Agency vs. Freelance
This is a question many businesses ask themselves when tasked with a new creative challenge; should we hire an agency or a freelancer to help us? Whether it’s a brand refresh, UX design, copywriting or branded collateral – how can businesses ensure that they are making the right decision for their brand?
Using a design agency
As the popular saying goes, there is strength in numbers. Most design agencies are a hub for harbouring creativity and innovation. When brands work with an agency, they benefit from the skill, expertise, experience and creativity of the entire team – from talented creatives and strategic thinkers, to organised project managers – agencies are a one-stop-shop to ensuring you have the right people on the job.
On top of this, if your project requirements span disciplines, an agency can provide a continuity through strategy, design and roll-out. They will have an understanding of your business from the first interaction and be able to carry this through strategy, brand design, tone of voice, UX/UI design and website development. The continuous support means that the agency team get to know you and your business; they know how you work, they know your business challenges, they know what your stakeholders need to see. This reduces the amount of time the client team will need to spend on briefing and project managing different parts of the overall project. On top of this, they will become your brand guardians, so you can guarantee a consistent end customer experience no matter the channel.
Fees vary from agency-to-agency, but generally will be higher than freelancers. The more renowned the agency, the higher the day rate so if you would like to work with an award-winning, global agency, the fees will be reflective of their status. Unlike freelancers, agencies have overheads to cover such as studio rent, training and development, HR teams etc. so it’s often hard for them to compete with freelancer rates.
With the ability to scale the team up and down, agencies will likely be able to deliver larger projects in a shorter space of time than a single individual. If you come to them with a tight turnaround, they are more likely to be able to help.
Freelancers have a reputation of being very flexible. Being self-employed, freelancers are able to dictate their own working hours, so if you need a designer who will be able to respond to your late-night edit requests, a freelancer is much more likely to be online and pick up work then and there. However, it’s not a guarantee as every individual works in different ways, so you must check their terms in advance.
One of the most common reasons why businesses would hire freelancers is cost-related. As independent operators, freelancers offer a much lower cost option, in comparison to hiring a design firm. And in extreme cases, businesses can put their projects up for ‘auction’ where freelancers can bid for the work, guaranteeing to get you the lowest price. Please bear in mind that the ‘lowest price’ tactic is not necessarily the best solution, as it can have a serious impact on quality.
It’s sometimes harder to trust an individual than it is to trust a collective. However, as long as you approach it diligently, there is no reason this should be the case. When looking for a freelancer, ask around to see if you can get a recommendation, check out their portfolio and request references. Freelancers are reliant on great reviews to keep business coming in, so they are often willing and keen to go above and beyond to ensure the client is happy. Even agencies require freelance support at busy periods or to call on a particular expertise so we build a network of trusted partners who we would absolutely recommend to others.
Needless to say, one single freelancer working on a large, multi-faceted job will take longer than what a whole team as they can’t split tasks to work in parallel. Yes, the cost is cheaper, but you will need to be more patient to see the project through.
How about in-house?
Although agency / freelance are the two options discussed in this guide, there is also a third option available for brands: recruiting in-house designers. There are benefits to this, such as lower cost per project and allows tighter creative control. Of course, this means that you will also be faced with a number of disadvantages, including the challenge of deciding on the right skillset to bring in-house and how to keep design ideas ‘fresh’.
Making the choice
There is no set answer as to which option will work best for your brand – it depends on the particular project, the budget available, whether or not your team has capacity to project manage the job themselves, etc. We would recommend detailing out the requirements for the project so you’re clear on what support you actually need and what will get the most value for your business; value not just meaning low cost but skills, experience and time saved. Make sure to undertake due diligence to source references whichever way you end up going.
Once everything has been considered, you should be in a strong position to make the best decision for your business.