July 27, 2022

Freelancer vs. Web Design Agency

By: Mary Hiers

Freelance web designer vs. agency: it’s a classic dilemma countless small businesses face. A small business may choose to hire a freelance web designer out of a commitment to working with local talent. Or they may choose a freelancer to save money.

At first glance, hiring a freelancer makes sense. After all, typical freelance web designers don’t have the overhead that design agencies do. And it’s good to help talented people as they establish and build their reputation. 

Then again, using an agency means not having to bring on an additional contractor should special skills be required. And instances of agencies disappearing with client money are rarer than those of fake freelancers absconding with money.

Businesses and individuals that want to create a website must weigh the pros and cons of hiring a freelance web designer or working with a web design agency. The stakes are high, and few individuals and organizations have endless money to throw at a project.

At some point, you have to assess the advantages and disadvantages for yourself. Ultimately, you’ll make your decisions based on them and on how much risk you want to assume.

Advantages: Freelance Web Designer

Hiring a freelance web designer almost always costs less than working with a website design agency. Even highly successful freelancers have lower overhead than agencies, so they can charge their clients less.

Freelance web designers with experience are used to taking on projects of all sizes. If you have a small project, you can be confident that most freelancers have experience working on small projects. Agencies, however, may prioritize their big projects over smaller ones. 

Another advantage of hiring a freelance designer is that you will normally work with the designer directly. At an agency, you may interact with a project manager or other go-between instead. 

And finally, many freelance designers are genuinely grateful for your project. They have to prove themselves time and again to maintain a strong reputation and draw new clients. You may have a real role in a freelancer’s success!

Disadvantages: Freelance Web Designer

Unless you are famous or unusually influential, a freelancer’s career won’t depend on your project. Yet your success does depend on their work.

And while freelancers charge less than agencies, what happens when the unexpected arises? If their design somehow doesn’t mesh with your computer architecture, will you have to hire a programmer to resolve the problem? As a freelance project moves along, it may acquire new costs you never considered before.

Working with a project manager instead of with the designer herself or himself may be preferable. If you don’t know the right design lingo, you may be hard-pressed to communicate what you want with a designer. But a project manager will know what to say to their designer to bring your idea to reality.

There is always the question in the back of your mind of whether your freelance web designer will deliver your project on time. And there is a very small chance that your freelancer could take your money and disappear. Your chances for redress would be essentially zero if that happened. 

Finally, consider whether something goes wrong six months later and you can’t find your freelancer. They should be reachable through any number of communication channels. But maybe they no longer do website design or have moved somewhere too far away to be practical to you.

This table summarizes the pros and cons of hiring a freelance web designer.

Freelance Web Designer: ProsFreelance Web Designer: Cons
Lower costsYou depend on them more than they depend on you
Most freelancers are used to projects of all sizesUnexpected costs could arise
You can work with the designer directlySome designers aren’t easy to work with
Pride in supporting a small business or local talentCan you trust they will meet the deadline?

Advantages: Website Design Agency

When you work with a website design agency, you can be confident that they will complete your project on time, with the features you requested. If a problem arises, they can fix it in-house, behind the scenes.

Web design agencies know that you may not have the “correct” words for the features you want. For example, you might not be familiar with the importance of responsive web design. Your point of contact at the agency will know how to translate your needs into instructions for the designer. 

Design agencies have backups. Should the designer working on your project become sick or suddenly quit, another designer will take over. This problem will be the agency’s to solve. 

Finally, most agencies have policies about problems that crop up after they complete your project. This type of “service after the sale” offers tremendous peace of mind.

Disadvantages: Website Design Agency

Working with a design agency can be intimidating. This is especially true if your project is small and the agency you want is used to working on massive projects. Will you get the attention you deserve?

If you have a quick question, you may have to go through several people at an agency to get to the person who can answer it. Talking directly to the web designer may or may not be easy to do.

A web design agency may value your business, but they may not be overly grateful for your project. They have plenty of other customers, so working with them may not feel as personalized as working directly with a freelance web designer.

Finally, agencies can be expensive. You may have to borrow money or work out a payment plan to afford the services you want from an agency.

The following table summarizes the advantages and disadvantages of working with a web design agency.

Web Design Agency: ProsWeb Design Agency: Cons
Confidence in meeting your deadlineCan be intimidating, especially if your project is small
They can “translate” your questions so the designer understands your needsUncertainty over whom to ask when you have a question
Backup talent available should a designer quitYour project is one of many they’re working on
Service after the sale should you encounter problems laterThey can be expensive

Your Needs Are Paramount

The overarching question is whether you will end up with the well-designed website you want. Sure, many freelancers deliver and have clients who are delighted with their work. But agencies can’t stay in business if they don’t deliver on-time results consistently.

Experience in your type of project is essential, regardless of whom you hire. Better to hire a freelancer who has done sites like the one you want than an agency that hasn’t (and vice versa).

If you need to be close to the action and have direct communication with the person actually designing your site, then you may be happier working with a freelancer. But if you want to focus on your business and have someone else take care of the ins and outs of creating and launching your website, an agency is probably better.

Additional Services: Web Design Agencies

Bear in mind also that many web design agencies offer services that freelance designers do not. For example, many web design agencies offer digital marketing services that complement your website. This can save you significant time over learning it yourself.

You need your website to look great and function well for years to come. Are you confident that the freelancer you hired to design the website will still be around and available then? Many agencies stake their longevity on the dependability of long-term relationships with their clients.

Not all website design agencies deliver “sticker shock” with their estimates. If you’re thinking of working with an agency, don’t just get quotes from one. In fact, give us a call and let us show you our exceptional rates for website design and the suite of services that go along with it. We would love to help you get your website launched and working for you as soon as possible!


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