Should You Hire an Agency or Freelancer for Your Web Design Project?

Contributed content / By Mikel Bruce / 23 April 2019

It can be challenging to decide whether to hire a web design agency or a freelancer. Use this article to evaluate which choice is best for your company. 

When embarking on a website design or re-design project for your business, the first decision that you will need to make is whether to work with a freelancer or with a web design agency

Freelancer or Web Agency?
 
Since there are few barriers to becoming a web designer/developer, there is a lot of competition in the industry and the choices can be overwhelming.
 
For most companies, a website project is a large undertaking, requiring a significant investment of both money and time. Before you make this important decision, consider the pros and cons of hiring a freelancer versus an agency. 

Advantages of Working With a Freelancer

There are several advantages to hiring a freelancer to complete your project.  

Cost

Cost is one of the biggest reasons that a business may select a freelancer over an agency to create its website. An individual web designer or developer is able to set his or her own rates.
 
Therefore, the cost of the overall project can be cheaper than options with a web agency. If your business is just starting out and needs a simple web presence, a freelancer or very small agency can be a good choice.
 
You can also reduce the cost of the project by having a freelancer use an existing WordPress template or theme versus a custom design from scratch.

With a custom-designed website, a designer will use photoshop or illustrator to create the design, which can increase the time and expense of the project. 

With a web agency, you’ll typically invest in a custom-designed site, but for a new business, it can be more cost-effective to start with a basic site built on a template. 

Involvement

Along with setting their own rates, freelancers can set their schedule. This can positively impact the timeline of the project.

When working with individuals, they may be able to devote all their time to your project to get the work done faster, whereas an agency will be managing multiple projects with different timelines.
 
Depending on the agency or freelancer, you may experience a more hands-on approach with a freelancer. Since they are your sole contact on the project, there can be a more personal approach.  

Disadvantages of Working With a Freelancer

Although a freelancer can be less expensive and more involved than a web design agency, there are also potential issues with hiring one.  

Accountability

When hiring a freelancer for any type of project, accountability is always a concern. While some freelancers come highly recommended, it can be more difficult to assess the reviews and experience of a freelancer compared to an agency. 

So, you may feel you’re taking a risk working with someone whose success and credibility is not easily verified.
 
You’re also relying on that individual to complete the project from start to finish. If you’ve hired an individual rather than an agency, and that person becomes unavailable, you may have to start from the very beginning with someone new.

Freelancer working alone on your project
 
To reduce your dependency on one person, make sure the website is built on a popular content management system platform, such as WordPress.

Using a popular platform means that there are tons of web developers and experts available, in case you ever need help with the site and your freelancer isn’t available. 

A content management system allows you to easily add or edit the content on the site, so you can manage the site long-term without needing a developer to make every change for you.

Limited Skillset

One of the biggest disadvantages of working with a freelancer is that you are limited to the skills and resources of that person. 

Designing and building a website is similar to building a house in that it requires a lot of different skill sets. You wouldn’t expect the architect to also do the plumbing nor the construction crew to help with the interior design of the house.   
 
In the same way, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll find one individual that is an expert in web strategy, UX design, web development, and project management. 

With an agency, you’ll work with a team on the website project and each member of the team will be a specialist in one of these skills.
 
When using freelancers for a project, you can make sure all resources are covered by hiring several freelancers, each one an expert in a different skill. 

The only challenge is that you’ll be responsible for handling communication between the different parties, whereas an agency would provide a project manager whose role is similar to a general contractor that oversees the project from start to finish.

Advantages of Working with an Agency

A web design agency can be the best choice for your company's project because of the different advantages it offers over a freelancer.  

Diverse Experience

The major advantage of working with a web agency is that you’ll have a team dedicated to the web project, including a web strategist, a web designer, a project manager and a web developer or development team.

Web development team
 
Each team member will bring a different set of skills to the project.  For instance, a web strategist is similar to an architect. When you are building a house, you need to start with a strategic blueprint.

In this same way, the strategist creates a wireframe for the website and considers the user experience of the site and makes sure the site is built with your web visitors in mind.  

A lot of businesses skip this step if they decide to work with a freelancer or a small agency, but it is a critical piece to a successful website. 
 
With an agency, you’ll also find that the designers and developers have many years of experience in their field. This is because agencies have certain standards for employment and there’s fierce competition in the web industry. 

A more experienced development team will be highly recommended if your website has any advanced functionality, such as a shopping cart or password protected area. 

Credibility & Support

Another advantage of working with a web agency is that an agency typically has more credibility in the community and has a reputation to uphold.

When evaluating agencies and freelancers, it is typically easier to view the credibility of an agency in online reviews, past client work, and awards, while you may not have easy access to that information with a freelancer.
 
In addition to credibility, you’ll typically find more on-going support from an agency. A freelancer is dependent on getting new projects and work.

After the website launches, it’s common for a freelancer to be busy on new projects and ongoing support and small fixes that may be pushed to the end of the queue. 

An agency, on the other hand, oftentimes has the resources and larger team to handle future requests in a timely manner.

Disadvantages of Working With a Web Agency 

While a web agency offers many benefits to its customers, hiring an agency also has some downsides. 

Expense

If you work with a web agency, you’ll typically invest more in the website for a number of reasons.

First, the agency will go through a phased approach to build the site. You’ll have a web strategy phase, design phase, and web development phase. 

The web strategy phase is one of the most critical, especially for lead-generation and marketing sites. A web strategist is similar to an architect and they will work with you first to create a blueprint or wireframe for the website.

By focusing on user experience, the strategist will make sure the website meets the needs of your different website visitors, thus leading to more conversions. 

With an agency, you’ll often invest in a custom design where the web designer will create something from scratch, unique to your branding and business. There’s a lot of advantages to using a custom design and it can set your business apart online. 

Finally, an agency’s pricing may also be higher because the business needs to factor in overhead costs for the office and team as well.
 
If you are on a limited budget, consider working with a small to midsized agency. You can receive the level of quality provided by an agency, but the costs won’t be as high as working with a big agency.  

Bureaucracy

Despite the advantages of an agency’s team approach, there are downsides to having a large web project team. 
 
With a freelancer, you’re guaranteed to have one main point of contact throughout the project and this can create a very personal approach to the creation of your website.
 
With a larger team, there’s a possibility of a disconnect between different individuals in the team. At a web agency, you’ll also find more processes in place where a request may need to be reviewed by multiple team members before it is approved.
 
To reduce the chance of miscommunication or delays, the majority of agencies have a project manager assigned to each website project.

This individual will make sure the project stays on time, everything is well-documented and there are no missing pieces to the project.

Consider Your Web Project Goals

In the end, you’ll need to consider the role your website will play in your business. If you are starting a new business and need a simple site to establish a web presence, then a freelancer or a smaller agency may be a good choice.
 
If your website will play a critical role in your marketing and if it includes e-commerce or more complex items, then an agency would be a wiser investment. A high-quality website requires several different skill sets.

Could you imagine doing all of that with one person? 
 
When considering your next web project, remember that your site will be the 24/7 representation of your business and you’ll want to do it right the first time.

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