The two-year pandemic forced many businesses to outsource their graphic design; and by doing so, many realized it was superior and cheaper than hiring in-house designers. In fact, a report by Clutch found that 80% of businesses planned to outsource in 2021, and this number only continued to grow in 2022.
As a startup ourselves, we understand that you need to optimize your expenses. In our pursuit to do so, we outsourced graphic design ourselves. Here’s everything we learned, and you need to know.
What Does Outsourcing Graphic Design Mean?
Outsourcing graphic design refers to the practice of hiring external design companies or freelancers to handle a company’s design tasks. This encompasses a range of design services, including logo creation, branding development, social media graphics, packaging design, presentations, and letterhead creation. By outsourcing graphic design, businesses can save time and resources, meet deadlines more efficiently, and increase sales. Additionally, outsourcing graphic design can be crucial for establishing a strong brand image and promoting the business effectively.
How Much Does it Cost?
Outsourcing graphic design costs from $5 to $160 per hour for freelancers, based on the designer’s quality and experience. Outsourcing to an agency, however, costs $350 to $5,000 per month, with an average of $1,000 per month, depending on the number of creative hours you order.
Is outsourcing cheaper than hiring?
There is no one answer that fits all since the costs of a freelancer and in-house designers vary. According to our research, in-house designers earn $50,710 per year in the US. To calculate your costs, you also need to factor in the benefits, thus increasing your expenses to at least $62,000 per year. Moreover, this doesn’t even account for other expenses, such as the office space, hardware and software they need, and sick leaves.
Although having a designer on staff can benefit the company, it’s a costly asset, especially when there is not enough work to support a full-time position. Additionally, when the designer is not fully utilized, their salary may negatively impact profits, and they may not have the opportunity to take on freelance projects and further develop their skills. Therefore, it is important to consider the workload and financial implications of hiring a full-time designer.
For example, consider a company called WND (We Need Designs). If WND hires a freelancer at a rate of $50 per hour for a total of 40 hours per week, the cost for the designer would be $2,000 per week or $103,750 per year. It’s worth noting that freelancers often charge higher hourly rates than employees because they are responsible for their own equipment, self-employment taxes, and healthcare benefits. Therefore, it may be more financially reasonable for some companies to create a salaried position for a full-time graphic designer. However, as a startup, WND may not be ready for a full-time hire and may instead need to hire freelance designers on a project-by-project basis. For example, their graphic design needs might look like this:
- Week 1: 25 hours needed for graphic design
- Week 2: 0 hours needed
- Week 3: 15 hours needed
- Week 4: 40 hours needed
At $50/hour, WND pays freelance designers $4,000 for this month’s work. But if WND hired a full-time designer instead, it would cost twice as much (around $8,000 that month). Therefore, outsourcing graphic design is the most financially sound when you don’t need a full-time designer. The best way to hire professional freelance designers is Toptal, while you can also pick a design agency at a fixed monthly fee—more on all options a bit later.
Why Should You Outsource?
There are several scenarios where outsourcing design may be the best option for a company. If a company does not have the resources or budget to hire an in-house design team, outsourcing provides access to high-quality designs at lower costs.
However, outsourcing can also benefit companies with short-term or one-time design needs, as it offers flexibility and the ability to adjust staffing levels as needed. It can also give companies access to a larger pool of talent, allowing them to work with specialized designers who can create designs that better meet their clients’ needs.
According to Deloitte’s 2022 report, the top reasons for outsourcing include cost reduction, access to new capabilities, lack of employee skills, increased competition, and increasing employee expectations.
1. Lower costs
Outsourcing your graphic design work can help reduce costs significantly compared to hiring an in-house designer. For example, the annual salary for a graphic designer in the United States is around $50,710, while a typical design service costs $6,000 annually. Even premium design services, which cost around $24,000 per year, are more affordable than hiring an in-house designer.
One advantage of outsourcing design work is that you only pay for the time spent on your project without incurring additional expenses like benefits, office space, or other overhead. You also have more flexibility in hiring, as you can cancel your subscription or not hire anyone if you no longer need designs. In contrast, you would need to continue paying an in-house designer even if you don’t have any work for them.
2. Access to a broader pool of talent
By accessing a global pool of designers, you will easily find the perfect match for your project. A designer expert in a specific field will help you create a final product that better meets your client’s requirements because they have a wealth of experience with similar projects. But niches don’t refer to specific industries only but also to different styles or looks that a client wants.
