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Graphic design: Should I outsource or hire in-house?

Graphic design: Should I outsource or hire in-house? Blog Feature

December 5th, 2019 min read

Do bad hires haunt you at night?

Many times when we need to make hiring decisions, we’re confronted with a dilemma: should we outsource or insource? 

While some entrepreneurs rave about the benefits of outsourcing design work, others have given up due to unpleasant experiences. 

Well, lean in my friend.

We're about to tell you everything you need to know about both hiring options, so next time you have to make a staffing decision, you know exactly what to do.

Why your business needs a graphic designer

Okay, so we’re not in the ‘80s anymore. 

In the current age of social media and all-pervasive digital presence, the importance of visual strategies to boost brand awareness and attract new customers is greater than ever before. 

Images are processed 60,000 times faster than text and people tend to spend 10% more time on website images than text.  

These stats alone are enough to tell you why good design matters when it comes to scaling and leveling up your game. 

And businesses need the help of talented graphic designers to do this. 

A skilled designer knows how and where to hit the audience with their designs to achieve the desired results. 

So here’s rule number one: don’t cut corners by asking a friend or doing it yourself. 

There are two main reasons companies hire graphic designers:

  1. To establish a brand look and create initial brand assets.
  2. To continuously create branded material for advertising and internal purposes.

But while doing so, companies can face a myriad of challenges: 

  • Design work being very time-consuming.
  • Different brands and different projects requiring a wide variety of styles and skills.
  • Keeping up with the ever-changing trends in consumer design preferences can be overwhelming.

On top of that, the questions of where to find the talent? How to gauge the talent? To in-source or outsource? 

After reading this article, you’ll be better equipped to make the best decision for your business.

Outsourcing your graphic design 

Entrepreneur.com defines outsourcing as, “The practice of having certain job functions done outside a company instead of having an in-house department or employee handle them; functions can be outsourced to either a company or an individual.”

Meanwhile, Deloitte’s 2016 Global Outsourcing Survey shows the top reasons companies outsource:

  • 59% – Reduce or control costs
  • 57% – Focus on core functions
  • 47% – Solve capacity issues
  • 31% – Improve service
  • 28% – Gain access to expert talent and knowledge
  • 17% – Manage the business environment
  • 17% – Accelerate organizational transformation

These are all reasons a company might want to outsource their graphic design, but that doesn’t mean it’s without its flaws.

Let’s examine the advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing designers to see if it’s the right move for you.

The pros of outsourcing graphic design

1. Lower Costs

From a financial point of view, outsourcing graphic design is usually cheaper than hiring an in-house employee. 

When you outsource you have the flexibility to decide  how much you spend on each task or project as each one will likely have a different scope or even a different person fulfilling it. 

You can set your own fixed budget on the importance and complexity of the project at hand. 

In contrast, payments for in-house designers do not have any direct correlation to the amount and complexity of the projects they complete. 

2. Flexibility

This flexibility extends to other things as well. 

The beauty of outsourcing graphic design is that you can always scale your team depending on your work volume. 

If it’s a busy month, hire more freelancers. If it’s a slow period, counting on only one designer should be fine. (And once again, scaling down at your whim helps you save money. You can’t do that with someone on staff.)

 

3. Talent diversity

You can also always outsource work that requires skills your team is lacking.

 

Suppose you have three in-house graphic designers. 

You have a new campaign that requires some custom animation, but no one on your team has experience in creating them. You can outsource this. 

Or let’s say you’re an agency and you get a client who needs great visuals for marketing their yoga studio online, but your designers are only experienced in the fields of media, tech, and real estate. 

What should you do?

If outsourcing is an option, you can find a designer who has experience creating this type of content.   

This way, you can satisfy and retain clients from across all types of industries, even those that aren’t normally a focus of your company. 

4. Fresh ideas

Outsourcing is an interesting way to spice up your designs as well. By hiring someone from outside the company, you are exposed to new perspectives, opinions, and styles.

This can offer some exciting new visuals to attract a new audience or even re-engage some existing customers. 

