Whether you’re an individual starting your own business on the side; a startup looking to solidify your position in your sector or an established company wanting to set itself apart from the competition, having a user friendly, smooth and fast website that converts visitors into clients is a must have.
You’ve made the decision you want a new website but you’re not sure who to work with. There’s so much information out there and so many options it can be hard to sort out what’s useful from the noise (hopefully, you’ll find this interesting and informative and not just noise)!
Obviously each business and each project is unique. There is no one size fits all answer for which is better: Freelancer vs Agency. My intention is to provide an insight and to help you make a decision what’s best for you.
Freelancer Vs. Agency: What’s The Difference?
Before we jump into what you should be considering and the pros and cons, it’s important to identify what the difference between a freelancer and an agency.
A freelancer is an independent individual that works on a self-employed basis and will work by himself or in collaboration with other freelancers, often remotely. An agency is a group of people with different skill sets who will work together, often in an office space under the supervision of a project manager in order to complete the project.
The factors that we’re going to consider are:
- Your Involvement
For pretty much all factors we’re considering there are many variables that contribute to whether or not it falls into the pro or con category. Because of this I’m not going to outright state if cost is a pro for a freelancer or if communication is a con for an agency. I’m going to tell you what I think about the specific situation, and then let you make up your mind.
Generally speaking, freelancers will be cheaper. Obviously there will be some outliers, but this is normally true. This is because an agency has to pay for their office space as well as employees that don’t contribute to the project like sales, marketing and HR. A freelancer on the other hand can work anywhere, so doesn’t have the cost of rent and as they in the only one involved, none of the project budget has to be accounted for employees that don’t directly contribute.
There are many different ways of pricing a project, and depending on your requirements this can play a part in the decision making process. Listing a few, we have:
- Hourly Rates
- Value Pricing
- Set Project Prices
I personally prefer value pricing as I don’t want you to bear the financial brunt of my perfectionism. To me hourly charging incentivizes dragging out a project and leaves you picking up the bill when part of the project takes longer than expected. I also feel that set project prices doesn’t account for the individuality of a business. Why should 5 page websites all cost the same when they contain different elements and serve different purposes?
However that’s just my personal feelings and you may feel differently. Who ever you decide to work with, it’s worth asking about how they price projects and why they use that system. After all, the last thing you want just before you launch your site is an additional unexpected cost.
Time and Quality
Time and quality are often proportional when it comes to any project; meaning the higher the quality the longer it will take and vice-versa, unless you’re willing to invest a lot of money. Typically when choosing between price, quality and time you’ll have to pick one to prioritize. If you speak to someone who says they can build a ‘perfect’ website, quickly and cheaply then remember the age old saying “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true”.
I think that regardless of the size of the project, the quality is likely to be similarly high if you use a freelancer or an agency.
However if you have a large product that you want done quick then it’s probably best to go with an agency. For the right price, an agency can put more people on a project and “many hands make work”.
Whereas if you have a small-medium project, it’s probably best to go with a freelancer. As a freelancer works individually and covers the entirety of the project there’s no need to wait around whilst the design team is adding their finishing touches, or if the developer is taking a while to implement the CMS (content management system) so the content writer has to wait. A freelancer can tick items off a list with no wasted time. A simpler process in my opinion.
A freelancer and an agency are both capable of being handed a brief and then building a site to meet the stated requirements and if you want to leave the whole process to them, then I can’t see a reason to pick either above the other.
But if you want to be involved in the process, working with an agency could be tricky. They’ll have more rigid systems for progression in place and your ability to chip in is greatly reduced. Plus as there will be many people working on the same project, making changes may impact the work of another team leading to added costs and delays.
However with a freelancer there is only one person to contact who controls the entire process. This is beneficial for two reasons:
- As your relationship with the freelancer develops you’ll both be more comfortable with each other and you’ll be able to have more honest chats about what you want and what they think would be best given their expertise.
- If you want to change something, it’s much easier as the freelancer doesn’t need to ask anyone else to make the change or familiarize themselves with someone else’s work. They can check if the change is suitable and then crack right on with the project. Less time wasted and back on track quicker.
One downside to having a larger say in the design and development of your website is that if the freelancer isn’t competent or confident they may adhere to your wants to the detriment of the project. It’s worth remembering that whoever you’re working with is a professional. If they’re doing something a certain way, it’s probably for a reason. Before demanding changes, ask what the effects of the change are and why they didn’t do it your way in the first place. This way you’re making sure you’re getting the best website possible. Alternatively, make sure you’re working with a freelancer who is able to be honest with you.
When working with a freelancer or an agency on a small/medium sized project you will have one point of contact in both cases; namely the freelancer himself and the project manager. However if your project is large and you are required to work with multiple freelancers this could be a problem.
If your project is large and multifaceted then working with an agency will be simpler. The project manager will deal with the different parts of the project and update you on progress. Whilst there might be a lag should you need an answer to a specific question and they’re required to wait for the specialist to answer it, you’re still only having to deal with the one point of contact.
When working with a freelancer on a project replies are likely to be swift and accurate because they aren’t a middle man. They know what has happened, what you want and can explain it to you there and then. However if the freelancer takes a vacation or break during the project you could be left out to dry for that week.
I would recommend asking the freelancer about any upcoming events in their diary so you know where you stand. That way, should you choose to work with them you’re entering with a knowledge of their schedule and with a greater confidence that the timeline is unlikely to be disturbed.
So What Does All This Mean & Why Won’t You Just Tell Me What To Do
I can’t tell you what to do because each project is unique. You might have a big project that is best suited to a freelancer, or a one page brochure site that an agency would service better.
When making up your mind with who to work with, rather than thinking freelancer vs agency think of each entity as separate from the rest. Not all freelancers are alike and not all agencies are either. Make sure all your questions are answered before starting the project or signing any contracts and that you feel comfortable working with them.
If you’re still not sure about what is best for you, then get in touch. I’d be more than happy to have a call or a coffee and we can discuss what’s best for you. I don’t want to over-promise and under-deliver. I only accept work that I know I can complete to the very highest standards and if I don’t feel I’m the one who you should be working with I’m more than happy to recommend you someone that can help you build the perfect website for your business.