Freelancers vs. In-house vs. Agency: 5 Things to Consider



The decision regarding the right UX UI design solution for your project is a daunting task, and you cannot take it lightly. Yes, there are many reputed review sites that rate design agencies to help you decide. Even before you get into the agency-choosing stage, you have to ensure that you get the maximum ROI for your investment.

We’re sure that when it comes to making a choice, you have considered this question: Is it better to hire a freelancer, collaborate with an agency, or set up an in-house design team?

The truth is, there’s no easy way to answer this. All three of these options have their fair share of pros and cons. But, we wanted to help you evaluate your options and help you make the perfect decision for your upcoming UX UI design project.

Let’s get started.

Here, we have listed out 5 factors that you need to consider when confused between an agency, an in-house team, or a freelancer.

1. Turnaround Time

Turnaround time refers to the amount of time taken to fulfill a design request. Obviously, you would want your project to complete within a stipulated time frame.

Which option will be the most viable?

  • Freelancer: The intent of delivering a project within the promised deadline is present as they’re competing with organized teams. Punctuality generally tops the list of their USP, especially with a first-time client. However, they are a one-man team and this cannot be ignored either. Returning clients may face minor setbacks in terms of the promised turnaround times.
    (Rating: 3/5)
  • In-house: There might be times when you need a task/project to complete on short notice. An in-house design crew might be the best solution in such cases since they’re at your beck and call. You can prioritize projects accordingly and ensure timely delivery. But, your in-house team may lack employees with niche expertise or you may not have a solid team set-up since you’ve just started your business. The lack of proper management and experience may lead to delays in project deliverables as well.
    (Rating: 4/5)
  • Agency: UX UI design agencies already work with a pool of designers who have the most diverse areas of expertise and skillsets. One of the USPs of design agencies is on-time delivery. If the designer is caught up, they generally have other people on their team who are competent enough to ensure that the project follows the set schedule. Also, it is a matter of safeguarding their reputation as one slip up might give advantage to their rival design agencies (and there are so many of them today!).
    (Rating: 4.5/5)

2. Project Management

How involved do you want to be in your project? If you answer this question, you can easily decide whether to go with an agency, in-house team, or freelancer.

  • Freelancer: Freelancers fly solo and you wouldn’t have to invest your time and energy training them or even overlooking their every move. But, they’re not great managers. If the freelancer meets an unforeseen situation or falls sick, you won’t have any control over the fact that the progress of your project might be hindered. Keeping this in mind, things might be tricky if you’re planning to scale. Dependency on a single person might not be fruitful in terms of scalability and you may have to hold the reins of project management that you were trying to avoid. But, having said that, freelancers might be your best solution for singular design projects.
    (Rating: 4/5)
  • In-house: You have to be fully involved with the project. Hands-on involvement is required to ensure that your designers are working as expected. This might make you lose focus from other aspects of your project.
    (Rating: 3/5)
  • Agency: It is quite literally the job of an agency to plan, manage, set benchmarks, define standards, look after the team, and stay prepared for potential glitches. On top of that, they hire people with niche expertise and handle diverse projects across myriad sectors. They typically even have a plan B in case projects get hindered. Their knowledge and experience of the industry transcend to robust project management that is difficult for in-house teams and freelancers to match.
    (Rating: 4/5)

3. Technological Resources & Skills

Mad creativity is a must-have, but not the only skill that UI/UX designers should possess. Aptitudes in analytical research and user testing are helpful, along with knowledge about wireframing, information architecture, prototyping, and visual communication.

As for their technical skills, they should be well-versed in media file formats, file conversions, source control systems, HTML, CSS, JS Frameworks & Libraries, and much more. What’s more, you ask? They should have the technological resources to create high-quality UX designs.

  • Freelancer: Money is tight, and therefore, most freelancers rely on basic or free UX UI design tools and software. Even if they have the skills, they don’t have access to the resources. This somehow limits them from achieving greatness in the design field and they may end up delivering half-baked designs. However, it is also not impossible to find freelance designers who have upskilled and gained access to better resources over years of working.
    (Rating: 2.5/5)
  • In-house: How much are you willing to invest? It’s not only about getting high-tech systems, but also purchasing paid versions of certain tools and applications. This may not prove financially sound in the long-term, especially if you don’t plan to use the applications regularly and require them for one-off projects or ad-hoc work.
    (Rating: 3/5)
  • Agency: An agency provides you with a ready-made design team. You’re not responsible for creating that team yourself. Hiring an agency is like getting myriad technological resources and skills at your disposal without having to work for them. No matter how crazy your design ideas are, an agency can fit your needs. You can also always get ideas from their rich portfolio.When we are already at the topic of hiring and design, click here to learn about career pages and stand out from everyone else!
    (Rating: 4.5/5)

4. Ability to Handle Nasty Surprises

Plans change. Don’t they? You may need to tweak the design of your app or completely overhaul the design a few days before the launch. To help you sail through such uncomfortable situations, you need to make the right choice.

  • Freelancer: Freelancers rarely accommodate surprises and it is not because they don’t want to. While you cannot ignore the massive benefits of clear communication, most of them lack the system to act fast. Unless you’re working with a dedicated, experienced freelance designer, you may run into trouble when you need some tasks finished fast and urgently.
    (Rating: 3/5)
  • In-house: They’re bound to push their limits and ensure that the project is completed. But, you might have to offer the team perks and incentives to keep them motivated in the long run.
    (Rating: 4.5/5)
  • Agency: As already mentioned, agencies have the bandwidth, a solid team with diversified skills and technological resources. Nasty surprises keep them on their toes and they live for such thrills.

5. Overall Cost

Of course, the cost is one of the biggest concerns. Never settle for the cheapest, but the most cost-effective option. When talking about efficiency and cost saving, it is always a good idea to look into EoR services. With their help businesses can focus on their core operations while ensuring efficient and compliant management of their workforce.

Let’s find out which option is the easiest in your pocket.

  • Freelancer: The most affordable option as it is basically a one-man show.
    (Rating: 4.5/5)
  • In-house: Building and managing an in-house team is not just about salaries and offering competitive perks and benefits. There are also hidden costs such as rent, energy bills, and others. There might even be times when design tasks are infrequent and you might find it difficult to justify the salary.
    (Rating: 3.5/5)
  • Agency: The pricing is generally based on individual projects with an agency. The hourly rate might be higher, but every minute and second will be accounted for. This means that you’ll pay them exactly for the work they’ve done. And you can get rid of the overhead costs that are associated with building an in-house team.
    (Rating: 4.2/5)

Final Ratings

rating infographic- divami

The Verdict – Agency Wins!

A design agency is the best out of the three options because they bring unparalleled experience to the table that freelancers or in-house teams can never match. But, if you want to have more control over the processes, building an in-house team might be a great way to cater to your needs; you can always make your whole hiring process more effective and efficient with recruiting automation.Still, if you can’t guarantee a steady workload, you’ll only be burdening yourself. As for freelancers, I think, they’re good for short-term projects. 

What’s next? It’s time for you to make a decision. If you decide to go with an agency, Divami is only a phone call away.

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