Can Outsourcing Website Design Grow Your Graphics Business?

 approx 5 minute read

In this article, we’re going to compare the benefits and drawbacks to creative business owners of outsourcing web design to an external developer. Let’s be clear, I am not a web designer or the owner of a creative company (I did a degree in languages and somehow ended up in the graphic-arts industry). But I have met and worked with 300+ graphic designers over the past few years and one of the dilemmas that often comes up (apart from whether you put the milk in before or after the hot water when making a cup of coffee) is, “Should I, or should I not, outsource my website design?”

Growing a creative business often means relying more and more on being able to offer website design. Even before Covid-19, clients were prioritising their digital spend over more traditional ways of marketing their business. According to Web FX, 73% of companies allocate marketing budgets to ensure that the way their brand is presented online differentiates it from competitors. 

Now though, accelerated because of Covid-19, clients are focusing on their online presence above all else. If we take a look at Nettl’s company-owned graphic-arts studios across the UK and Ireland, 44% of current in-bound revenue, from the past 9 weeks*, is attributed to website design. And an additional 17.2% on income generated from website sales, like SEO. So 60% of the workflow comes from digital lead services. At a time when core products, like print, plummeted. Digital services continued and grew in strength.

*Period of 1st April 2020 to 31st May 2020

This means that even businesses with some in-house web capabilities may reach capacity quickly. What do they do? Stall the client or outsource to keep a deadline? And what’s the best way to do it? Insourcing or outsourcing?

Together let’s explore the main advantages and disadvantages of keeping website design in-house versus sending it out to an external developer. Every business is different and what works for one might not work for another. But one thing is clear. Businesses need to be as smart and as profitable as possible when offering a product that is growing in demand. 

First, we’ll look at the pros of outsourcing web design.

5 Reasons to give outsourcing web design a go

1. Time-saver

It’s a nice feeling to be able to delegate a task to someone else, especially when that task is something that you physically can’t do yourself. And, hey presto! In passing on a project, you have time to focus on something that you can do. Maybe that’s something that will bring in revenue, like sales calls or coming up with a new marketing strategy.

2. Quids-in 

Consider the cost of hiring a full-time, in-house developer against that of outsourcing work that may only take a few days or even hours. Many freelancers charge an hourly rate which leaves business owners confident that they aren’t compromising on quality of work whilst keeping costs down.

3. Yes means yes

We’ve all been asked to do something by a client that makes us pull the worried emoji face. But what would the impact be to your business if you said no? The client might go to a competitor who nods excitedly with the look of the star eyed emoji face. And then bye bye client, Mrs. Competitor scoops up all their work and the client may never return. Having the ability to outsource a project to a third party means small businesses can say yes to projects that they don’t have the skills to do themselves and, most importantly, keep the client. 

4. Lots of fish in the sea

There’s no such thing as ‘one web project fits all’. Business owners have the pick of the bunch when it comes to outsourcing. And that means that even if the client has asked for something very niche or specific, there’s bound to be a specialist that can help. And showcasing a portfolio filled with a wide range of projects certainly looks good. Cha-ching.

5. Keeping it fresh

If I had 50p for every time I’ve heard a designer say “I need some inspiration”, I’d have one fat piggy bank. Outsourcing projects can be a way to bring in different perspectives and collaborate with a variety of creative minds. Maybe that developer in Leeds will have a better design concept than you?

Now let’s balance out the above with some cons.

But before we move onto the first one, let’s follow this developer from Leeds.

In passing him the client’s project, you’re more likely to exclude yourself the opportunity of strengthening the client relationship. There are less opportunities to up-sell, cross-sell and find out what makes your client tick. And what he needs – that could be hidden deep down within his psyche and will only reveal itself after 3 Zoom calls about various types of a booking form. So, will your client be more or less likely to ask for marketing advice if you have fewer touch points than you could?

5 Reasons in-house web design works

This brings us onto the idea of opportunity within client relationship management. Is that outsourced when we outsource a project? Keep that in mind when reading the following cons;

1. Scalability

Although it may be more cost effective to outsource projects here and there, not having the skills in-house means that third party developers are able to demand what they want, when they want. Say you outsource a 250 product ecommerce site in February and get charged £3,500. You liked the result and chose the same girl to do the next one. Same spec, same number of products. But hang on, what’s this? An invoice for £4,500. Why? The answer is simple. Because she can. You don’t employ her, she can charge what she likes, when she likes. This makes it hard for small businesses to grow, forecast and budget.  

2. Being held to ransom

A bit like the above, because the creative relationship is outsourced, it can disappear at any time. Rather than up-skilling a team and keeping the knowledge in-house, an external developer monopolises all knowledge relating to a website project. They are the link between a project happening, and not happening. Say then the developer goes on a last minute holiday to Bali. You can’t get hold of him and your client is demanding answers from you. The link in the chain of putting your client’s website live is broken. And you’ll get the blame. 

3. Geek speak vs. client brief

Where I work, at Nettl, we have a team of in-house Geeks who help our network of graphic-arts businesses to sell and offer websites. It’s important to stress that our Geeks like being called Geeks (it’s cool, don’t you know?) but they’d be the first to admit that they are developer first, designer second. I’ve met hundreds of designers who have passed a beautiful photoshop mock-up to a developer, only for the website to return looking, and feeling, completely different. And although the website works incredibly well, the client brief has been diluted making it hard for the small business owner to maintain creative control. 

4. Here’s looking at you, kid

Picture this. The high-end, high-fee charging developer that you outsourced your latest website projects to is actually a kid working in his pants in his bedroom. Oh. That didn’t come across during the consultation process. Will they be able to hold themselves accountable if something goes wrong?

5. Time is money

We looked at time as an advantage of outsourcing website development but it can also be a negative factor. If you do the work yourself or if you have an internal employee who can whizz through any client changes, great. But if not, and a client thinks adding WooBookings should only take 10 minutes, and you can’t get through to your developer, what do you do? Stress eat? I would…

So there you have it. 5 pros and cons of outsourcing website design when looking to grow a small business.

We mentioned earlier about the possibility of opportunities being lost when we outsource a website project. Do we lose more of the client than we otherwise would? And therefore, do we lose some of the investment that we’ve worked so hard to gain in starting a client relationship?

Regardless of the journey you take within your own organisation, insourcing or outsourcing, the principal factor to consider is this idea of investment. 

Are you looking to invest in someone else or within your own team? And what sacrifices are to be made as a result?

Let’s finish on this. If you are looking to grow, being able to offer website design in some shape or form is one of the best investments you can make right now.

I hope you found this article useful. The Nettl Method helps businesses like graphic designers, printers and marketing professionals to offer websites by either using their existing in-house team, who we help to up-skill, or by outsourcing the entire project to one of our Geeks.

If you would like more information about how this works, please feel free to connect with us on LinkedIn and we’ll show you the ropes.