Should I just hire a team of in-house designers?
But freelancers will give me more flexibility…
Although, I’ve heard that Random-Agency-Name has hit the jackpot by working with white label agencies…
These are questions our customers grapple with.
And like most questions in life, there is no one size fits all answer.
How you build a team of designers depends entirely on your business structure, your long-term goals, and the kinds of projects you work on.
Having said that, most businesses choose to work with two or more of these contract types to create their perfect designer ecosystem.
You can do that for your agency as well, once you understand the big picture.
So without any further ado, here are the pros and cons of all three options. (And when you should choose each of them.)
Breaking it down: In-house designer vs freelancer vs white label design agency
- “Got-your-back” reliability: They are available to work on your projects full-time, and can drop a project to work on a more urgent deadline if need be.
- Better efficiency: They are already trained in your design process and style guidelines, so work gets done faster and on-brand.
- No communication lag: You are likely to get quick responses and instant communication from your employees.
- Easy to get ownership: Most in-house designers sign NDA’s that allows you get IP rights on the work. And their contracts prevent them from duplicating your ideas with other brands.
- Less upfront payment than freelancers: A freelance designer is usually an expert in their niche, and hence tend to charge more for their services. So hiring a “jack of all trades” in-house designer might save you money for basic projects.
- Lengthy hiring process: The average hiring process takes 30 days for a full-time hire! So if you need someone to join your team ASAP, an in-house hire might not be your best option.
- Training time for junior designers: Junior designers need some dedicated mentoring, and training time before they can be trusted to work on projects on their own.
- Out-of-the-book expenses: With an employee, their salary is just the tip of the iceberg. You also need to account for overhead expenses like software costs, hardware costs, perks, benefits, and paid time off.
- Long-term commitment: Firing and re-hiring an employee isn’t an easy process. So you’ll have to keep them on even during your lean periods, and when they slack due to personal reasons.
- Not a total package: Your in-house designer will be able to deliver on your basic, everyday projects. But when you eventually get a unique project that needs specialized skills, you will likely have to look for an outside hire to find the expert for the job.
- Might hit a design plateau: With the same designers working on every one of your projects, you risk ending up with stale work that looks the same.
When should you hire an in-house designer?
In-house designers are a good option only if you have consistent work throughout the year, across similar categories.
Also, if you prefer stability and on-hand access to a designer, over financial savings and flexibility, then an in-house designer might be for you.
- Wide range of budgets: Unlike in-house hires, there is no minimum expected salary range for a freelance designer. You can find a designer for every budget.
- Find the niche experts for the job: Most successful freelance designers are highly skilled in a specific niche or industry. You will be able to find an expert to deliver on even the most specialized projects, in the freelance world.
- Instant hiring: With freelancers, there is no longer hiring process. A quick background check, portfolio review, and interview, and you should be good to go. (You can hire in as fast as one day if needed!)
- Flexible contracts: No need for long-term commitments: Unless you choose to hire a freelance designer on retainer, you can hire them for just a one-off project. You can even hire them for a day, a week, a month, or even a quarter.
- No additional expenses: You pay just their project quote or monthly retainer. Freelancers don’t require any overhead expenses.
- Fresh perspective: Since they are coming from the “outside” to work on your project, they usually bring a fresh perspective and new insights.
- You get what you pay for: Yes, you can find a freelancer for every budget. But you can have two out of three: cheap, fast or good quality. And the most experienced, expert designers usually charge exorbitant rates, so be ready to pay up.
- No backup if things go south: Freelancers are usually a team of one. So if they fall sick, have a family emergency, or can’t keep up with the work, your project will be left hanging.
- Slow response time: Since they aren’t working for you full-time, you can’t expect to get instant responses out of a freelancer. Most freelancers take 24 – 48 hours to respond to messages and emails, especially if they are in a different time zone.
- Limited contract periods: Sometimes a freelance contract can limit you to only 2-3 revisions on a design. So if you don’t get the desired outcome by then, you might have to hire them again to get the job done.
When should you hire a freelance designer?
If you get a project that demands a highly specialized design style or industry niche, then an experienced freelance designer might be your best bet.
Also, if you frequently go through lean periods and packed months, then hiring freelancers per project (or on retainer) could work out great for you.
If this is the case for you, I recommend having a roster of pre-vetted freelance designers on your speed dial, to get going on projects instantly.
While label design agency
- You get all the credit: A white label agency supports you from the back end. All the designs that are created by the agency are done so under your brand name, so your reputation gets a major boost.
- Access to a full-fledged team without the commitment: When you hire a white label design agency, you get access to the entire host of expert graphic designers, support staff, managers, brand specialists, etc. And you don’t have to worry about keeping them on through the year.
- Budget-friendly for agencies: Employees come with limitations and strings attached, and skilled freelancers can be expensive. White label agencies give you all the expertise at affordable costs. They even offer competitive hourly rates, partnership splits and more.
- Instantly expand your services: Agencies help you expand your services as and when needed, without having to worry about the hiring process. Got a project that needs a custom video created, your agency will find and add a video expert to your extended team instantly.
- Better availability: White label agencies usually assign you a dedicated team for a project. So you can rely on them for instant communication and fast responses.
- Greater reliability: Most agencies are staffed with a large number of designers. So even if one person from your dedicated team is unavailable, you will be staffed with a replacement to keep your project on track.
- Come with minimum contract requirements: Agencies often require you to have a minimum project size, or a minimum consistency of work to be able to sign you on. So they’re not a viable option for small, one-off projects.
- Can get expensive: Yes, agencies are more affordable than hiring a single highly-skilled freelancer. But if you don’t keep a check on the number of changes, scope creep, and billable hours, then the bills can really rack up.
- Less control over the project: If you’re handing off the entire project to a white label design agency, then it will be hard for you to have control over every stage of the design process. The result that you might get at the end of the day, might be different from what you imagined if you don’t schedule regular check-ins.
When should you hire a white label design agency?
If you’re looking for a full-scale design team for a one-off project, then a white label design agency is your best bet.
If you regularly need end-to-end design work done, but not enough for hiring designers full-time… Or if you want to focus your management efforts on business growth instead of managing a team of designers, then outsource it to a white label agency.
If you need a full team of full-time designers, but can’t afford them, then consider hiring an offshore white label design agency to get the job done.