On the one hand there are significant savings to be made with a freelancer, but then again an agency can seem a more reliable option… Choosing between a freelance contractor and a creative agency for your web project isn’t one of life’s most critical decisions, but getting it wrong might prove to be frustrating and expensive. Here are a few thoughts that may help.
Aren’t freelancers just people who moonlight?
It’s relatively easy to launch a career as a web designer. All you need is the hardware, software, and some experience right? Well, to some extent that’s true, but experience is the most important criterion in that equation, and also the one thing that’s usually missing.
There are plenty of people who know something about using Photoshop and installing a free CMS theme, but not many of them have enough experience to put together the robust, standards compliant, platform independent, search engine optimised solution that you need as the standard-bearer for your business. Hiring a moonlighter might seem like a cost-effective way to get the job done, but moonlighters are often unavailable when you need them most (unless you want them to come and see you in the evenings or at weekends), and changes in their daytime job requirements or family commitments can leave your project sidelined for long periods of time with little warning.
There is a misconception that freelancers and moonlighters are the same; inexperienced designers or developers at best, who supplement their income in their spare time by building websites, setting up Facebook pages, designing logos etc. But the truth is quite different for professional freelancers. We take our role very seriously, we make ourselves available to our clients when required, and we work long hours to meet deadlines, and exceed our clients’ expectations.
“Ok, but what happens to my website if you’re hit by a truck..?”
…is a perfectly reasonable question given that freelancers usually spend the majority of their time working alone. A professional freelancer must have contingency plans to support the needs of their clients if they are ill or on holiday.
So what happens when things do (inevitably) go wrong? Personally, I have a number of trusted associates who are able to help out if I’m away for any length of time, and because one of the conveniences of what I do is being able to work from anywhere with an Internet connection, I always make sure to take enough resources with me to deal with any emergencies. But what happens if I don’t survive being hit by that truck..?
Well, hopefully that isn’t going to happen! But if for any reason I wasn’t able to continue working I have a contingency plan to make all source code, images, templates, databases etc. available to my clients, and regular backups are made and stored as part of that plan. When those items are available, taking control of a website is a simple and straightforward task for any experienced web developer.
So would hiring a freelancer make sense for my project?
The answer to that question ultimately depends on the nature of the project. Some projects are much better suited to a close-knit development team than a freelancer, but it does seem that for smaller projects at least, more businesses are realising that commissioning a design agency can be an unnecessarily slow and expensive experience. The pressures of balancing a heavy workload with high operating expenses can leave agencies resource-hungry and struggling to keep up, which can be frustrating when you want to get things done, and even more so if you’re paying a high price for the work. As a result of this, agencies can find it difficult to maintain good, long-term relationships with low-volume clients.
The experience of hiring a full-time, professional freelancer differs to the agency experience in many ways, but mostly by:-
- Offering agency-quality work at much lower prices.
- Providing a quick turnaround on small to medium projects.
- Having your ideas listened to and being given impartial, honest advice.
- Being able to speak to the person who is developing your project, instead of struggling to communicate your ideas through an account manager.
So if you’re looking for a reliable, accessible web designer/developer who can quickly turn around agency-quality work at lower cost, or you’re an agency that needs a temporary, cost-effective solution to a heavy workload, why not consider using the services of a professional freelancer? And if you’re still not sure if a freelancer is right for your business, call me and I’ll do my best to answer any questions!