Most marketing or creative leadership individuals will, at one point, have to decide whether a project is best for their in-house design team or if they should hire it out to an marketing agency or freelancer.

Or maybe you’re in the position where you don’t have an in-house design team, but you’re trying to decide if you should hire one for your organization or if you should work with an outside vendor.

Both have benefits.

In this post I’ll call out some of the pros of both scenarios to help you make an informed decision on how to move forward.

PROS of an in-house designer or team


1. A full understanding of the company and its product/services

One of the most valuable assets of having an internal or in-house design team is the complete understanding of everything: the company, it’s products/services, history, etc. This is a major leg up an in-house design team will have that agencies or freelancers just won’t (at least at the beginning).

This means, less time briefing an outside hire. It also means less time communicating questions an agency or freelancer may have. An immersed in-house designer can walk down the hall or use a messenger app and ask an expert a question and save valuable time.

An in-house designer will also be part of internal meetings that discusses future plans of the company and can easily and quickly apply them to projects across the board.

2. Passionate mentality and speed

Another major benefit of having an in-house design team is the connection and passion they have to the company and its values/missions. This is often very hard to emulate when you hire an agency or freelancer. There are often financial incentives for in-house teams that keep them vested for the long-haul such as bonuses, promotions, or seeing the benefits as a shareholder.

You also have a dedicated creative team who’s the sole focus is on your projects and the value on internal communication is unmatched.

Let’s not forget about the speed you have with an internal team. Having your own in-house design team allows you to dictate projects and can easily move deadlines and high-priority items when needed. However, strategic and long-term projects are often delayed or the team can easily lose focus when short-term or hot items pop up (keynote presentation for the CEO, supporting materials for an event, unexpected high-priority meeting, etc.) that can result in immediate business implications.

3. Cost

This is a tricky one. While on the surface, it may appear that it would be much more beneficial to hire a full-time creative individual, but as we dig into this topic, you’ll see some issues you need to address.

Often times having an internal team that is dedicated to production work (brochures, banners, conference or trade show materials, business cards, social media graphics, etc.) is an effective way to utilize beginner/junior talent. You can get a lot done and fairly cheaply. But normally it’s not well done.

However, if you have a dedicated senior creative manager to oversee projects and a creative team, you can effectively create a multitude of projects that are outstanding. (This is where things can get expensive.)

I’m a creative, so I can say the following: there is a huge amount of creative people that are quirky, have a hard time articulating the needs of others, are arrogant, poor communicators, are very niche designers and need to be managed in a very distinct way. It is often a trial and error process to find good designers that meet your needs.

If creatives aren’t managed correctly, they can quickly become bored, unmotivated, and frustrated. This ultimately leads to them quitting and you having to go through the hiring and retraining process over again. (Add some more dollar signs into your cost analysis here.)


PROS of hiring out your design work


1. Broad experience at your disposal

While an agency or a freelancer may not know your company inside and out, they are accustomed to quickly learning about you. Most have niches they focus on, whether it’s a specific industry, offerings, or practices. So the learning curve is normally quite short.

If you find an agency or freelancer that is deeply knowledgeable in your space, you will reap many benefits by working with them. You’ll have access to experienced individuals who can bring a fresh perspective and creative ideas to the table that you often won’t have with an in-house team.

You will often have access to an entire team of seasoned creatives as well. This can range from project managers, creative directors, branding specialists, UI/UX, motion graphics, front end, and back end developers, web specialists, and so many more.

2. New creative ideas

Often times internal teams are so close to the work and often times dealing with last-minute demands, that they don’t have much time to creatively think through big projects or strategies.

This is a great time to enlist in some agency or freelance help.

Creative individuals in this space are often abreast of new industry trends, ideas, and strategies that have worked (or failed) in the past. They are also close enough to understand the company, but not in the trenches with an in-house team so that they can see benefits and recognize areas of the company that is differentiators that should be highlighted.

3. Flexible budget

When you work with an agency or freelancer its very easy to scale up or down your budget based on your needs on a month-by-month basis. If you have a big launch you can appropriately plan to ramp up the access you have and then once it’s complete, you can use the lower it back down or wait a few months before you utilize an agency or freelancers services again.

Unlike having full-time employees, your costs will stay relatively the same, regardless of how the business is doing.

While agency or freelance work is generally more expensive by the hour, you gain flexibility in the length of your investment and don’t have to worry about items such as benefits, office space, training, etc. Flexibility is a major benefit for a lot of companies that aren’t in need of a full-time creative team.

PROS of a merged method

This post wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging a third option: a merged approach. There are plenty of companies that utilize both in-house teams and agencies or freelancers. And they use them in different ways.

You could have a small in-house team that works on production work only and hire all creative work out. Or vice versa, you could have a large in-house team and hire-out specific branding, web, or product launches.

There is no right or wrong approach. Each company is different in their needs, but hopefully, this will give you some direction you should take. If you have a specific situation you’d like to discuss, let me know.

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