Design is one of the most-outsourced fields today. The practice isn’t new either. Talented people like Michelangelo and Leonardo were contracted to perform all kinds of design work for popes, noblemen, and rich merchants hundreds of years ago. There’s even evidence that shows design outsourcing was even done in very familiar ways as far back as the Roman Republic.
While it’s definitely an old practice, the idea of outsourcing designs can often give managers and business owners anxiety. Whether one is commissioning artwork from an individual artist or enlisting the services of a digital design company, the challenges – and misconceptions – are quite similar.
Here are four common misconceptions business owners have about design outsourcing:
1.) You need a big budget to outsource
It all depends on the agency and freelancers you talk to and scope and scale of the project you need to be executed. Design work can require a big budget in some very specific instances. More technically demanding fields such as book design, branding, industrial design, and UX design, for instance, may require a larger budget. Other projects like a simple flyer design may cost less.
The experience and reputation of the designer also count. A simple logo design from an unknown freelancer may, for instance, also be more affordable than if you got the services of a creative agency or a better-regarded designer. However, you have to keep in mind that you are also paying for that designer or agency’s collective experience and expertise. In other words, chances are you have to pay more to ensure that the job doesn’t need to be done again.
2.) Agencies won’t understand your brand like you do
The reverse is also true: creative agencies and experienced freelancers are likely to understand your brand in ways you might not have considered. Keep in mind that outsourcers typically work for a number of clients. Larger agencies may even be working on hundreds of different projects for dozens of different clients in different markets. Chances are, outsourcers will be able to provide insights about your brand that you haven’t even considered.
3.) In-house designers are a better choice
It all depends on how you define “better”. In-house designers are typically not as cost-effective to employ for most types of small businesses. There are costs associated with hiring, training, and developing in-house designers. There are also expenses associated with the designer’s equipment and software licenses.
Outsourced designers, on the other hand, are not only able to work on your project immediately, they already have their own equipment and software. On a per-project basis, this means that they are typically more cost-effective than an in-house team.
Though it has to be noted that an in-house team does have a number of advantages that could make them “better” in some ways. For instance, you will be able to directly supervise them, since they will typically be working in the same space as you. They will also live and breathe your brand, so they will, over time, be able to consistently produce work that is a perfect match for your needs. Agencies, on the other hand, may need to be constantly realigned to keep them on-brand.
4.) They are bad for your organization’s culture
It really all depends on the scope of the outsourcer’s involvement and how you manage it. Well-defined contracts and a conscientious division of labor between in-house teams and agencies can do a lot to prevent negative outcomes. On the other hand, a bit of managed constructive conflict can be just the thing your organization needs to break out of a rut.
What other misconceptions did we miss? Tell us!