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It’s a big task, you’ve been given a budget and the responsibility of redeveloping your organisation’s website. Who do you go to, what do you need? Addressing the issue of price and budget is certainly the first issue to tackle.

There is no doubt that a freelancer will be less costly, but the fact is that a freelancer and an agency offer completely different services. It is therefore up to you to decide what will benefit your organisation in the long run. Even if it means letting go of a little bit more money than you might have anticipated.

We have put together some of the main benefits of working with an agency at each stage in your project. This will outline some areas that will show the cracks if you decided to work with the freelancer option (non biased of course).

The Planning

Planning is the most important part of any web project. Learning about your business, your customers, what you want them to do on the site, how you want them to interact and the final outcome is key to success. 

Working with an agency:

During the planning an agency will carefully work through the options with you. This includes workshops in User Experience (UX) and planning the Information Architecture (IA), working with User Experience Designers and Project Managers. You will have the opportunity to really think in depth who your customers are and what their goal is on your website.

Another aspect you should look into thoroughly is the range of clients in similar sectors; agencies will sometimes have a particular sector specialism which might be an appropriate fit for your website build.

Working with a freelancer:

If you work with a freelancer these options may not be available to you, and it is probably worthwhile finding out what your freelancers’ skills are in the planning phase of your website build, how they intend to manage the project etc.

While working with a freelancer will save you on the dollar, there are no guarantees as to what your freelancer will be experienced in. They may have never worked with anyone in your sector and potentially misunderstand the brief entirely.

The Team

Who is working on your project is a crucial part of its success, it is very important to understand the very different types of teams and support you will receive from two very different approaches to a website build.

Working with an agency:

An agency team will cover a wide range of expertise, and likely consist of designers and developers with different skills and levels of experience. So covering all possible bases is a certainty when using an agency.

The agency will also be more equipped to host CMS training, and any other training you feel that you or your colleagues require. The flexibility available when working with an agency is a fantastic advantage. Without realising it you can have a whole team of developers, project managers, SEO experts and more at the end of a phone line.

Testing… testing… In order to iron out all the little glitches and bugs in your website an agency will have a very rigorous testing phase, this is one of the most important processes and without it your site could be vulnerable.

Working with a freelancer:

A freelancer is likely to be more of a generalist.  Are they are Designer, a Front-End Developer, a Back-End Developer.  More likely they will be a jack of all trades.

Although skilled and quick work output, the freelancer is a solitary creature. In an agency work will always be double checked and tested by another developer. Working as a freelancer this set up is not always feasible. Human errors can occur and testing may not be as rigorous.

However we should never underestimate the value of an online community. A freelancer will no doubt be well connected with other industry professionals that they are able to go to for help or advice. Having said that the downside is you’ve never had the chance to meet the people who are potentially inputting on your project.

The Aftercare

Aftercare is the point when your website is finished and live. But do not fear you don’t have to part ways with your agency or freelancer yet. The relationship you form during the build is then crucial to your ongoing work. You could always ‘break up’ with your chosen party, but the downside of this is that you lose all the integral knowledge gained during the website build.

Again at this point an agency and a freelancer can offer totally different things. To add to this, every single agency will differ in what packages they offer. Some smaller agencies for example will not offer any SEO or PPC support, and you may have to look elsewhere for these services.

Working with an agency:

Aftercare is something that is not necessarily at the forefront of your planning, but it is important to the ongoing maintenance of your website. Although an agency will hand your website over search engine friendly and compliant with all of Google’s regulations, you will need ongoing SEO. This will most likely be something the agency can offer you.

A few months down the line, there will undoubtedly be features and things you want to add and change on your site. By keeping an ongoing relationship with an agency, there will be developers already well experienced in your website, and adding features should be done with little hassle. You can even negotiate ongoing retainer time, which allows for small fixes and changes each month, already factored in.

Working with a freelancer:

With a freelancer booking in time might be more complicated, the very nature of freelancing is hugely variable, and your freelancer might be engaged on another large project, leaving it difficult to fit your smaller changes into their schedule.  They may even be on holiday for a couple of weeks and uncontactable.

Needless to say it is highly unlikely that a freelancer offers ongoing SEO or PPC management. You can always go to the option of using a separate company to manage your SEO, but there are numerous benefits to an all inclusive solution, some of which are outlined in this blog we posted earlier in the year: Why should you hire an SEO agency?

Hopefully, if you are thinking about a website project, you will now be more informed about what options are available to you. We feel that the experience of using an agency is very different to that of a freelancer and your expectations should be very different.