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The Pros and Cons of Working as a Subcontractor

Rhino Trade Insurance 18 February 2023

Choosing to work as a Subcontractor can provide a steady source of work without having to look for new customers or get hired by a company. However, it may come with some significant disadvantages, such as less control over who you work with on a daily basis, taxes that may be more complicated, and pay that may not be as reliable.

The most important benefits and drawbacks of working as a Subcontractor, as well as how to determine if it's right for you in comparison to working for a Contractor, are laid out in detail in this article. Before deciding whether or not this style of work is right for you, there are many factors to take into account.

What is an independent Subcontractor?

As a Subcontractor, you can schedule your work according to your preferences. You are your own boss in the construction industry. Once you are booked a job, you are free to complete the work how you please. Come and go and be left to your own devices as long as the project is finished in the allotted time in your contract.

You often won't deal with any clients, which means you won't have to deal with customer indecision or issues relating to the work. The main Contractor takes care of any problems that arise and will delegate any information. As a result, a Subcontractor typically bears no project-related responsibilities apart from producing their own work.

You have the ability to work with as many clients or contractors as possible. If you have a team, you will have the luxury to dedicate resources to varied projects, thus resulting in more business and valuable experience. 

Advantages & Disadvantages of being a Subcontractor

When you become a fully-fledged, time-served tradesman or woman, deciding which route to take can take some thought. Be sure to weigh the advantages and disadvantages.


  • Instead of just working for money, you can focus on what interests you most. You can choose to work on projects that test your trade knowledge and really inspire you to do a great job and something out of the ordinary.
  • In addition to the opportunity to save money on taxes, Subcontractors frequently receive higher hourly wages than day-rate Contractors and salaried employees. 
  • They also have more freedom to choose how much or how little work they want to do.


  • Less security, especially if you don't put in the work to make contacts, could lead you to experience times when you are without income, which can be stressful. 
  • No paid holidays, unlike full-time employees. Working as an independent Contractor means you won't have paid time off for holidays, so you have to consider this when booking work and save money for rest and relaxation.
  • To ensure that you survive as a Subcontractor, as well as always make sure work is coming in, you will need to run your own limited company as an independent Contractor. Staffing, marketing, tax, cash flow, and other aspects of business administration must all be taken care of.  

Contractors are generalists and Subcontractors are specialists

Customers typically hire a General Contractor for a job as they are deemed ‘all-rounders’. Depending on your outlook, an advantage of being a Contractor could be that they are required to complete various tasks that call for a wide range of skills. For instance, a client wants to redo their kitchen but also integrate it with their living room. A Contractor will need experience of knowledge of how to fit the kitchen, plumb the water in, do any electrics or gas fitting, plaster walls, paint and so on. 

Once their part of the project is finished, the Contractor will more than likely hire Subcontractors to handle more focused tasks like plumbing, gas and flooring. This is because they are specialists in a certain area. 

These examples show that Subcontractors could have an advantage over Contractors. They have more room to develop concentrated skills and take on tasks that Contractors with a broader knowledge base might not be able to handle. You can also improve your skills to the point where you would be a leader in your field and called upon first by those needing your services. 

The main question is, do you think it is an advantage to have a bigger-picture approach to your trade business, or would you like to hone in on a specific area of expertise? This is the main difference between Contractors and Subcontractors. 

Deciding which path suits you.

Subcontracting can provide various advantages that are unavailable to Contractors. You will likely have more leeway to pursue a specialist approach to your trade, more freedom to take on projects, and more control over your schedule. 

The scope of your work will expand as a contractor, and you must coordinate and communicate with multiple parties, including suppliers, customers, regulatory bodies, etc. Working as a Subcontractor has a simpler day-to-day role than that of a main Contractor, and their pay can reflect this.

Subcontracting can be a great way to gain more control over your work and gain experience with a broader range of construction work. Make the best decision for yourself by carefully weighing the options we have explored in this article, and always love what you do.

Why choose Rhino Trade Insurance?

There is only one place to go for tradespeople looking for insurance. As a Contractor or Subcontractor, we at Rhino Trade Insurance put great effort into creating specialist insurance for you. We have bespoke policies that can be built for almost every industry. Whatever your business needs, we can tailor a policy to meet your requirements.

You can get coverage for the full 360 degrees of your business. We are proud of our service and offer insurance for Personal Accidents, Tools, Employers' Liability, Public Liability, and more at prices up to 40% lower than others.

Give our staff a call now on 0116 243 7904 to get a simple and quick quote. Within a few minutes, they will respond to your enquiries and provide you with a price. Alternatively, go to our website to use our fantastic online quote shop, which will provide you with a price in just 60 seconds.

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