Agencies and Freelancers
Two approaches to the same service
Today we’ll look at the differences between web design agencies and web design freelancers. First off, we’ll loosely define what we mean when we say “agencies” and “freelancers”.
Web Design Agency: a marketing firm with core competencies in website design and building. Typically, they employee several (to many) staff who have skills that complement the process. Often, these people include: copywriters, graphic designers, UX/UI (user experience/user interface), account managers & sales staff, and programmers. Agencies typically have many opinions to draw on and a pool of knowledge about web tech and design.
Web Design Freelancer: an individual who provides design & website building services. Typically, they have either a background primarily in design or programming which they’ve supplemented by learning in a multi-discipline fashion. Freelancers typically work alone, though they may have other freelancers in their network that provide complementary services.
Pros and Cons
The most obvious pro for agencies is the number of people they have on staff to lend opinions. If each individual is a (relative) expert in their field, then that gives their clients the benefit of both breadth and depth of knowledge in web design and development. A good web design agency should also have a long portfolio of success stories and a robust team to help support your business or organizational goals. Additionally, agencies typically stand a better chance of being around for the long haul as the profit margins and high brand visibility usually lend themselves to stability from a business perspective. This (hopefully!) means better long-term support for your project after it has launched.
All of this experience and staff under one roof typically comes with a big con for many SMB’s (small and medium-sized businesses) — cost. Owing to large overhead and a historical dominance in the market, web design agencies often charge rates in the tens of thousands of dollars for website design (if not more).
Freelancers are often quite nimble. They may have more flexibility from a scheduling perspective which can be useful for solopreneurs or small business owners who are busy throughout the day running their companies. Typically, pricing is also much more competitive owing to less business overhead, which can be nice for clients working with modest budgets. Some freelancers will be well established and will also come with a long list of project successes and references.
It’s harder to expect a lone freelancer to have the depth of knowledge in as many areas. True multi-disciplinary experts are rare though some may represent themselves as such. The other big issue facing businesses is long-term technical support. Not all freelancers will have the longevity in business to support their clients needs one or two years past the initial project, and not all freelancers are capable of fully supporting the website they’ve built from a coding/programming perspective. While capable of designing and building a website, not all freelancers have the depth of programming experience required to troubleshoot bothersome technical issues that may arise over time as standards change and software ages.
Check with client references provided by your agency or freelancer. Read reviews – in this day and age, any established business should likely have reviews on Google or social media. Nobody is perfect (and you can’t please everyone all the time), so perfect reviews aren’t required — look for the overall trend. If most reviews are positive, that’s likely a good sign.
Trust your gut — your skills as an entrepreneur or manager got you this far. Does what you’re hearing pass a “gut check”? Get a second opinion if you’re unsure.
Lastly, be wary of the “friend of a friend” deal (also known as the “I have a guy”). Freelancers and agencies alike have rescued jobs done by someone who is “in IT” and who built a website for a business or organization that doesn’t meet its needs and objectives.
New Players in the Game
A hybrid business model is emerging
Here at Red Ear Media, we started with one goal in mind: to provide expert web design and development services at a reasonable rate. We provide expert guidance across a multitude of digital marketing areas without the traditional bloat of an agency. Similarly, we know that a diverse team is a strong team and we combine our in-house competencies with those of a small, trusted group of contractors who work with us on most projects. We provide long-term support and technical ability as well as strong communication to build great relationships. Interested to know more? Contact us today to find out how we can help your business or organization define and reach your goals online.