Freelance web developer vs design agency
10 minutes read

Building a website is not easy, especially if your not tech savvy. There is no secret that the foundation of every successful company lies in a well-created and thought-out website. This includes not only visual design but also SEO optimization, features relevant to your business, web applications, textual content, etc. 

The competition in today’s online world is really tough and it goes without saying that to win the race you need to be a good visionary and think several moves ahead. Deciding to start your own website one of the first questions you face is choosing between freelancer and web design agency to handle your project.

Before we start figuring out all the pros and cons of these two variants, let’s make it clear – you can have the same high-quality final product with both of these options. Each of them has its benefits and soft spots and the decision depends on many factors, e.g. the services you need, your budget, your time-frame. Just don’t treat either of these options too biased.

At the end of the day the label “freelance designer” or “design agency” is just a rough attempt of categorizing the things to make them fit in with the confines of today’s social pattern. And the only thing that can speak of the professional is not this label, but his work. Nevertheless, this is still a tricky question for many entrepreneurs.

A. 10 Pros and Cons of working with freelance web designers

Working with freelancers

1. Cost

Obviously, the most attractive thing for the majority of the people is the cost. There is a popular opinion that hiring a freelancer is cheaper than working with web design agency. Generally yes, but you should be aware that the things here depend on what kind of services you need. If you are handling a big project, most likely you will have to engage more than one freelancer to manage its different parts. And in a long run, it might cost you quite a sum.

On the other side, if you need some particular service to be done or plan some short-term project or start-up, then hiring a freelancer is the best option, which will save you quite a lot of money.

2. Competitive Prices

This can be referred to the previous item, but we decided to highlight it once again. Web design niche is highly competitive. The abundance of professionals on the market makes the prices wobble a lot. Due to the fact that there are lots of freelancers looking for a job, you may be able to bargain on price. In addition to this many talented freelancers, who are new to the market, building up experience and client contacts, would take up your project for a considerably low price comparing to the web design studio or even a more experienced freelancer.

3. Personal Approach

Unlike web design agencies, freelancers usually don’t run big PR campaigns, so the feedback coming from the clients and the rating on labor market are the only things they have for promotion. So, they usually care about their reputation and, as a result, they care about the client. In addition, freelancers hardly ever run more than 2-3 projects at a time. That’s why you can establish pretty good relations with them, which will have a great impact on the final result.

4. Flexibility

Flexibility is a very important point for those who choose to work with freelancers. The freelancer is not bounded by the overheads of the agency. This means he can meet with the client at the client’s place and he has more flexible working hours. This latter can be of great importance if the client has a limited time-frame or wants to apply some urgent changes. However, this flexibility can have also a reversed side, but we’ll mention it below.

 advantages of working with freelancers

5. Niche Specialization 

Very often, the freelancer stays a freelancer, because he has a focused specialization, which is not required on a regular bases in an agency. So if you need some ginger to your website, like unique illustrations, animation, videography, whatever, you will be able to find a specialist who will do this particular part perfectly. 

6. Originality 

This one kind of runs on from the previous issue. Web design agencies deal with lots of orders and in-house designers sooner or later run out of original ideas. In contrast, the freelancer can surprise you with an unhacked realization of common things.
Now, let’s figure out the soft spots of working with a freelancer. 

7. Specialize in One Area 

This is the reverse side of niche specialization. Usually, the freelancer specializes in one or two areas. You can rarely come across a full stack specialist, who is equally good in all spheres. For example, he might provide sleek innovative design, but be weak in content or SEO optimization. If you require some minor services, this shouldn’t scare you. But if you hire a freelancer to deal with a complex project this fact might result in a big problem. However freelancers don’t always work independently as well.

Specializing in one niche, they may rely on fellow freelancers on the aspects they are weak in. This fact of double outsourcing may affect the quality of the end result.

If you don’t want to risk and decide to hire several freelancers to complete different parts of your project, you might find yourself in the shoes of a project manager, connecting members of this chain and getting a pain in the neck. So you should think everything through before making the decision.

8. Reliability

Although most  freelancers are reliable and committed people who care about their reputation, you should beware. In actual fact there are no commitments for them. Usually, freelancers charge per day and there is always a possibility that they can quit if they don’t feel like your project is worth it.

9. Communication

On one hand it is very convenient to work through a brief. But because of the flexibility of the life and working hours, you might find it difficult to apply urgent changes or to give some new instructions to the freelancer when he is off-line. This means that the process of coordination might consume quite a lot of time and reschedule the terms of project completion.

10. One-man Show

As you give charge over your project to a single person, if something happens to him, the deadlines might be on the chopping block and the whole project can turn out to be at risk of failure. The same can happen if the freelancer is not very good at time management. So, as you see, putting all eggs in one basket is quite a risky affair.

Now let’s turn our attention to web design agencies and define the advantages of working with them.

working with web design agencies

B. 7 Pros and Cons of building your website with an agency

Perhaps the most obvious one is that you have a team of professionals working on your project. Usually, the areas they cover will accommodate all your needs in web design, web development, marketing, SEO optimization, etc.  You don’t need to manage it all yourself. You just apply to the web design studio and hereafter different parts of your project would be delegated to the proper specialists. Thanks to the team collaboration they may come up with some original solutions for your project.

 For example, the agency would most likely have several designers with different background and experience, who joining their forces would be able to offer you more creative ideas for design and functionality of your website.

