Table of Contents
If you’re thinking about using a local web design company, we know it can be a daunting task, especially if you’re not sure what to look for.
Perhaps your website needs a refresh as it’s old and doesn’t work very well on mobile devices (mobile responsive). Or maybe your website isn’t ranking very well in search engine result pages (SERPS) meaning, it isn’t getting you many inquiries or orders.
Whatever your reason for seeking a web designer, whether near or far from you, it’s important that you make an informed decision.
Do I need to hire a freelance web designer or should I use a web design agency?
One of the first considerations is to decide on which type of web designer you may need. It really boils down to two options:
- Freelance web designer
- Professional website design agency
The decision of whether to hire a freelancer or to employ a web design company really depends on your specific needs and circumstances. Regardless of their locality, you have to make a choice.
Here are a few factors to consider:
Generally, working with a freelance web designer will be cheaper than hiring an agency. However, agencies may have access to more resources and specialised expertise, which does justify a higher cost.
However, if your budget is super tight, using an online web builder like Wix or Squarespace will be the cheapest and best option for you, but you will have to do it yourself.
The budget that you have available is a key factor in whether to opt for a local design agency or a freelancer.
It’s difficult to give specifics on what budget is most suitable for which type of web design route you decide to take as a few things come into play.
The complexity of the website, the number of pages, and the goals that you want your website to achieve for you are just some of the areas that will impact the cost that is needed as a baseline.
What we’re trying to say is your website design budget needs to reflect what you want or need.
For example, if you only have a budget of say £500 and need a large ecommerce website with an online booking system and 20 service pages. Neither a freelancer nor a web development agency will be able to do this for that amount of money. The budget is unrealistic compared to the web project.
However, with that being said, I know you’ll be thinking “What budget should be right for each type of web design option?”.
As another example, let’s say that you need a simple eight-page brochure-style website. It is simply a website with a homepage, six service-type web pages and a contact page. Also that you would supply all of the web content, pictures and information. In essence, you have everything that is needed for the website build and will focus on SEO later down the road.
Freelance website designers could charge anywhere in the region of £400-£1000
A local web design company possibly would charge anywhere from £900-£1600
Now the above are extremely rough figures and are meant to give an illustration of the type of web budget that could be needed. As mentioned previously many factors will determine the cost.
A final note is to look at where these web design services are based. People and companies based in the centre of larger cities, for example, will probably have higher running costs than those on the outskirts. This will mean that the quotes that they provide will possibly pass these costs on to you. It’s not always the case but something to be mindful of.
Web project scope
If you have a small, straightforward project like the one mentioned above, working with a freelancer may be a good choice.
However, a local web design agency will also be a perfect option depending on what you need now and potentially in the future.
A professional company will have wider knowledge and larger skillset than using a freelancer. They will have people that work for them that have expertise in many areas such as design, content creation, search engine optimisation (SEO), user experience (UX), User Interface (UI), online marketing and cost per click (online advertising) to name just a few.
Whereas, a freelance web developer may be limited in the knowledge that they have. They’re just one person and couldn’t possibly have vast experience in each area.
This is where the project scope or what you need from the website comes into force. If you know that the project requires different areas of expertise, then your best bet would be a web design company.
This is in no way meant to bash freelance web developers, many of them are awesome at what they do and could be a perfect fit for your project.
We’re just pointing out that what you need from the website has to align with what skills whoever you choose has, be that a local web development company or a freelancer.
A final thought on this is futureproofing yourself. Let’s say that you opt to work with someone and six months later you have built a great working relationship with them. You then decide that you need help with another element such as digital marketing or traditional marketing services but they don’t have the skills or experience. You will then have to go out and find someone to help with that.
If you have a tight deadline, an agency may be able to provide more resources and work more efficiently to meet your deadline.
However, if your project is more flexible, a freelancer may be able to provide a more personalised and focused approach.
Ultimately, the decision of whether to hire a freelance web designer or a local web agency should be based on your specific needs, budget, and timeline.
Who should choose to hire freelance local web designers?
One of the first decisions, after you have decided on your budget, project brief and timeframe, is to select the company or person to work with.
While both options have their benefits, we’ll explore the pros and cons of working with a freelance web designer and web development company.
Pros of hiring a freelance web developer
Choosing a freelance web designer over an agency has its advantages, such as:
Cost: Picking someone that works freelance will tend to have lower overhead costs than using an agency, which means they can often provide more affordable rates for their services.
Personalised approach: Working with them can offer a more personalised approach to your project. They often work on a one-to-one basis with their clients, allowing them to get to know their client’s specific needs and tailor their approach accordingly.
Flexibility: A freelancer may be more flexible in terms of working hours. They can often adapt to changes in the project more quickly than larger agencies.
Direct communication: Working with a freelancer can provide a more direct line of communication between you both, allowing for easy and open communication.
Specialised expertise: They may have specific areas of expertise that can benefit your project, such as knowledge and experience with a specific type of coding that you require or the platform they use such as WordPress.
Cons of hiring a freelance web developer
While working with a freelance web designer can offer many advantages, there are also potential drawbacks to consider, such as:
Limited resources: Freelancers typically work alone, which means they may not have the same level of resources or expertise as a larger web company. This can impact the scope and quality of the work they can deliver.