Long term, this can even inspire the rest of your team and boost creativity. 



The cons of outsourcing design

 

1. Divided focus

One of the disadvantages of outsourcing graphic designers is that you never really know how many projects the freelancer may be working on. 

In most instances, you probably won’t have a freelancers undivided attention.  

This can result in poor or faulty design outcomes which could mean more revisions, wasted time, and more budget. If you are running on a tight deadline, this can ultimately hamper your whole project. 

So, you have to be careful while outsourcing designers. It is a good practice to select pre-vetted or reputed designers with a proven track record. 

2.  Difficult to find a good fit

Every hiring manager who has outsourced knows it can be a bit tricky to find the right fit for the job.  

Entrepreneur.com also highlighted the importance of making sure the freelancer you hire can really do the job. 

You need to get and check references. “ Ask former or current clients about their satisfaction.... Find out what industries and what type of workload the firm or individual is accustomed to handling.”

But finding and verifying all this information is not always easy, so the possibility of hiring the wrong person does exist.  

Another aspect that could cause concern is time differences, as outsourced designers can come from all over the world. 

Hubstaff points out that “working across continents can mean business hours might not line up. Make sure you discuss what regular work hours are if you’re working with professionals in other locations.”

 

3. Management and reliability

Another downside to outsourcing graphic designers is ultimately your lack of control. 

Unlike someone on your team, you can’t really control their business stability or their ability to meet deadlines. 

There’s a constant fear that they may go AWOL or end up providing sub-par designs. What will you do then? 

Furthermore, regardless of the length of the relationship, you will need someone to manage your freelancers as well as deal with recruitment, legal issues, payments, and to create trusting relationships. 

These tasks can take a lot of time, especially if you are outsourcing directly to a designer and not through an agency or third-party business. (Note: Many of these issues fortunately can fade away if you have a long-term relationship with a designer or agency.) 

Keeping these drawbacks in mind, how can we utilize graphic design outsourcing to its fullest potential? 

Well, the trick lies in knowing when to outsource design and how to do it the right way. If you do it right, there’s a lot to gain. 

When to outsource your graphic design:

A little bit of planning and foresight goes a long way. If you take the time to set some definite criteria as to when you will outsource design, you can save yourself from a lot of bad decisions.  

For example, consider outsourcing if you want to :

  • Tap into specialized talent, but it doesn’t make sense to employ them full-time.
  • Free up internal resources and focus on your core activities.
  • Cut costs for certain projects.
  • Avoid overburdening your existing in-house designers

But before you turn over a new leaf, Take a moment and consider the following elements to help determine if outsourcing is the right choice for you:

  • Your graphic design budget—how much can you afford to pay a contractor? Sketch out the budgeting plan for the project. 
  • The management of the graphic designers—will you manage them or will you hire a coordinator? 
  • The designer’s work location—should they attend in-house meetings or can they work 100% remotely?
  • The legal angle—what type of contracts will you sign before work begins and how will you deal with potential conflicts?
  • The time and effort it takes to manage all these steps—should you consider a third-party outsourcing agency to take care of the whole process for you?

Once you have sorted out all of these details and prepared to tackle them, your company will set up to reap the benefits of outsourcing.

If you find that it’s not, perhaps you should consider an in-house designer:

Working with in-house designers

The alternative to outsourcing talent is to hire in-house designers, also called insourcing. 

This often involves strenuous hiring and training timelines, but there are plenty of advantages. For example, as your in-house designers grow in experience and skill, they can apply what they learn to future work within your company. 

Let’s dive into some of the specific pros and cons. 

The pros of insourcing designers

1. Cohesion 

When it comes to creating and sustaining a brand image, you want a consistent aura or vibe throughout your materials. This is exactly where a closer and long-term familiarity between the designer and the brand becomes crucial. 

In-house designers tend to be more cohesive to your brand and company than freelancers as they live and work in it every day.

They are more familiar with the company culture and niche. However, if you develop a long-term relationship with a talented freelancer, you can also get the same benefits. 

