You want a new website. You have to choose who will design and develop your website. Do you go with a freelancer or an agency? Do they both offer the same services? These are probably some of the questions going through your head and you are unsure where to start. I am going to try and help you decide and give you a guide on the benefits of hiring a remote freelance web designer.
Usually Freelancers Have More Experience
The benefits of hiring a remote freelance web designer usually starts with the gulf in experience between a freelancer and an agency employee. Agencies tend to hire young workers at cheap rates who have limited experience. Whilst the agency may have been established 20 years ago, you can be guaranteed the employee working on your project has nowhere near that experience.
That’s not to say the person working on your website is untalented. That would be unfair and insulting to suggest that. There are many talented young designers and developers. I simply state this to inform you that standard practice within the industry is to hire youngsters and to add some clarity to the ‘real’ experience level you are usually getting when you hire an established company.
Don’t be swayed by the white-washed walls, bright modern sofa and table tennis table in the web design agency office either. The standard decor for a web design agency. It’s an image modelled on big California tech environments and it is no guarantee of quality. It is more of a marketing and branding exercise.
It’s no surprise to discover that most freelancers are older and more experienced. I guess it takes a certain amount of confidence to walk away from a secure job – if any job can be considered secure nowadays – and strike out on your own. It can be a bold move to take that chance. Experience, not just working in your desired field, but some life experience helps too.
Freelancers Do the Same Job as Agencies
It is a myth that you get something extra when you hire an agency for your project. The benefits of hiring a remote freelance web designer match anything you get from an agency. We all use similar approaches to the project in hand.
For example, when I make a new WordPress website, I start by using the default WordPress theme and build upon it. You might think that when an agency is charging you £6000 for your shiny, new website, that they are building a WordPress theme from scratch. They absolutely are not. It can take a year to make a theme from nothing. That is why Automattic, Inc., (the company behind WordPress) only release a default theme once a year.
If the company behind WordPress can only manage to release a theme yearly, then it is unrealistic to expect an agency or freelancer to make a new theme without a base theme to get them started. Unless of course, you are happy to pay £40,000 to the designer and developer. I expect only the biggest companies would take that approach.
Of course, the default theme is just a base theme. Nothing more. Out of the box it lacks design and functionality and isn’t much use as a website in its barebones form. There is still a lot of work for a designer/developer to do when they build your website. To use a plumbing analogy; a plumber might have a radiator (the base theme) but he still has to screw it to wall, weld pipework, connect it to the boiler, test for leaks, etc.
A freelance developer will still communicate and collaborate with you to get the desired result. Probably the main difference is that the communication is remote rather than office-based. In-person meetings are not really practical when hiring a remote developer. I work from a home office rather than renting my own office. This keeps my outgoing costs low and these lower costs are passed to you. It isn’t necessary to have an office when working in the digital field.
Also, you would be communicating directly with me and not routing through secretaries, managers, etc. Which brings us on to the next topic.
Ability to Build a Trusting Relationship
When you are familiar with your freelancer, you will probably find you want to use them for additional projects in the future. Once you know that someone has delivered quality work for you in the past, you will have more trust in using them again. This is one of the major benefits of hiring a remote freelance web designer.
Companies, particularly design agencies, often have a high turnover of staff. So you may have trusted the company but in reality, the person who once did work for you in the past has probably left. Agencies usually start web designer/developer pay – particularly WordPress developers – at around £18,000 – £25,000. It’s actually quite a derisory salary for such a skilled job. Low pay and high workloads are the main reason why young employees leave design agencies.
As a freelancer, I have the benefit of setting my rates and choosing the clients I work with. However, this isn’t about how it benefits me alone. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. Let me explain.
You may be thinking, ‘that means he charges more than an agency’, but that’s actually not true. The reason for this is the agency is paying a salary to the young, inexperienced designer(s) and the bulk of your payment goes to the company owners. Obviously, with me, I am the only person taking payment. No managers, company directors, support staff, etc.
Agencies deride freelancers by falsely claiming we are cheaper because we have less talent. I would argue we are cheaper because we do not add a premium to cover additional support and management staff costs. Or office rental costs. In fact, the arguments I’ve made up to this point suggest we are not only better value but also have greater experience, which can only benefit you.
Freelancers Focus On Only Your Contract
When I start a new contract, it is when I have finished my previous contract. I do not multitask. My focus is entirely on the job at hand. This helps me have intimate knowledge of your project.
Contrast that with working for a design agency. It’s not uncommon to find a stressed, overworked employee getting pressured to work on multiple projects at any given time. This can lead to mistakes and a drift in concentration.
Programming and design are not really tasks that you should be dropping in and out of. They are complicated undertakings and should be given undivided attention.
I usually set aside parts of the week for specific tasks. An hour at the end of certain days for emailing current and prospective clients regarding their enquiries. Occasionally phoning when absolutely necessary. It’s important to retain that focus on your job when working as a freelancer.
I can understand that some people want a person always to be at the end of the phone when they require them. But is that absolutely necessary? I would argue it is not but if you strongly feel that way then an agency would perhaps be the correct fit for you. But would it really?
When you phone an agency you would be speaking to a secretary, not the developer. You would likely still be awaiting a response from the developer at a set time. They could be working on someone else’s project and not yours, so they are not really in the zone to take on board what you are saying.
Allowing set times for different tasks is an important part of a freelancer’s role. We are our own business. We have no employees to assign menial tasks to. But it also means we have good project management skills. We need to.
Well, you’ve heard my defence of freelance web designers. I believe it is a fair and reasoned defence. It’s not simply a sales pitch where I say agencies are bad but freelancers are great. But I do feel it is important that freelancers do not get forgotten as so many people now work in the gig economy.
I partly wanted to write this post as I feel freelancers do get unfairly targeted by some, but not all, agencies. I can understand that a design agency, like any business, simply want to keep their income streams intact. But a freelancer like myself is in the same boat. I have bills to pay just like everyone does, and I do that by working hard on your behalf, and ensure I do high-quality work so that you will use my services more than once, if required, and also recommend me to other people.
A remote freelance web designer can be a great asset to any business.
I think people like to hire agencies because they worry a freelancer will not always be around. Well, I plan to be around for a long time and if you are really worried that I kick the bucket and you lose your website, you can always host it independently after I’ve designed and coded it. I can set this up for you at the end of your project. That way you will always have it. Check out my guide to web hosting towards the end of this article.
I hope you have enjoyed this article on the Benefits of Hiring a Remote Freelance Web Designer. You can read more of my articles on my Blog page. Alternatively, you can check out my web design, development and technical SEO business website.
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© Ian Morrison