Businesses report that outsourcing enables them to focus on their core competence, cut cost and access intellectual capital. Unless design is your core competence, you’ll want to outsource it. But to whom? In our experience, businesses will often outsource design to agencies. Another untapped option is outsourcing to freelancers. Which one is more effective? That is completely circumstantial and depends on these deciding factors.
Whether an agency or a freelancer is the right option for you heavily depends on what kind of design work you’re outsourcing. What it really comes down to is your creative challenge. Generally, we can differentiate between strategic projects and tactical projects - long term versus short term. The short answer is that an agency often is the right option for strategic projects and freelancers are the right option for tactical projects. Let’s have a closer look at this.
A strategic challenge could be how you can increase sales in 2021. This is a complex challenge that requires a strategy. At Graphiq, we acknowledge agencies as great strategic advisors. A team of creatives can plan a better campaign than I alone can. A tactic in your strategy could be to design a designated website for your campaign. And for this project, a freelancer can likely deliver it faster, cheaper and better than your agency can.
If you’re into cost-effectiveness (who isn’t?), outsourcing tactical projects to freelancers is recommended. If you’re not, you could let your full-service agency handle that too. Cost is a deciding factor when our clients choose freelancers over agencies. The reason rates are higher in agencies compared to freelancers is that overhead costs are embedded in there too. Consider the cost and decide if you really need the full service to design a website.
Time is definitely a deciding factor in the question of agency or freelance. Every now and then you just need an illustration and you need it tomorrow. Don’t get me wrong, agencies are great for long term relationships and strategizing, but they’re not exactly known for effective turnaround. For fast creative production, you’ll want to choose a freelancer that is flexible and has full capacity to deliver in a few days or even hours.
Your internal human resources could influence which outsourcing option is right for you. If you have a full marketing team in-house that are working on your strategy, you might just want a production partner. If you’re a one-man marketing team, you might want a strategic partner (unless you want to be the marketing manager, project manager and creative director yourself). Consider which resources you have, which resources you need and how you can form a cross-functional team.
When to work with an agency
Working with an agency is recommended for strategic projects. Full-service agencies can offer versatile teams that can deliver on the whole journey from ideation to implementation. Their strength is in their teamwork. Usually, you’ll have long-term retainer contracts and close relationships, which leave you with a reliable partner. They know you and they will work on a consistent strategy to reach your long-term goals.
What kind of projects?
- Concept development
- Marketing strategy
- Brand identity
- Full-service: One-stop-shop for creative services from A to Z
- Consistency: Long-term reliable customer relationships
- Cross-functional: Teams of all the resources you need
When to work with a freelancer
Working with a freelance designer is recommended for tactical projects where you have your strategy in place. Freelancers are the perfect production partners because they’re fast, cheap and competent. Hiring remote workers, you can find specialists in specific fields. It’s faster and cheaper because you’re working directly with the designer to receive the results you want. They’re flexible and ready to go when you are.
What kind of projects?
- Marketing material
- Cost: Normally more cost-effective than agencies
- Time: Faster production with no middle-men
- Expertise: Headhunted competence for your project
One option does not exclude the other
In the title, I asked: agency or freelance? That’s not really right. It’s not either-or. Actually, the answer is a combination. You could outsource to agencies and freelancers. You could well have your new visual identity developed by your agency and hire a freelancer to design new banner ads based on your brand guidelines. Consider the above deciding factors and decide what is the right option for which function.