18 Oct 2023
Alright, let's cut the fluff and serve some tea. When your startup's on the line, do you call the entire Justice League or just summon Batman? You pick the Dark Knight, of course! But wait, isn't the Justice League packed with superheroes? Sure, but when Gotham’s in trouble, it’s Batman who gets the job done. Similarly, when you're at the crossroads of hiring a UX/UI designer, the freelancer is your caped crusader. Here's the lowdown:
Cost-Efficiency Over Overhead Extravaganza
Sure, with agencies, you might get the glitz and glam, the swanky offices, and the “whole package.” But you know what else you get? A hefty bill for all that jazz. Freelancers? They're like Batman working from the Batcave—low overhead, high efficiency. By the time the agency has scheduled their 5th kick-off meeting, an expert freelancer has already designed half your product.
Need to reach out? Flash the Bat-Signal (or, you know, send a message). No middlemen, no waiting for Wonder Woman to start saving Metropolis, to then pass responsibility to Superman to do his work, to then call a meeting to decide on the course of action… Direct line, faster decisions.
Freelancers like myself work on a maximum of 2 projects at a time. With greater focus, we can often deliver faster results. At an agency, they might have a dozen or more projects at the same time, and even when things appear "on track", that's because on track for them means delivered in 2 months, when a freelancer could do it in 2 weeks.
In the business arena, freelancers are the solo acts who can't rely on passing the buck if things go wrong. No team to hide behind or shuffle blame onto. They're the full package: strategist, executor, and deliverer. And when challenges arise? They face the music head-on. While some in the corporate maze might juggle responsibility like a hot potato, freelancers grasp it firmly, making every decision count. For businesses, partnering with a reputable freelancer means getting undiluted dedication and unwavering accountability. With freelancers, the motto is clear: Own the task, embrace the outcome.
It can be easier to find a freelancer who aligns with your company's culture and values than an entire agency. Picture a traditional, buttoned-up copywriter, used to crafting formal prose, trying to write content for a trendy skateboard brand targeting Gen Z. Or, a young, hipster marketer using memes and millennial slang for a luxury brand catering to an older, more affluent audience. The brand message gets lost in translation, and the target audience feels alienated.
Even if the client manager you interact with understands your brand and what you're about, there are another dozen people involved, and it's easy for inconsistencies to slip in, and before you know it, you're left with an expensive end result and you're trying to force yourself to like it due to buyer's Stockholm syndrome.
Agencies Strike Back
The points above may ring well and true, but now let's hear it for some counterpoints.
"Jack of All Trades, Master of None"
A commonly thrown around trope is this idea that freelancers can be good at various things but can never truly master their craft because they're generalists.
Interestingly, the so-called jack of all trades in this phrase was in fact William Shakespeare. The full phrase is “a jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.” It was a compliment.
Granted, a single freelance designer can't do everything under the sun, but my point here is that as far as startups are concerned, a solo expert designer is enough for the vast majority of early stage projects. You don't need a whole roster of people to design a minimum viable product. That's just silly. You're better spending that money on iterating, and pivoting if necessary, after you receive market feedback rather than trying to build the perfect solution from the get-go.
"Freelancers Are Unreliable"
Yes, I agree. Bad freelancers are unreliable. And you know who else is unreliable? Bad agencies.
That's why you need to find an expert that you can count on. But once you find that expert, they'll be running rings around the agency, which it still stuck organising the 8th meeting before kicking-off real work.
"Agencies Offer Scalability and Diversity of Expertise"
They do, but again, at what cost?
Now, I actually agree that it makes sense to choose an agency if they deliver ROI. I mean, who cares if an agency costs $$$ if they deliver $$$$$$ in value? And, if they have a wide range of experts allowing you to explore a product idea in a shorter time than it'd take to assemble the team from scratch by yourself. You get to stay lean.
Having said that, what's still better is if you learn the art of networking and scouting individual experts, you can then assemble your dream team by yourself, and cut the middleman out altogether. The longer you rely on the agency, the more power you essentially hand over to them. And if you're worried about redundancy, you can always hire two freelancers for a fraction of the cost of one agency.
Freelancers Cleaning Up The Mess
While I certainly agree that good agencies provide value for the right client, in my (admittedly biased) experience this turns out to be the exception rather than the rule. Time and time again I see clients who hired agencies, only to be put the through the grinder and spend 6 figures on something that should have cost 4 or 5 figures. Then with half of Gotham City on fire, I need to come in and clean up the mess. Agencies might roll out the red carpet, and focus more on selling the client experience rather than actually delivering on the desired outcome. Your startup doesn't just need a hero; it needs the hero. And more often than not, that's a freelancer. So, suit up and make the right call! 🦇
(Disclaimer: All superhero references are for humour and illustrative purposes. Except for some egos, no caped crusaders were harmed in the writing of this post. Illustrations and copy written in collaboration with chatGPT.)