Limited availability: Normally working independently, they may have limited availability, which can result in longer turnaround times and less flexibility with scheduling. If they’re busy, they may not have the capacity to jump on your project quickly.
Risk of inconsistency: There is a risk of inconsistency in terms of quality and communication. While many freelancers are highly skilled and professional, there are also those who may lack the same level of experience or reliability compared to using a company.
Lack of accountability: Freelance web designers may be less accountable than a website design agency. If something goes wrong with your project or the quality of work is not up to your standards, it may be more difficult to hold a freelancer accountable compared to a larger agency.
Limited scope of services: They may offer a limited scope of services compared to a traditional company, which can be a disadvantage if you require additional services beyond web design, such as marketing or SEO.
Who should choose to hire a local web design agency?
When looking for a web company as opposed to a freelancer also has many advantages and some drawbacks. Depending on the design and development that you need, opt to find a web design agency that can fulfil everything all under one roof.
Pros of hiring a local website design agency
More resources: A website design agency typically has more resources and a larger team than a freelancer, which can allow for a wider range of expertise and a more comprehensive approach to web design projects.
More reliable availability: Unlike freelancers who may have limited availability, a website design agency is likely to have more consistent availability and the ability to scale up or down as needed to meet project demands.
Consistency and quality control: A web agency is likely to have established processes and quality control measures in place to ensure consistent and high-quality work across projects.
Specialised services: An agency may offer a wider range of specialised services beyond web design, such as marketing, SEO, and branding, which can be beneficial for businesses looking for a more comprehensive approach to their online presence.
Accountability and support: Agencies are likely to have a more structured and professional approach to customer support and accountability, with clearly defined processes for resolving issues or addressing concerns.
Cons of working with a local web design company
Higher cost: Website design agencies typically have higher overhead costs than freelancers, which can result in higher project costs for clients.
Less personalised attention: With a larger team and more clients to manage, website design agencies may offer less personalised attention and communication compared to a freelancer who is able to devote more time and attention to individual projects.
More bureaucratic processes: With a larger team and more established processes in place, website design agencies may have more bureaucratic processes and procedures that can slow down decision-making or cause delays in project timelines.
Potential for misaligned expectations: With more people involved in the project, there is a greater potential for misaligned expectations or miscommunication, which can impact the quality of work or the client’s satisfaction with the project.
Less flexibility: Website design agencies may have more structured processes and less flexibility to accommodate client requests or changes to the project scope compared to a freelancer who is able to adapt more easily to changing needs.
How do you find a local web designer?
There are many ways that you can find a local web design company or freelancer and it’s a good idea to ‘shop around’.
Ask for referrals: Reach out to friends, family, or other business owners in your area and ask if they can recommend a local web designer.
Check online directories: Websites like Yell, Google Business Profiles, or other local directories can help you find local web designers.
Attend networking events: Attend local business networking events or meetups to connect with web designers in your area.
Search on social media: Use social media platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn to search for them in your area and view their profiles and portfolios.
Search on Google: Use search terms like “web designer near me” or “local web designer” to find web designers in your area.
By using these tips, you can find a local web designer who can help you create a website that meets your specific needs and requirements.
Does your chosen web developer have to be local to you?
It really depends on you and what you’re more comfortable with.
We’re big advocates for always trying to buy anything locally, although that is a personal choice. In no way should it impact whether you should choose a local web design company or freelancer or find one further afield.
Today with online video communication tools such as Skype, Zoom or Microsoft Teams, you can still get that face-to-face approach, so distance doesn’t really matter.
One plus side of working with a local web designer, however, is that they have more knowledge of the area where you’re based. This can be an important factor when it comes to websites that are local in their intent.
If you’re a local-based business for instance, one that only focuses on getting customers close by, such as a plumber, hairdresser or a physical shop such as a wedding dress boutique then local knowledge can be a benefit.
By using someone close to you they will know the market better, your competitors and know what makes your potential audience tick, probably more than someone based further afield.
As an example, we have worked on projects for clients that are based across the globe, although a vast majority of projects are close to us.
We have been able to not only build excellent websites for their intended audience but we have helped clients with a number of other things such as access to local grant funding, local marketing and recommendations of suppliers they need like photographers, sign writers and networking events.
Although that being said, it isn’t a major factor. Opting for the right company that you know you will work well together is far more important than selecting a local web design company ‘just down the road’
How to decide which website designer is best for you
By now you should have made a decision on the budget that you will need, how to find them, the pros and cons of each type of web designer and whether you opt for a professional local web design company or freelancer.
Now that you have the basic decisions made, it’s time to get to the nitty gritty and compare your selected web team
Compare the initial website design quotes
Obviously, cost is a very important factor when choosing the right web designer. Here are a few things to consider in quotes:
- Don’t accept very loose quotes that don’t go into much detail when assessing the local web design suppliers. You need to specifically know they understand your project and have costed it appropriately.
- If you have a few quotes, look at the detail of what is included and what is not. If one of your quotes mentions something missing from another, ask them to clarify whether that is actually included.
