Where can I outsource product packaging
How to Outsource Graphic Design (and Grow Your Business)
Outsourcing keeps the world going. It enables companies to effectively serve their customers by outsourcing tasks to others who they can do better and more cheaply (and in many cases both). A famous example of outsourcing is how Apple's products are produced by Foxconn and Samsung. With other companies building their iPhones and MacBooks, Apple can focus on developing its proprietary software and growing its brand.
These big companies aren't the only ones outsourcing. Small and medium-sized businesses, agencies, and nonprofits do too. Over the past decade, online freelancing companies like 99designs have made it very easy for small businesses to outsource graphic design without the risk of losing money.
As a digital agency, you are already part of the outsourcing chain; your customers come to you for work that they cannot or do not want to do in-house. And you might outsource work yourself, for example by hiring a tax advisor (instead of employing a full-time employee to take care of your taxes).
At first, the idea of outsourcing can seem counter-intuitive. It may feel like saving on every nook and cranny. After all, your customers hire you because they expect the quality you offer. But it has nothing to do with skimpy, it's an elaborate, pragmatic move as your business grows. And outsourcing doesn't mean a drop in the quality of the work your clients get. There are many freelancers who can deliver the same quality - or better - than a full-time employee.
The Economics of Outsourcing Graphic Design
The goal of every entrepreneur is to grow their business in order to better serve the market. Agencies shouldn't be any different. Outsourcing fits right into a growth plan because:
- it's a smaller investment than hiring an employee. Working with a freelancer gives you the flexibility to get work done when it needs to be done instead of having an employee who also costs salary and benefits when there isn't much to do.
- it saves time. Remember, time is money. If you have four freelancers working on different projects at the same time, you can deliver all four roughly at the same time and quadruple your profit.
A little look at growth in action:
Unicorn Marketing Co. (UMC) is a one-man marketing startup. According to their calculations, it could make an additional $ 100,000 in gross profit next year by offering website design and logos to its clients.
With a salary of $ 50,000, it would cost UMC at least $ 62,000 to employ a full-time graphic designer. This reduces the additional profit from $ 100,000 to $ 38,000.
Having a full-time designer is still a lot of value to a company, but very expensive, even if there is enough work for a full-time designer. If there is not enough work to justify a 40-hour week for a designer, your severance pay can quickly turn into money, while the designer cannot develop his skills further because he remains tied to a company instead of freelance projects follow.
But let's say UMC hires the same freelancer at an hourly rate of $ 40. At 40 hours a week the designer costs UMC $ 1,600 per week or $ 83,000 per year. Don't forget that freelancers 'hourly rates are usually higher than employees' hourly wages, as freelancers have to buy their own equipment, pay taxes, and take care of their own health insurance. If UMC is in need of a full-time graphic designer, it is the more economically sound choice to create such a position. But since it is a young company, it may not be ready yet. As with most startups, UMC's graphic design needs could look like this:
Week 1: 15 hours of graphic design
Week 2: 25 hours required
Week 3: 0 hours required
Week 4: 50 hours required
At $ 40 / hour, UMC pays freelance designers a total of $ 3,600 for that month. If they hire a full-time designer, they would have paid $ 6,400. Don't forget the flexibility that working with freelancers can bring to your company in terms of costs. A graphic design budget of $ 40 / hour puts you in a very different designer market in Indonesia than in New York City.
In the example above, a marketing agency wanted to expand and offer design as an additional service. But what if you already produce good designs? Would it ever make sense to you to outsource work?
The answer is yes. And that's why:
You might be a great marketing agency, but are you a great real estate marketing agency? By choosing a graphic designer who focuses on a specific niche, you can expect a finished product that better suits your client's needs. Niches are not just specific industries, either. If you work with clients who want graphics that look more technical, choose a graphic designer who has experience in CAD to deliver exactly what your clients want.
Sometimes time isn't the problem that drives a company to outsource graphic design, it's specialization. Your in-house designer may be great at logo design, but may not have a lot of experience with packaging design for merchandise. Instead of letting your graphic designer design packaging that's just good enough to sell to the client, outsource the project to a freelancer who specializes in product packaging and hits the nail on the head.
Go other ways
Outsourcing can also help your business expand into a new niche and offer services that are outside of your normal offering to give the customer what they want. Let's say you only have web design experience and you want to expand into print. Working with a freelancer who has extensive knowledge of print design can help your company fill that void and deliver work that exceeds customer expectations.
Outsourcing work is an effective way of working with new ideas. Bringing in a freelancer means bringing in outside creativity that can inspire the rest of your team. They will approach your project from a different perspective and add innovation to your company's designs.
A great way to find a freelancer who brings an outside perspective and compliments your company's workflow rather than opposing it is to host a design contest on 99designs. A variety of freelancers with unique approaches will take part in the competition. Then you can choose whose work best fits the design you need to deliver. