By Waker Team, 7/1/2022

A Guide to Who to Trust for Your UX Design and Development - Agency or Freelancer

It’s 2022, and it’s easier than ever to find experts to offload your design and development to, so you can spend more time on your business, than in your business. But who do you trust with the next big thing you’re hoping to create and put out there into the world?

Whether you’re designing your first Minimum Viable Product (MVP) or ready to develop your launch-ready new App, you’re likely experiencing a combination of two realities - endlessly scrolling through potential freelancers to onboard, or being inundated with a barrage of promises from agencies. It’s a difficult choice, and both routes have their pros and cons, but at the end of the day, it comes down to:

  • Your project needs, intent, and audience
  • The level of expertise and involvement you want
  • The level of partnership you need.

No matter the choice, this decision can fundamentally shape the quality of your end product, for better or for worse. Without giving too much away, let’s dig in and help you determine whether to hire a freelance developer or a design and development agency for your next project.

Agency vs Freelancer: What’s the Difference?

These might be basic definitions for the majority of you, but it never hurts to get grounded before making a call.

In short, a freelancer is a sole individual who specializes in some form of the work you’re hoping to accomplish. Freelancers typically assume a more executional role, and less consulting. Which means you, as the project owner, will need to be super clear on both objective and end state, while leveraging the freelancer to execute on your behalf. Freelancers are a great way to get quick, smaller-scoped projects done, but if the scope of the project begins to expand, you may be faced with the choice of hiring additional freelancers, or enrolling an agency/team to carry on the work. You can find an army of qualified freelancers on platforms such as Fiverr or Upwork.

The role of an agency, however, is to bring a broader group of experienced professionals to the table, leveraging industry experience to guide you to a final product. Agencies often specialize in both design and development, offering end to end solutions to get you to market quicker and more efficiently. Guiding principles should be established early, and consistent and transparent engagement throughout the process proves invaluable. The trade expertise naturally comes with a potentially higher cost, but keep in mind, a larger investment up front might save you thousands down the line.

Experience Matters.

Both freelancers and agencies bring experience to the table. But the level of depth and breadth of experience varies. Since freelancers are generally a single person, expertise is often limited, but super in-depth into a specific aspect of the work. For example, one may specialize in UX design mockups, but have little to no experience with market research or coding. The next logical step would be to hire a second freelancer who specializes in another area. This is a reasonable approach to keep the work moving, but can often result in inconsistencies in quality of work and the need to micromanage your team of freelancers.

Remember, you hired them so you could focus on the big picture.

Agencies come in all forms and sizes as well. But what remains consistent is the broader breadth and depth of experience that has helped identify what works and what does not across various markets. Agencies are also composed of multiple team members, or subject matter experts. Which means a well rounded team that collectively leverages industry experience and internal communication to limit swirl and expenses on your end. A final underlying benefit to industry experience after working with hundreds of clients small and large is, the ability to partner with a passionate founder or creative, and navigate the path towards an MVP, prototype, or final product with as little turbulence as possible.

Quality that Represents Your Company.

Quality isn’t limited to just the end-product, but the entire process and journey that gets you there. Early engagement, a deep understanding of your company’s intent and vision, and transparency throughout the design and development process are what differentiate good from great. A freelancer may opt to partner with you from the start and for the duration of your dev journey, but it’s not common. After all, they’re solely rewarded for the delivery and completion of the final product. Agencies, however, are much more willing and incentivized to act as a true partner. At Waker, we enroll ourselves as early as the brainstorming and ideation phase, and quickly translate those thoughts into a blueprint towards your final product (MVP or other).

Dependability & Communication is Key.

If you like to be in the weeds of the project execution, a freelancer will be there for you at any hour of the day. Self employed designers and developers come with a lot of flexibility, making pivots easier as well. Though, the right early ideation process can limit the number of pivots at this stage. Make sure you read up on our proven process of defining product-market fit early, and not over complicating the MVP/product development process. And if your development’s going well, you hire a second freelancer, finding yourself as your new project manager.

An agency takes care of that for you. A partner in your creative process, that delivers consistency in quality, and is transparent and inclusive throughout the process, alleviates a lot of that stress, and guarantees results.

By enrolling an agency end to end through the development of your MVP or product, you now have a team managing your design, development, maintenance, and iterative updates.

This frees up the time for you to make important and informed decisions.

What Can I Afford?

Costs come down to scope. Naturally you’re likely to hire an agency if you’ve got a larger scope that goes beyond some rudimentary digital sketches. Before hiring an agency, it’s important to consider your ability to invest in your business or idea. You might be strapped for capital, but this could be one of the highest ROI decisions you make for your company.

The right design and development, be it for an MVP or fully flushed product, can unlock growth across engagement, adoption, and even capital.

Freelancers are a low cost option to getting low to medium risk tasks done on a quick turnaround. If you do go with a freelancer, be sure to carefully vet them for previous experiences demonstrating the level of expertise and quality you expect. Consider a longer term contract as well, to maintain consistency as best as possible.

So What’s the Risk?

You’re a founder, entrepreneur, or creator, so you’re no stranger to risk. Each decision you take on your business or idea assumes some level of risk. As does choosing who you trust to take your idea from concept to tangible reality. To help mitigate some of this risk, start by asking yourself the intent behind the job.

Is your project a simple update or mock up for internal purposes, or just a one-off task? Hire a freelancer, and keep learning.

If you’re ready to invest in your company, and wish to design something worth putting in front of potential users and investors, then consider an agency that offers end to end partnership and expertise. It could be the step to unlocking early engagement, adoption, and even fundraising.

Let’s Talk.

We at Waker, are proud to be a top-rated user-experience and software development agency  based in the United States. We’ve invested years into empowering growing startups, global Fortune 500 companies, and local businesses to deliver innovative solutions, from early conception to reality. Our clients consistently trust us to focus and strategize digital products that their users will love.

We’d love to see if we can help you turn your idea into reality. It’s what we love to do, which is why we invite you to book a free 1 hour “Napkin to MVP” session with one of our experts.

We’ll get you to a place of clear problem definition and a blueprint to your MVP, that you can keep for free. Even if we aren’t a fit, you’ll be equipped with a roadmap to kickstart your design and development.

It might just be the most productive hour of your week.

What Waker does?

Waker is a top-rated UX/UI and software development company consistently improving ourselves to help our clietns with what we do best. Our clients trust us to strategize digital products, design the user experience, and use cutting-edge software development to bring it all to life. Clients appreciate our hands-on, partnership-style process. Our services include Minimum Viable Products (MVP) & Prototypes, Web Apps, SaaS, Venture Development, and Innovation. We work with clients nationwide and have offices located in Columbus (Ohio), Atlanta (Georgia), and Wilmington (Delaware).

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