2. Sense of ownership

An in-house designer, as a member of your team, will likely feel a greater sense of ownership and accountability in the final product.

They likely will have a greater drive to achieve the company’s goals, which motivates them to put their best foot forward and can make their work feel more authentic. Unlike an outsourced designer who may be working with many brands, they are likely to be more invested in your project and success. 

3. Communication 

Whether you’re working with an outsourced or insourced team, there’s always a risk of miscommunication. Sometimes, the advantage of having in-house designers on the team is that they are readily available to analyze requests on the spot, ask questions, and get clear directions.

With outsourced talent, there’s always the risk of the freelancer being out of touch or running on a different timeline or schedule than you. 

The CONS of Insourcing Designers

1. Hiring process

Working with in-house designers is a long-term commitment and therefore can involve more money, time, and effort than outsourcing. After all, you don’t just get an in-house team, you build one.

Recruiting and onboarding the right new designer is always a time-consuming and expensive process. 

You need to put the word out, wait for applications to pour in, sift through the applications to get to the ones that matter, and then finally start the interview process. 

So, we are talking about at least a month-long process to hire a single designer. This is a lot of time and effort.  

But there are situations when you simply have to devote the time and effort to hiring an in-house designer.

I’d recommend opting for an in-house designer if you want designers:

  • Who are readily available.
  • Who are deeply familiar with your organization.
  • Will cultivate skill within your company.

But regardless of whether you hire in-house or outsource designers, make sure you ask yourself the following questions about all of your candidates:

  • Do they have the skills to meet the needs of the company?
  • Are you setting them up for success or failure?
  • Will they be able to finish their tasks on time?

2. Cost

According to Glassdoor, the average salary of a full-time graphic designer in 2019 is $49,000.  

Unlike the flexibility that comes with outsourcing, the salary you’re paying an in-house designer is a constant. 

So before you hire someone in-house, make sure you look at your budget from an annual perspective to decide if it makes sense financially and from a productivity standpoint. 

Blurring the line

Ready to make a move? Wait, there might be more options!

With the rapid rise of the gig economy, the lines between outsourcing and insourcing are also fading away. 

Many companies are adopting a dynamic mix of both to get the most out of a global talent pool and accomplish their goals.. 

As the lines blur even more between outsourcing and insourcing, one thing is clear: the end of the “classic” outsourcing model is close. The market is teeming with new, inventive sourcing models. 

For example, you can insource design work by integrating a third-party platform with your team’s workflow—or even with your own, like Design Pickle.

At Design Pickle, we are committed to providing professional graphic designers, at a flat-rate, who are ready when you need them to seamlessly integrate with you and your workforce.

Benefits of integrating a third-party design platform 

There’s a science to graphic design, and we've been in the laboratory. Design Pickle is high-quality, unlimited graphic design services delivered at a flat-rate. 

Working with a third-party platform like Design Pickle means:

  • In just a few clicks, you’ll have access to a professional designer ready to jump into your creative ecosystem.
  • You’ll get matched with someone who knows you by name and understands your brand and changing business needs. 
  • There is no dealing with HR, no interviews, and no drama. You’ll be able to easily collaborate directly with your designer and share files.
  • You can easily integrate the designer into your workflow and automate processes. With Design Pickle, for instance, you can build custom graphic design support at scale, across teams, and across applications using Zapier and our API. The actual design work (pixel pushing) is outsourced, while your company still wields the creative brain power.
  • You don’t need to train people. Our team isn’t made up of contractors, interns, or fly-by-night outfits. 
  • It’s just like having a separate graphic design wing of your company that is always by your side. 

Over to you

When it comes to choosing between insourcing or outsourcing graphic design talent, you must first understand your needs.

If a project requires specialized skills your in-house employees lack or you don’t need ongoing design assistance, go for outsourcing.

If you want someone to continuously handle your projects and devote their full creative attention to your brand, hire an in-house designer or better yet, build an in-house design team supported by well-chosen outsourced designers.

Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to experiment and tailor the solution to your needs—it’s the only way to find out what works best for you and your business.

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