There are many advantages to both options and it typically comes down to specific requirements, end-goals and budgets.
The one-man band nature of freelance work often puts some clients off, but that’s exactly what concerns me so much about the process of hiring a designer. Sure, looking at a sole freelancer on the surface looks like a limited resource, but it is exactly that sort of flexibility that can lead to reaping the greatest rewards.
You’ll often find that good freelancers (and not just me!) specialise in a niche skillset that can be more valuable than the blanket approach of a multidisciplinary agency. What’s more, the usual 9-5 restrictions don’t apply, so you can be making progress even when you’ve clocked off at work and checked in at the pub.
For small-to-medium-sized businesses and start-ups in particular, freelancers can prove to be very cost-effective.
There are no additional overheads or account management fees that can cost you the earth because the designer has that covered themselves.
Home offices and micros studios are the future of flexible working and we can already see them paying off for clients big and small today.
When it comes to paying for real talent, too, many self-employed designers have worked in reputable agencies before (or even during) their freelance days, so you effectively get the same skillset for a fraction of the price.
For an agency designer, it can often be a case of ticking jobs off a list to get through a heavy workload. For freelancers, it’s in their personal interests to dig a bit deeper and spend a bit more time getting to know your business, your objectives and how they can add real value to them. That’s what makes great long-term relationships.
Since they have to be project managers and designers simultaneously, the prioritisation of your project is of crucial importance when it comes to the final product. That’s why a freelance designer always works with a project manager’s hat on as well, so you don’t see your budget blown.
Some agency designers are, of course, proud about their work and passionate about building a portfolio. The difference between them and a freelancer, however, is that their portfolios are controlled by what goes in and out of the agency.
Freelancers get to pick their own clients and that means that whatever they create has the potential to win them more work if it’s good enough to put in their personal portfolio. This means that they’ll make it good enough to win them more work. Otherwise, they won’t eat.
The lines of communication between the client and an agency designer can often be obstructed by bottlenecks or, worse still, busy account managers who don’t get around to passing the message on, but hiring a freelancer means that you have direct, one-on-one communication whenever you want or need it.
If, like me, a designer works to project milestones as opposed to restrictive 9-5 timeframes, they are more likely to be reachable when the time calls for it.
When you think about overheads for your own company, too, hiring a freelancer makes perfect sense in terms of the flexibility it provides. You don’t have to pay for a full-time member of staff or an expensive agency; you can call upon a freelancer as and when you need them without having to pay for a wage or the likes of a company car.
It’s important to assess the range of options available to you in terms of skillsets before you make a decision. You might need three or four designers on your books to tend to different projects, covering everything from UX to UI, so it pays to do the necessary digging.
Ultimately, the flexible and personal approach that a freelancer can provide will help you achieve your goals quicker, better and altogether cheaper in the long-run. With the right minds and the right approach, it can really work wonders to think freelance.