- Speak to all of the web designers that you’re considering and get a feel for them. Although you may have a great rapport with them in person or over the phone, ensure everything discussed is confirmed within an email. Get them to update and resend the quotation if needed.
- Don’t just accept the cheapest quote – it may not be the best for you or they haven’t understood your design brief. You need to work with the best company overall based on your needs and that may not be the cheapest.
- If the web design quotes that you receive are vastly different in price, try and understand why.
- Ask direct questions such as “What doesn’t the quote cover?” and “Will there be any additional costs?”.
It’s better that you ask any questions that you have now and fully understand what is and what isn’t included. One of the biggest mistakes you can make when employing a local web design team is that they don’t fully understand the project and they haven’t asked you any questions.
You don’t want any nasty surprises, ensure that they have understood what you need 100%, half way through the project you don’t want them contacting you to say “That’s going to cost a lot more”.
Obviously, some web design projects will need to adapt as work commences based on you want to evolve the project, be mindful that it may impact cost.
As a web design company ourselves, we also get something called “scope creep”. This is when a client originally wanted something, what was quoted and then as the project develops their needs massively change.
This is why having a detailed quote is extremely important as it allows both you and the chosen company to refer back to it and stop any awkwardness or problems down the line.
Scrutanise their web design portfolio
Ask your selection of web developers to supply you with examples of websites they have built. Be mindful that they will tend to send you the ‘cream of the crop’.
If possible ask them for websites that are similar in nature to what you are wanting. For example, if you want an e-commerce website, you should see examples of the online shops they have built.
Even if they don’t have specific websites for your industry you will be able to get a general gist of what they produce.
Go through the example websites with a fine toothcomb. Check that they function and work well and are error-free.
Look at them on multiple browsers and screen sizes such as on mobile and tablet and check that work perfectly, this is called mobile responsive.
If after comparing a few of their websites and you’re finding errors or issues dig a little deeper. They may not have the attention to detail or skill required to produce a top-notch website. This is key regardless of whether they are a local web design company or freelancer, they should have a good portfolio.
When reviewing the website portfolios, don’t get too bogged down in the design aesthetics of things like colours, fonts and images used. Many clients ask for specifics and want it that way. If it’s not to your taste but it works well this is really what you’re looking for and not whether you like the company logo or not.
A final point when reviewing portfolios is to pick up the phone and call the company and speak to whoever commissioned the website. You can learn a lot about whether they are good or bad by just talking with someone who has used them.
Check their online reviews
This is a fairly easy one to do.
Jump on their social media, Google business profile and sites that allow you to leave reviews of companies. Every local web design company or freelancer should have online reviews!
Read through them and gather your thoughts.
Look at reviews that can be verified, for example, reviews on Facebook have to be left by another real person that also has their own Facebook account. So you know they are legit!
You could even message that person directly and ask for feedback.
One last thing to be mindful of is to look at when the reviews were posted if possible. If you see that two years ago they had no reviews, 10 new reviews a year ago and then nothing since, does that make sense? It could be a sign that they have artificially tried to attract lots of reviews at a certain point in time.
The reviews of the web designer should be true, meaningful and show honest feedback.
If they don’t seem real, chances are they are probably not!
Experience is a key factor when deciding on the web designer
Experience is something that you need to trust when selecting which web designer is perfect for you.
They need to be able to illustrate that they have worked in the industry for a long while and have the work to back it up.
So many times (this one makes me chuckle personally), we see, some companies saying things like “We have 45 years of COMBINED web design experience” – hmmmm so you’ve been building websites for longer than the internet has been around!
Seriously though, whoever you decide to work with, they should have been doing it for a while and kept up with coding, design trends and what is required to make a good-ranking website.
This is one of the areas where a full web design agency shines, even if one of their junior web designers will be working on your website, their in-house team should oversee their work and make sure it’s on par with what you expect and what the internet demands as a good website.
If you are selecting a company to build your website, ask them specifically “Who will actually be working on it?” and “What experience do they have?”
Do your homework and check out their experience.
Asses how creative they are
Now we know you’re not a designer and it’s not a case that you critique every design element here.
When you’re looking at their portfolio of design and the websites that they have produced. Do they look all the same?
Many web designers have a cookie-cutter approach, every website will be very similar. Same sections, navigation and how things are designed.
This could be a major red flag if they are using the same template over and over again, do they design and build websites as if they are on a production line?
All well-designed and built websites should be created around what your audience wants to see, knowledge of what your competitors are up to and to appease search engines. If all of their websites, regardless of industry are the same or very similar, are they putting the time and effort in to build a great website for you or will it be another site that they have just churned out?
Compare what they produce and ensure you’re getting a bespoke web design created for what you need and your users want.
If you need a website, the main thing to take home is to do your homework. Your budget and the type of website design and development you’re looking for are key factors in whether an agency or freelancer is best for you.
Their location could play a minor role in your decision, however, in most cases as long as you have everything nailed down and have a clear open dialogue with them then you should be on your way to getting a great website produced.
We’d love to hear if you’ve had a website designed by either an agency or a freelancer, where they located close to you and what were your experiences.