For example, if you need a logo, working with someone with extensive experience designing logos will, in the end, yield better results in less time. In some cases, outsourcing projects to freelancers may be more effective than relying on an in-house team, especially if your company wants to utilize the specific skills of one person, such as designing product packaging or creating infographics.
3. Faster turnaround times
Outsourcing can help you complete your project more quickly by allowing you to work with designers in different time zones around the clock. Many agencies can match you with designers in the same time zone as yours and offer expedited design services for an additional fee if you need to prioritize your project.
In contrast, if your in-house design team cannot complete a task on time, you may need to hire additional designers, which can take several weeks and requires time for the new hires to become familiar with your company and processes.
4. Increased flexibility
Outsourcing gives you the flexibility to adjust your staffing needs as required. Working with a freelancer might be ideal if you have a short-term project, but if you need long-term help hiring an agency could be a better solution. Regardless of your choice, it is easy to either upgrade or downgrade your plan or find more freelancers as necessary.
How to Outsource Graphic Design Effectively?
Outsourcing graphic design can be a cost-effective and flexible option for businesses, but it’s important to prioritize delivering quality work that meets the client’s specifications. In this section, we’ll provide a step-by-step guide to help you effectively outsource your graphic design needs. We’ll cover topics such as defining your budget, choosing between subscription and on-demand services, finding the right agency or freelancer, and communicating your vision clearly. By following these steps, you will find high-quality designers who can help bring your creative ideas to life while still staying within your budget.
Step 1: Define your budget
Determine your budget for graphic design and what the work you need will cost if you work with a freelancer. Of course, everyone wants to spend as little as possible, but you must be realistic with your expectations.
Budget graphic design services cost around $400 per month, while premium services, which deliver higher quality results, cost $1,000+ per month.
Step 2: Pick a subscription or on-demand
Two ways to outsource your graphic design needs are subscription or on-demand. Subscription means you pay a monthly fee for unlimited designs, while on-demand means you only pay for the specific design services you need when you need them.
Subscriptions are best when you need to design regularly. They are like having an in-house designer but cheaper. On the other hand, the on-demand option is better when you don’t need designs regularly.
Step 3: Find the right agency or freelancer.
When you have a defined budget and know what design you need and how often, the next step is finding the right graphic designer or agency. It’s important to look at previous work and see if it’s up to your standards, and to ask for referrals from people you trust. You can also read reviews of graphic design services, or reach out to agencies for a free trial or demo to get a better understanding of their work and services.
Step 4: Communicate your vision.
Once you’ve found the right agency or freelancer, it’s important to clearly communicate your vision. Provide them with examples of what you like, and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re unsure about anything. The better they understand your needs, the better the results you’ll get.
Step 5: Review the results and give feedback.
After you receive the designs from your chosen agency, take some time to review them carefully. Be critical and provide feedback so they can make changes if needed. Remember, this is a collaborative process; it may take a few iterations to get the perfect design.
Step 6: Approve the final design.
Once you’re happy with the results, approve the final design and provide clear feedback on what you liked about the process and what could be improved. You can often pick your favorite designers to work with them in the future.
Potential Drawbacks of Outsourcing Graphic Design
1. Unpredictable prices and hidden charges
A designer or design agency should provide a transparent and detailed quote outlining all costs and fees associated with their services – without any hidden surprises. We recommend you thoroughly review and understand this quote before signing any contract to ensure that all revisions, changes, and extra fees have been disclosed. This will assist you in making an informed decision about the service package. All costs should be written upfront, so there is no doubt about what you are paying for and the total cost. By doing so, you can avoid any unexpected or additional fees for assets you were unaware of.
- Ask for a clear breakdown of the costs and fees associated with the design project.
- Understand what is included in the original estimate and what additional costs might apply.
- Ask about payment terms and other fees that may apply, such as fees for revisions or changes.
2. Unclear scope of design services
When hiring a designer or design agency, it is essential to determine their services and pricing and assess whether they fit your organization’s needs. Often, the scope of services and the total cost can be difficult to identify if a design agency or freelancer does not offer a detailed breakdown of what is included in their packages and pricing. This lack of transparency can make it difficult to make an informed decision on which option best suits your organization. Therefore, it is important to research and understand the services offered by each designer or design agency to ensure that you are making the best choice for your situation.