1 Efficiency

This is the logical extension of the previous issue. The whole team is based in one building, which provides better communication and efficiency while working on the project. This, in its turn, makes possible to complete multiple tasks at the same time and guarantees faster and smoother performance.

2 Ongoing Services

As a rule, the relations with a freelancer are limited to the final project handover. Meanwhile the majority of web design agencies provide some ongoing services, such as support, some marketing or SEO services. This will help you run more efficient campaigns, thanks to the fact that the web design agency will get to know your company and therefore provide you with more relevant and convincing material.

3 Experience

Experience is  perhaps the most important part. Practice makes perfect. You can be an exceptional theorist, and know everything about web design, programming and SEO, but if you have never applied it practically, it means nothing. Web design agencies deal with lots of projects every day, face various problems and find solutions. The value of such experience can’t be overestimated. Of course, the level of experience is subjective and it would be unfair to say that a freelance designer can’t be experienced as well.

However, experience directly depends on the amount of orders completed. And it is hard for a freelancer to compete here with a web studio.

working with agencies

4 Time-framing

A freelancer working alone can’t take more than 2-3 projects at a time. And it would take him much longer to create a high-quality website than it would for a web design agency. The latter due to the amount of specialists can be more efficient in taking more clients at a time and completing the projects much faster. There is another issue derived from this fact. If you are limited by the time in your project, you should better apply to an agency. And if the time-frame is not pressing you can consider the option of hiring a freelancer.

5 Reliability

While working with a web design agency the chances of some nasty surprises approach zero. The agency undertakes the commitment and it will meet them at any cost. They also are in charge of their product and would not do it hurry-scurry.

Nevertheless, there are some cons for web design agencies as well.

6 Cost

The prices of web design agencies are usually noticeably higher than those of the freelancers. But again this statement highly depends on what your requirements are. If you need some minor services, you may find web design agencies a bit pricey. But if this is a complex project with multiple services and areas to be covered, then the quality-to-price ratio seems rather fair.

7 Lack of Flexibility

As contrasted to freelancers, a web design agency has an office, which is not always near to the clients’ place. This means that all the meetings between the client and the agency should be arranged and discussed beforehand. If there is an emergency this might be difficult to nail it down quickly. However, various web applications, such as Skype,  make it possible to solve this problem. Another issue is that the web design agency has fixed working hours, weekends and holidays, which means they can’t always stay in touch.

Of course, again, all these statements are rather relative and depend on loads of factors. You can find a freelancer, who will create you a perfect fully-fledged website in the shortest period of time and you can run onto an agency that will louse up your project and vice versa.  To be on the safe side, you need to approach the choice of the performer reasonably. Here are some pieces of advice how to batten down the hatches when looking for a freelancer or a web design agency for your project.

           • First of all, if you have some recommendations from your friends or colleagues, heed them. It is better to apply to some checked source to be on the safe side.

           • If there are no recommendations, try to choose the performer from some truly verified source. For example,  this can be a web studio powered by some famous brand, or specialists who went through some certification, like TemplateMonster Web Studio Catalog.

           • To be included in this catalog web studio or individual web developer has to pass a Certification Center course. This serves as a guarantee that only real professionals are in this list.

           • Study the portfolio of the freelancer of web design agency you want to apply to. It will speak louder than any words. However don’t build your opinion upon this factor only. No one would include screw jobs into the portfolio. And you can never know the correlation between good and bad jobs.

           • Study testimonials and feedback of the clients thoroughly. If you hire a freelancer from a labor market, there is usually a rating as well.

           • If you have some doubts, it might be a good practice to contact some of the clients of the freelancer or web studio and to ask for their opinion and experience of working with them.

           • Talking face-to-face might tell you a lot about the person or agency. Don’t hesitate to ask the questions you are interested in and the questions that may uncover the professional level of the performer. The questions to the freelancer can be like this:

  • Do you have personal experience in the projects similar to mine?
  • How many projects are you working on currently?
  • Will you be able to devote enough time to my project to meet the deadline?
  • If for some reason we decide to break up, will I be able to take the project somewhere else?
  • Do you use proprietary software or third-party solutions?
  • Do you use open-source code?

For the web design agency this list can be enriched by the following:

  • Do you provide long-term support?
  • What CMS do you specialize in?
  • Do you offer some post-launch services?

Don’t be shy to ask such questions. You need to clarify all the details beforehand, in order not to face some unpleasant surprise later. You are the client who pays for the services and you need to be sure they will meet your requirements.

           • If having followed all these steps you still have some doubts, feel free to take your time to think everything over. Remember that you don’t have to give the answer at once, and you are free to turn down the candidate if you are not sure about his professionalism.

This is basically it. We won’t draw any conclusion here telling you which option to choose. As you see, the question of deciding between a freelancer or web design agency is a tricky one and can’t be answered definitely. The choice depends on many factors, which you as a customer should consider. Before making your decision you need to analyze your requirements, your budget, and your time-frame. It wouldn’t be bad to have in mind at least a rough idea of what you want to receive at the end.

The only thing you should remember is that neither of this options is good or bad. They are different and each of them can fit perfectly depending on the sort of services you need.

Article written by our friends at Template Monster. Find their latest eBook about SEO Foundations for Small Business Owners here.

Content Marketing Specialist at Creatopy

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