, and foster positive relationships with subcontractors. 

Remember, subcontractor management goes beyond simply hiring and overseeing subcontractors. It involves proactive risk management, clear communication, and efficient documentation processes. By embracing these practices, you can minimize delays, avoid costly mistakes, and enhance collaboration among project stakeholders.

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