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Should you hire a freelancer or an agency for your web design project?

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I often have business owners reach out for a quote and they admit they are confused about what they need for web design. Most of the time, they are unsure if they are looking for a freelancer like me, or if they need an agency to tackle the tasks on their website to-do list. Finding the right fit at the right price is the key. Is it better to hire a freelancer to take on multiple jobs or a single agency? I’d like to discuss the pros and cons of choosing a freelancer or an agency for your web design needs.

Freelance Web Design Considerations

I have been freelancing for 20 years and I’m the first to admit my services are not the best fit for everyone. I believe a freelancer is the best choice if you are looking for someone that feels like part of “your team”. An experienced freelancer can help fill the gaps in your company’s staff, workload, or skills when you are starting a new web design project. 

There are many positives when working with freelancers for your website design:

  • Affordable rates – Independent contractors set their own rates and they are often competitive. Fees are based on the type of project and the length of the tasks you give them. Freelancers have lower overhead costs compared to web design agencies.
  • Specialized services – Freelancers, like me, sell the skills they are good at. They often specialize in a particular field and focus on it. When you need additional services, a good freelance web designer will have trusted partners to refer you to.  This could be for graphic design, IT services, or SEO.
  • Collaboration – Since you are able to interact directly with your freelancer, you participate in the entire process. This can reduce future problems and unsatisfactory outcomes. Direct, personal communication is key in the process of creating a website both you and your clients will enjoy.

Things that can be challenging when working with a freelance web designer:

  • Limited hours – Freelancers have flexible schedules and can work anywhere. However, they cannot offer you 24/7 service.  They should have good systems in place to deal with unexpected and emergency situations, but their call center is usually their own phone and voicemail.  They have business hours and if they have a good work/life balance, they are not open on weekends and holidays.
  • Longer process time –  A solo freelancer works for many clients and juggles many projects at once.  This means they are not a good fit if you are looking to get a website up and running in a short period of time.  Be sure to ask any freelancer what the availability to start is and how long it usually takes to build a website. If they are honest, they will tell you right away what their availability is.
  • More than one freelancer might be needed –  if you need many services for your project, you’ll need a team of freelancers. If, for example, you need a copywriter, a web designer, and a graphic designer for your project, then you need to hire three people. When they live in different time zones, handling them all at once can be difficult.

After weighing the pros and cons, hiring an individual freelancer is a better option if:

  • The project is relatively small
  • Participation in the creative process is important to you
  • You have a flexible timeline
  • You enjoy building a personal relationship with your service providers
  • Managing two or more freelancers is possible

Web Design Agency Considerations

Freelance web design agencies are designed to handle a variety of client needs. Web design agencies are ideal for projects that require a wide range of skills, such as planning, marketing, development, and testing.

There are many positives when working with an agency for your website design:

  • Flexible hours – Agencies have teams available and can offer more support after hours. Many will have subcontractors in different time zones so you can get an emergency dealt with immediately.
  • Quick process time –  Agencies will delegate your project to a team of specialists and coordinate your project to offer a quick turnaround.  Unlike a freelancer, there is more than one person working on your website project from start to finish.
  • Dedicated project management – When you hire an agency, a project manager will be tasked to handle your requests and they will delegate those requests to the right team member at the agency. With a complete team, there is always someone to pick up where another team member leaves off.

Things that can be challenging when working with a web design agency:

  • Higher prices – Rates are generally higher than if you hired individual freelancers. These firms sometimes require offices, project managers, and staff. Each of those expenses must be factored in.
  • Offering too much – Agencies can sometimes offer too many services to be good at all of them.  While they might be great at web design, they might not be as skilled at SEO (search engine optimization) or copywriting but feel they need to offer the kitchen sink to be competitive.
  • Tougher to collaborate – Because there might be people working on your site that you may never meet, you might not be able to get your point across when discussing design preferences and desires for your website.

When weighing the pros and cons, hiring an agency makes more sense if:

  • You have a good-sized budget
  • The website is complex and requires custom backend development
  • You want many services provided in one package and don’t want to work with multiple providers
  • Your deadline is yesterday and you always need a quick turnaround

There are advantages and disadvantages to both options. It all depends on the length, requirements, and budget of your project.  It depends on your preferences in communication and often the size of your company.  If you are interviewing freelancers and agencies for your website design project, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you feel like you are making a genuine connection when you visit their website?  
  • When you look at their portfolio, do you see websites that you like?
  • How did your consultation go?  
  • Are your communication styles similar?
  • What does your gut tell you?

WebCami Site Design has a detailed project application that helps you determine not only what services you need for your website project but also helps us determine if my freelance web design services are the right fit for you.  If they aren’t, I have trusted colleagues, including agencies, to refer to you.  I will even provide you with a copy of your form submission to keep for your own notes.  I truly what to help you find the right person to work with you on your project.

Please contact me today if you’d like to discuss your web design needs.

Cami MacNamara

Owner/Designer at WebCami Site Design. Providing web design services in Seattle since 2002. Follow me: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
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