- Any design agency or freelancer you are considering should provide a clear breakdown of their services. Doing so lets you understand exactly what is included in their packages and pricing, so you can decide which option is right for you.
- Hire a design agency that provides a wide range of services, such as video editing, graphic design, and illustration. Rather than having to work with multiple freelancers or agencies to get all of the services you need, you can have one outlet.
3. Time spent finding the right talent
When running a business, you likely have a lot on your plate and may not have the time or resources to dedicate to finding the perfect designer or design agency. There are several ways to find designers and design agencies, including online job boards, freelancer websites, and social media platforms. However, sorting through profiles and portfolios to find the right fit for your needs can be time-consuming and overwhelming. In addition to finding the right talent, you may also need to spend time comparing prices and services, negotiating contracts, and setting clear guidelines and expectations. These tasks can take up valuable time that could be better spent on other aspects of your business.
- When you work with a design agency that has a large pool of designers, you can specify your needs and let them assign the best designer to your project based on those needs.
- With design services, you get a team of versatile talent and long-term convenience. You should choose a subscription plan that meets your needs.
4. Complicated contracts
When you work with a designer or design agency, it’s important to understand the terms of your collaboration and any legal obligations you may have. However, if the contract for design services is difficult to understand, it can lead to misunderstandings and potential legal issues. For example, you may not know what rights you have to the final design or what happens if the designer or design agency fails to meet their obligations. Complicated contracts can also be confusing when it comes to payment terms, ownership rights, and other important details. Dealing with complicated contracts can be frustrating, especially if you are not familiar with legal terminology or the design industry. It can also be stressful, as you may worry about making the wrong decision or entering into an agreement that is not in your best interests. It’s important to take the time to fully understand the contract and ask for clarification if needed to avoid any misunderstandings or potential legal issues.
- Take the time to carefully review the contract and ask for clarification on any points that are unclear. You may also want to consider seeking the advice of a lawyer or legal professional to help you understand the terms of the contract and ensure that you are protected.
- It is also a good idea to discuss any concerns or questions you may have with the designer or design agency before signing the contract. This can help to ensure that you have a clear understanding of the terms of your collaboration and can avoid any misunderstandings or issues down the line.
5. Lack of support after design delivery
One potential challenge in outsourcing graphic design is a lack of support post-design delivery. When you are working with a designer or design agency, you want to feel confident that you will have access to support and assistance throughout the process, from concept to delivery. However, if the design agency or freelancer does not provide adequate support post design delivery, it can be difficult to make changes or updates, get clarification on design elements, or address any other issues that may arise.
Lack of support post design delivery can be frustrating and disappointing, as you may feel like you are on your own once the project is complete. It can also be stressful, as you may not know how to address issues or make changes to the design without the designer’s or design agency’s support and guidance.
- Discuss post-delivery support with the designer or design agency before beginning the collaboration. Ask about their availability for revisions or changes, and whether they offer any ongoing support or guidance after the project is complete.
- It is also a good idea to ask about their process for addressing any issues or concerns that may arise post delivery. Do they have a system in place for handling requests for revisions or changes? How do they handle any issues or problems that may arise?
6. Trust issues due to lack of transparency
Understanding the workflow and process a designer or design agency follows to complete a project can be difficult when working with them. This lack of transparency can lead to trust issues, as you may feel as if you are in the dark about the progress of your project. In addition, you may feel as if everything is going as planned.
The lack of transparency may also lead to communication problems, as you may not be able to provide feedback or undoubtedly change the design. If you are unsure of the process, you may have difficulty trusting that the final result will meet your expectations.
- Discussing the workflow with the chosen design agency or freelancer is important before beginning the collaboration. This can help you understand the steps involved in executing the design and give you a better sense of what to expect throughout the process.
- Another option is to incorporate a common project management tool, such as Trello, to keep track of your design requests, feedback, and final designs in one place. This can help to keep things transparent and allow you to track the progress of your project easily.
7. Unpredictable timelines
One potential challenge in outsourcing graphic design is unpredictable timelines. When you are working with a designer or design agency, you want to have a clear understanding of when your project will be completed and be able to plan accordingly. However, if the design agency or freelancer does not provide clear timelines for project completion, it can be difficult to plan and manage your own workload.
Unpredictable timelines can also lead to frustration and disappointment, as you may find that your project is taking longer than expected or not meeting the deadlines you have set for yourself or your clients. This can have a negative impact on your business, as it can lead to delays and lost opportunities.
