Agency vs. Freelancer: Which is Right for Your Website?

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You’ve made the decision. You know it’s time for a new website. But now what? How do you know who to hire?

The first step is narrowing down your options by deciding if you want to hire an individual professional, or a design firm or agency.

To make your decision a bit easier, I’m providing a list of pros for each.

Agency Pros

Sometimes the powers that be – the company leadership, company boards, and advisors – are more comfortable hiring an agency. They feel there is less risk working with a larger team of people.

Most agencies will provide access to a large team and a large selection of vendors in case you need specialized work. They may have illustrators, photographers, videographers, writers, etc. all on staff and available on day one.

Agencies will often offer 24/7 customer support after your website has launched. It’s never cheap, but it may bring some peace of mind that if you really need something posted or revised on a Saturday or in the evening, there will be a team to help.

Some companies like the optics of working with a well-known agency. They feel they have bragging rights when they say their site was designed by XYZ agency.

Agencies are more likely to agree to RFPs and lengthy interview proceedings. They have people who dedicate their time only to bringing in new work, so they are happy to have long chats, visit your office for a presentation, and fill out lengthy questionnaires. Most individual designers are focused on their current clients, and just don’t have time for this level of sales outreach.

Agencies are usually limitless, while individual designers may have restrictions. Individual designers may not be able to handle projects of a certain size. They might not be able to meet your tight deadline if they are already booked. They might not have experience with your high-level needs (multiple languages, shopping carts and shipping, working with large custom databases, etc.) The good news is that a professional designer will tell you if a project is out of their area of expertise or ability level. In this case, you can look at other designers, or an agency may be your best answer.

Individual Designer Pros

The best thing about hiring an individual is that you know who you are working with. When hiring an agency, there may be 20 designers working there. You don’t know which one will be assigned to your project. You don’t know which portfolio samples are theirs. When you hire an individual, you see their work, you talk to them, and you get to know them. And you know 100% for sure that this is going to be the person working on your project from kick-off to launch.

When working with an individual designer, you’ll get to know them, and they’ll get to know you, and they will be your point person throughout the project. No dealing with sales people or project managers who relay messages back and forth.

Usually agencies will insist on ownership of the code behind your website. If you decide to leave the agency, you lose your website. Individual designers almost always grant full ownership to you, the client. If you decide to move your website, you are able and welcome to do so.

Agencies will almost always lock down your website so that you can only make revisions to a small portion of the site yourself. And packages and/or hourly rates for revisions are quite expensive. Individual designers tend to build sites that are more user-friendly for clients to update on their own.

In general, your project will be more streamlined with an individual designer. They can maneuver more quickly and should have a solid system to manage your project smoothly. No more meetings with 30 people over Zoom to discuss one small decision.

Individual designers also have access to vendors (photographers, developers, copywriters, etc.) but they don’t employ these people full-time, so the expenses that get passed on to you, the client, are usually much lower.

Most of the time, working with an individual designer will be cheaper than working with an agency. Don’t get me wrong – a website is an expensive project no matter who you are working with if that person is a true professional. But, because the agency team is so large, their prices often reflect that. They have to make sure the cost of the project is covering all of the people working on it.

At the end of the day, both agencies and individuals are out there creating brilliant websites for their clients. You have to decide what is right for you and your business.

Do you think you might want to hire an individual designer for your web project?

Read Tips for Hiring (the right) Web Designer for a list of what to look for, and what to look out for, when making your decision!

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