1. Low Overheads
The main reason is price. They are cheaper.
A freelance web designer will most likely only take you on if they are interested. While they are cheaper, the money you pay goes directly to the person in front of you.
Wages, superannuation, insurance, holidays, maternity leave and rent increase the price of your website if you are working with a web development company. A company has to keep the coal fires burning, and that means taking on every job that comes in. Even if it’s not a good fit.
Most freelance web designers work from home. Or at a Cafe. They have tiny overheads and if they are doing okay, a freelancer will only take on a job that they like and can manage. Companies take on all work – sometimes just to keep afloat.
Low overheads not only halves the price of your website but you double the availability. If you choose a picky web designer – one who sees your website as a chance to boost his or her portfolio, you’re sure to get a good deal. And because they are’t a company, any freelancer will work hard o impress you right off the bat.
Do check their reputation first. Befriending your potential freelance web designer on Linkedin is a good way to see if the person is really walking the talk. Or just . . . talking.
2. No Queues
Wait in line, little guy.
Big clients bring in big money for web development companies and so smaller clients often have to wait in line. Big jobs can go on for months, sometimes years. It’s no problem dropping an $8K website when you have three big contracts. In fact, why should a big company care about your little tiny website dream?
Freelancers don’t have big clients. Period. A too-big client would hog all their time and they’d quickly be out of business.
Once you have checked out their reputation, a good freelance web designer is theoretically the best person to make a really good website – one worthy of showcasing on a portfolio page.
Because their advertising budget is low, they need to do a good job. Word of mouth travels fast. So in general, you’ll find they respond to queries promptly In the scheme of things, you’re quite important. You’ll probably get a direct line, rather than having to wait in a queue or play he-said / she-said games with the receptionist and project manager.
Because any freelance web designer is used to working to a tight budget, their portfolio work and client testimonials page are often the best advertising for their services. And because the left hand and right hand belong to the same person, a freelancer can be a better communicator than an entire sales, marketing or communications department.
3. New Technology
Large companies are weighed down by process.
If you read any management book at all, you’ll discover that process is part of intellectual property (IP). IP is what a proprietor sells when he/she finally lets go of a business. In fact many business models are just a matter of breaking down process, making it more efficient and then selling the business for a premium when it hits a good profit streak.
The aim of identifying, measuring, categorising and then training a work methodology takes a long time to establish. In this industry (where the technology changes almost monthly) adjusting to change and effectively communicating those changes to staff can take time. And the web waits for no-one. So any process has to be fluid and informed by things like latest SEO practice and HTML5 or new responsive website specifications.
A freelancer can change as soon as new technology (such as responsive web design) hits the ‘net. There’s no complex chain of management for seeking approval. This could be why freelancers freelance. They don’t like playing Chinese Whispers and dislike office politics (and dreaded work parties).
A freelancer mostly just wants to do a great job and proudly sit you on a podium in their showroom.
4. Skills & Qualifications
Is the person building your website fully qualified?
Is your freelancer aware of industry best practices and coding standards? Or are there two, poorly paid twenty-somethings sitting in a back room, drinking coke while using Dreamweaver to build your website – without any real understanding about the underlying code?
If you go with a large company, your designer will probably be a cheap graduate because that’s where the money is. It’s likely that he or she will also be 100% responsible for the build of your site – responsible to the company bottom line – not to you and your website. The web agency boss probably knows very little about web design. More likely, he will be reading about how to maximise profit, how to expand, or how to franchise the web company. If he can pay a web designer R250/hr and out-charge him at $200/hr, then he’ll be okay. None of this is remotely related to your website. Except when it comes to price.
A skilled freelance web designer can build your entire website using Microsoft Notepad. Unlike the company boss, he/she is probably in love with code and design and that’s ultimately what your website is (although on this site we argue that a website is really a car).
It’s quite a different volition.
Communication or Chinese Whispers?
You’re with a web firm and they’ve tasked a great project and marketing manager. The team seems to listen well – identifying your needs and suggesting appropriate solutions to your online empire. He or she is probably attractive. It’s customary to send an attractive (often opposite sex young person) out to meet clients.
All goes well.
Problems start when the person (who probably has a marketing background) communicates your website dream to designers and then programmers and then project or line managers. Communication quickly becomes a game of Chinese Whispers. YOU are several degrees of separation away from the people who are actually building your site. And in many cases, coders are outsourced – outside the country. The company boss doesn’t want you to meet that designer directly because he might tell you how little he’s getting paid.
How often have you heard, “I forwarded that info to our Content Manager on Tuesday. Oh. She didn’t get back to you? Hang on … Ah, yes it looks like she’s on maternity leave. I’m Mike – your new project manager. Is there anything I can help you with? Where are we up to?”
The point I’m trying to make is that nobody is really listening to you. I know this because I’ve been that guy not listening on behalf of a company. The guy not revealing just how little time the thing you want will take. The real cost. When your web guy is working for the man, he’s answerable to his bottom line – not yours.
A freelance web designer is directly answerable to clients. Good freelancers listen. Not all do, of course, but if you find one that does – hang on tight.
6. Volition / Raison d’etre / The point of it all
A freelance web designer isn’t in it for the money.
Freelance web developers are in the business because they want to build really smart websites that work for people – sites that bring in new sales and business opportunities. Freelancers love what they do. Their intent is yours : they want to build the best website possible – not pay superannuation and maternity leave to employees.
Freelancers also tend to shy away from doing jobs they aren’t interested in. Few build sites for money. It’s why they are freelancers. They want to code, not run a business. Like me, most don’t see a need to expand. They are happy to either design or code (or do both) up websites. They have NO overheads and fewer financial responsibilities. If they are doing well, there’s NO reason to say yes to a job. Company bosses are staring at payroll, super, time-in-lieu, maternity and sick leave paperwork while trying to work out how to turn a profit over those expenses.
This is the big one.
Freelancers actually care about what they do.
I’m not being twee here. A freelance web designer’s career depends on how much they care. The website they build for you will be their own.
If I were you I’d want this to be the case. It is definitely NOT the case with a web design company. That site is solely yours once you pay the final invoice.
Check out any website made by a company. Any website at all. It’s not uncommon for companies to charge more than $10K for just a basic website. That money will get you a cracking good ecommerce, shopping cart, freelancer-built custom website. Often the job and resulting website functionality is exactly the same, but for one third the cost.
Along with setting their own rates, freelancers can set their schedule. This can positively impact the timeline of the project.
When working with individuals, they may be able to devote all their time to your project to get the work done faster, whereas an agency will be managing multiple projects with different timelines.
Depending on the agency or freelancer, you may experience a more hands-on approach with a freelancer. Since they are your sole contact on the project, there can be a more personal approach
The upshot of it all this is that a freelance web designer can’t charge an arm and a leg to build a basic website. If they are just starting out, you might get a crazy deal (think under R25 000 or a fully worked, smashing website). Most Freelancers rarely build expensive websites because that job could take them away from less intense but far more interesting pursuits. Freelancers aren’t in it for the money. I can promise you that. Otherwise, they’d start a company – and then franchise it.
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