- Discuss timelines with the design agency or freelancer before beginning the collaboration. Ask about their typical turnaround times and what factors may impact the timeline for your project. It is also important to set clear deadlines and expectations for the design process, and to regularly check in with the designer or design agency to ensure that everything is on track.
- Using a project management tool, such as Trello, can also help to keep track of timelines and ensure that everything is moving forward as planned.
8. Complicated tiers of service
One potential challenge in outsourcing graphic design is complicated tiers of service. Some design agencies or freelancers may offer a range of services at different price points, making it difficult to understand what you are paying for and whether it is the most cost-effective solution.
For example, a designer may offer a basic package that includes a limited number of revisions and a standard turnaround time, and then offer additional services, such as additional revisions or a faster turnaround time, at an additional cost. This can make it difficult to determine the best value for your money and ensure that you are getting the services you need.
- Ask for a clear breakdown of the services included in each tier of service and the associated cost. This can help you understand exactly what you are paying for and make an informed decision about which option is the best fit for your needs.
- Another option is to work with design agencies that offer a flat rate for their services, rather than tiered pricing. This can make it easier to budget for your design needs and ensure that you are getting all of the services you need at a fixed price.
9. Poor understanding of your brand
One potential challenge in outsourcing graphic design is a poor understanding of your brand. When you are working with a designer or design agency, you want to feel confident that they understand your brand, your values, and your target audience. However, if the designer or design agency does not have a deep understanding of your brand, it can lead to designs that do not accurately reflect your business or resonate with your audience.
Poor understanding of your brand can lead to designs that miss the mark, resulting in a disconnect between your designs and your marketing efforts. It can also lead to frustration and disappointment, as you may feel like the designer or design agency is not fully capturing the essence of your business or meeting your needs.
- Provide the designer or design agency with as much information as possible about your brand, including your values, your target audience, and your marketing goals. It is also a good idea to share any existing brand guidelines or materials, such as a style guide or brand assets, to help the designer or design agency understand your brand more fully.
- Another option is to work with a design agency that has experience in your industry or niche. This can help to ensure that they have a deep understanding of the specific needs and preferences of your target audience, which can lead to more effective designs.
10. Poor quality control
One potential challenge in outsourcing graphic design is poor quality control. When you are working with a designer or design agency, you want to be confident that the final result will meet your expectations and be of high quality. However, if the design agency or freelancer does not have a system in place for quality control, it can lead to poor quality work and damage their reputation.
Poor quality work can also be detrimental to your business, as it can reflect poorly on your brand and lead to dissatisfaction among your customers or clients. It can also be costly, as you may need to go back and make revisions or start the design process over again, which can add to your overall budget and timeline.
- Ask about the design agency or freelancer’s quality control process. Do they have a system in place for reviewing and approving designs before they are delivered to you? How do they ensure that the final result meets your expectations and is of high quality?
- It is also important to set clear guidelines and expectations for the design process, including your budget and timeline. This can help to ensure that you are getting the quality work you expect within the parameters that work best for your business.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can graphic design be done remotely?
Yes, it is possible to do graphic design remotely, although it may be more difficult to coordinate with other team members or clients who are not in the same location. Communication and collaboration may also be challenges when working on projects from different locations.
What are the risks associated with outsourcing graphic design?
Outsourcing graphic design comes with a few risks, such as the chance of getting low-quality work or missing a deadline. But you can reduce these risks if you work with a reputable company and set clear goals for the project from the start.
About your guide
Matic Broz is a multifaceted creative professional, with experience as a photographer, graphic designer, and business owner. He has a decade of experience in helping other creatives improve their craft and start their own businesses. His writing and research have been featured in notable publications such as The Guardian, PetaPixel, and USA Today. Additionally, his scientific research has been recognized with a cover feature in the prestigious MDPI-owned journal. In his leisure time, he enjoys photography, hiking, and spending time with dogs. Read more
Information provided on Photutorial is for educational purposes only. Your situation is unique and the products and services we review may not be right for your circumstances. We do not offer financial advice, nor do we recommend or advise individuals to buy or sell particular stocks or services. Performance information may have changed since the time of publication. Past performance is not indicative of future results.
Photutorial adheres to strict editorial integrity standards. To the best of our knowledge, all content is accurate as of the date posted, though offers contained herein may no longer be available. The opinions expressed are the author’s alone and have not been provided, approved, or otherwise endorsed by our partners.