A product design agency is too costly for me

Stanislav Kovalsky
Co-Founder & Lead Designer

“Ok, this will be a text where you try to reason big budgets of your agency” — you might have thought. And you are correct but please, let me elaborate a little.

Regardless of whether you are launching a startup or trying to update an existing product — you must be sure to hire the right people. There are pros and cons in working with agencies as well as with individual freelancers and we want to dive into this specific topic.

Let’s build a situation: You have your own business, naturally, you want the business to grow and develop. However, at time you don’t have enough people, knowledge in some specifics, and definitely not enough time to control all the processes. It’s your business and you are already in charge of development, client communications, advertisement, hiring, legal, and financial issues.

This is a very common situation for most entrepreneurs. Eventually, you will come to a point where you need to scale up your business, attract more clients, or relaunch a product from scratch. In all of these cases, after a quick research, you will understand that it’s time for a new product design. A few more hours of surfing will show that “design” is a complex term and there are many specific fields inside of it. Just to name a few: product design, mobile apps design, illustration, animation, research methods and so much more.

After reading into the goals, differences in processes of each filed you can conclude that it’s not worth your time and it will be better to hire some specialists. You go to Google and soon enough u get to Dribbble, Behance, and Clutch. Here you can look through hundreds of profiles and portfolios. And there are so many of them and the prices have quite a range; some people promise a result, others brag about their cool processes, somebody is showing off their collaborations with Bentley, Google or Facebook. But, the main idea you will get from all these profiles is a simple division in two groups of specialists: freelancers and agencies.

Who should I choose?

A tough question right away, especially when you are not quite sure what you need. “I want a good design” is a very ambiguous thing to say. The lack of a documented detailed description of the product, list of competitors, or list of differences from existing products are all a common problem for startup entrepreneurs. You can’t aim for a good result if you don’t know what you are aiming for.

Without a clear understanding there can be no clear result

The first thing to consider is, of course, the price: agencies are always more expensive. And there are reasons for it: the staff, office rent, coffee machine maintenance, etc. On the other hand, there are freelancers — specialists who can work from anywhere provided with a laptop and a network connection. Let’s dig in some nuances:

Freelancers, most of the time, are a design one-man-army: a single person can make a you a website design, work with the layout, set up targeting, and give you many advices and recommendations.

Agencies do all of the above and a bit more but it costs three times the freelance price. “Why should I pay more?” you might ask. Because it gives more guarantees for you. Product design is a very complex field with different stages; let us list the main of them:
First, we schedule a discovery call when we get to know why and how your product works.
Then, we commit a deep research of your product and competitors.
With the information in hand, we create a Customer Journey Map (CJM) to help us understand how users are going to use your product.
Afterwards is the wireframe stage full of black and white images but, when done correctly, this stage can help you save hundreds of thousands of dollars and tens of hours of your time.
All of the above will result in a well thought concept of how your product will look like.

In terms of planning and result guarantees agencies have the upper hand. Hiring an agency the customer can be sure that a specialist will handle each field. The copywriter will provide quality text; the marketer will set up advertisement; SEO-specialist will promote the site; programmers will write the code for new features; designers will work through the stages listed above (and do much more). Also it is important that a project manager will be the captain of this crew — being the link between client requests and agency tasks completion.

I want to save time and money

Freelancers will be enough for some tasks but hiring a freelancer always come with some risks. If you are not satisfied with the work done by a specialist and you decide to change them, will the newcomer have the knowledge about all the work done by their predecessor? For instance, the newcomer has no information on the committed audience testing and the results of what works better and what does not work at all. That might drive the newcomer to start the process all over again and replicate the mistakes already fixed by their predecessor.

Also, bringing a new specialist to the project takes a lot of time. The newcomer must relearn all the details and get to know their colleagues. We must not forget that we are all human beings and can get ill; in case of freelance, it results in delays. It is much more common for freelancers to drop out of projects. In addition, for a company each change of personnel means a re-sign of contracts and NDAs, production and adjustment of the new strategy and many more time-consuming steps.

All of it takes time, your time.

There are other serious concerns when hiring a freelancer:

  • Low competence — the market is flooded with specialists who have just finished some sort of courses but recognize themselves as top-notch;
  • Lack of big picture — freelancers work in their narrow specialty;
  • Personal control — you’ll need to guide the specialist yourself or assign them to one of your project managers;
  • Work ethics — some freelancers tend to stop responding to texts and show up a few days later thinking that’s no big deal.

I want my business to grow and bring more profit

To avoid all the concerns from the previous paragraph it is best to hire an agency. Moreover, a mature agency always keep their projects under control and take responsibility in their actions. This approach minimizes the chaos of a new project and any time losses it can cause.

In agencies, all the work done within your project stays in one team and one document. For example, in our workflow each project is a group of tasks in a CRM system (Asana or Clickup), and a Figma board for design (however, we can work in most of other design tools).

For a business owner it is natural to want to improve their business, make it more successful and increase profits. How can a design agency help?

  • High competence — each specialist in the team is assigned to their field of work accordingly;
  • Well-coordinated team — no need for additional human resources, great communication inside and outside the team;
  • In touch — they never drop out and are motivated to collaborate and help as long as needed;
  • Assigned project manager — a specialist who can answer any question about digital marketing
  • Timely completion of tasks — if any member of the team can’t meet the deadline they can get help from colleagues;
  • No legal issues — easier to sign contracts and NDAs than with individual specialists.

Ok, I’ve made my mind. Where should I find specialists?

If you are aiming for freelancers, I would recommend to start looking by a word-of-mouth; ask friends and colleagues for a trusted specialist.

If nobody can give you a trustworthy contact, check the sites were design freelancers gather the most:

It can be that after looking for freelancers comes a realization that it’s better to hire a group of professionals. This way will bring you to Clutch — the world-famous platform for agencies with a proven track record and feedback from clients.

Clutch have their grading system based on more than a dozen of quantitative and qualitative metrics, including client reviews, clients list, company experience, market share and recognition among competitors. I should mention that our company — Glow — holds a leading position in the rating and we are proud of the perfect reputation we receive from our clients, with reviews to prove the point.

Thanks for reading 🇺🇦❤️

Whether you choose a freelancer or an agency for your project depends on personal perforations and the type of work that needs to be done. Big and complex projects should be outsourced to agencies, while a freelancer will do for simple and quick tasks. It is entirely up to you to decide.

However, if you will need a product design done right and with care — just drop us a letter at [email protected] and we will be happy to help.

Thank you for reading and see you in our next article!