What are the Tradeoffs When Spending Less on a Freelancer (is it worth it)?
“That seems like a lot for a freelancer, why don’t we find a cheaper junior option?” And with those words, the start of the project from hell came to be. Not because the project had crazy requirements, but because in the quest to save some cash, a founder hired a lower cost freelancer only to get stuck in revision purgatory and with it, a vicious final bill that was over triple the intended project cost.
Lots of entrepreneurs face the dilemma – hiring in-house or freelancer? Junior or senior? Think about it in this frame:
• You can hire a full-time senior creative (designer, writer, etc…) for $120,000 per year,
• You can hire a freelance senior creative for $120 per hour.
What is right for your business, of course, depends on where your business is. Some examples of when it’s time to hire a freelancer, and if spending less is a good idea are:
• Have you started marketing?
• Have you raised a Series A?
• Is your internal marketing team stretched beyond their skill sets?
• Do you need a part-time Chief Creative Officer?
• Is your brand strong, or is it time to build a professional, robust brand?
• Is advertising part of the plan?
Saving money is great, but there are discernible downsides when it comes to low-cost freelancers, such as:
• Saving money, but quality could be questionable,
• Saving money, but revision costs could eat up any savings,
• Saving money, but projects could take longer due to misunderstandings (and not knowing when to ask for help),
• Saving money, but no oversight that your freelancer is billing accurately,
• Saving money, but dealing with a junior that doesn’t know what they don’t know, and you end up paying for their education.
Most creative freelancers on the market are senior talent, individuals who have honed their skills over the decades working in agencies, production houses or studios. These creatives have seen it all, and have a wealth of experience and knowledge to draw upon. Most importantly, they know what they don’t know and are not afraid to ask questions.
The disturbing trend recently, with the advent of Fiver, Upwork or 99Designs (to name a few), is that juniors are joining the ranks of freelance creatives. While they have great ideas and undoubtedly skilled portfolios, they lack experience in dealing with clients. Worryingly enough, their confidence masks that they truly don’t know what they don’t know, so they don’t know what questions to ask. This is where revision purgatory starts.
Consider this low cost scenario: The project starts off well, the work produced looks great on screen but then all of a sudden when part of the project needs to live in the real world – away from screens and on printed pieces – the colours look dull, the front and back don’t align and the fonts didn’t work. Everything now needs to be reformatted and reprinted. Costing you not only double in print costs, but also in revision costs, not to mention your marketing team’s time in dealing with everything. It turns out your junior freelancer only has experience in digital design and has never produced for print before.
While a company might see savings through junior talent, those savings can be eaten up through miscommunications, excessive rounds of revisions and overall poor client/project management. All of a sudden the senior creative seems very reasonable and might be the best solution to troubleshoot the project to completion.
To help pick the best solution for your company, start by doing a thorough portfolio review. Quantity does not always equal quality, and most top creatives will only present a handful or projects; the ones they are the proudest of. When interviewing a junior, their portfolio might look great, but how do you know it is their work? Always ask specific questions about their creative rationale. If it’s shaky or doesn’t add up, they might have plagiarized it. Ask to see a copy of their creative brief. This is the window into their thinking by learning what type of questions they ask of you, and how deep are they willing to dive to learn about your needs? You can also ask to read testimonials or references from their past (or current) clients to understand what it is like working with them. As seasoned marketers, you know what flags to look for in this process.
At the end of the day, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for producing creative marketing for any company, however, there are steps you can take to decide which freelancer is right for your business – junior or senior – and what the ramifications could ultimately be when discovering that you truly get what you pay for.
Do you have a creative project that needs troubleshooting? Or are debating what freelance option you should look for? Click below to set up your 30-minute consultation. We’ll sit down and review your needs, find the holes and propose solutions to get your brand on track.