A well thought out, neatly designed website, represents half of the success of a company. The online market is a highly competitive area today and every wrong step can result in failure. That is why it is so important to think a couple of moves ahead. One of the biggest questions that a business owner faces is deciding between a freelancer or a design agency to handle the design needs of the product. This is a tricky question and hundreds of entrepreneurs keep asking it. If you are one of them, this article will shed some light on this never-ending dilemma.
Let’s define the pros of working with a freelance designer.
- The cost of services is the main fact that tips the scales in favor of freelancers. But don’t be too superficial in your judgment. If your project is simple or you need just certain particular services to be undertaken, then yes, you will save a lot hiring a freelance designer. However, massive complex projects might employ the services of more than one freelance specialist in the process, and, at the end of the day, the expense might not appear that small. That said, due to being involved in a highly competitive industry, many freelancers tend to give up some dollars in order to develop a valuable client-base.
- Personal approach. Freelancer designers usually don’t have as many clients as a design agency so they can get to know their clients much better. Working independently, freelancers don’t have resources for broad PR campaigns and their reputation is based on the feedback from their clients. That’s why they value every client and try to deal with them on a personal basis.
- Creativity and originality. Again this is a major factor, but as a rule, freelancers are niche specialists, who can come up with some uncommon solution to a standard problem. In addition, being specialists in certain areas, which is not a regular requirement of design agencies, they can spice up your website with mind-blowing unique animations, videos, imagery or whatever is their strong suit.
- Freelance designers have flexible hours and are not confined to the office, so the client can choose where to meet, and, if time is an issue, the freelance designer can work longer hours to meet a deadline.
But what are the cons of collaborating with a freelance designer?
- Narrow specialization. One person can’t be good at everything. Usually, a freelance designer specializes in one or two aspects of website building. There are, of course, several possible alternatives here. If the freelance designer takes on more than he can handle this can result in a weaker end product. Sometimes freelance designers, themselves, outsource to others and rely on fellow freelancers in the areas where they lack strong design skills. In this case, your project might be similar to Babel at the end of the day. Another variant is when you yourself find several freelance specialists to carry out different parts of your project. But bear in mind that, in this case, you will be a connecting link for the whole process, so, before deciding to pursue this route, think twice whether you need the sort of problems a decision like this will surely generate.
- Reliability and communication. Don’t misunderstand us, we don’t want to say that freelancers cannot be trusted. Most of them are committed professionals who are concerned about their reputation. However, the commitments in the freelancer-client relationship are a bit weaker than those of design agency. Because of the flexible working hours, it might be hard to get in touch with the freelance designer to solve some urgent problems if she is offline.
- Putting all your eggs in one basket. Because you entrust the whole project to one person, if something happens to the freelance designer, you are risking not meeting your deadline. And perhaps at the least suitable moment, you will have to search for another specialist.
Web Design Agency
Working with a web design agency also has its advantages and drawbacks. Let’s start with the positive aspects.
- Broad specialization. Unlike a freelance designer who works solo, a web studio has a regular staff of multi-faceted specialists, which guarantees a comprehensive approach to your project. Being a team and based in one building provides better communication between the participants in the process (unless you use DebugMe of course, in which case design collaboration and project communication on a global base is a breeze). This results in a smoother performance and better-coordinated work. In addition, two heads are better than one and a team is better than two heads. When you have a group of people working together, they may come up with more creative ideas for your project.
- Experience and time frame. The level of experience directly depends on the number of projects completed, and here it is hard for a freelance designer to compete with a design agency. Working alone, a freelance designer can hardly ever take on more than 2-3 projects at a time and it will take her much longer to complete them than it would for a web design agency. That doesn’t indicate a freelance designer as a non-professional. It happens just because she is doing everything by herself. So if you don’t have time limits you can boldly entrust your website to a freelancer. But if you are pressed for time it is better to apply to a web design agency.
- Post-launch services. The obligations of a freelancer usually end when handing over the final product to you. In contrast to this, web design agencies usually provide you with some long-term support and post-launch services.
- In the case of freelance designers, this issue of reliability really depends on the attitude of the freelancer. Generally speaking, web studios are more committed, which minimizes possible future troubles.
Yet hiring a web design studio for your project has downsides as well.
- First of all, there is the price. The price list for design agency services contains much larger figures than any freelance designer can charge. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s take a closer look at the issue. For small or short-term projects web studio services might be really too expensive. But if you are launching a massive project with lots of specialists involved, then the price may seem quite fair, taking into consideration post-launch support and relief from the necessity to manage the whole project yourself.
- Lack of flexibility. Unlike a freelancer who is free to move around the city, a web studio has an office, which can be located far from the client. Thus all the meetings would have to be arranged in advance. A web design agency has fixed working hours, meaning the client won’t be able to contact them at any time he chooses.
These are the main pros and cons of a freelance designer and a web design agency. All these statements are highly relative and may vary from one case to another. Generally, if you want to launch a small project or need just certain particular services to be carried out, it is reasonable to hire a freelance designer. For complex many-faceted projects, web studios are a better choice. But we want to emphasize once again, you get to choose according to your needs and purposes, your budget, your timeframe, etc. Either of these options can be good, however, the choice of specialists in the market is really enormous. Here are some tips to help you choose a professional for your project:
- Talk to your friends and colleagues. They might share some valuable experiences.
- If there are no recommendations, you’d better make your choice from a verified source. There are lots of websites evaluating different companies and publishing ratings or certification programs that confirm the high level of experience of the company. Or you can apply to a web studio or freelance designer who is certified by some famous brand. For example, TemplateMonster Web Studio Catalog. Anyone who wants to get onto this list has to pass a Certification Center course.
- Take a look at the portfolio of the web design agency or the freelance designer.
- Study feedback and testimonials from the clients.
- Have a face-to-face meeting. Prepare the questions you want to ask in advance. Don’t hesitate to ask questions that can reveal the professional level of the candidate. Remember, there are no awkward questions when it comes to business.
- You can always say no. If you have doubts, don’t be shy to voice them to the candidate. Maybe she will assuage them. If not, just search for another one.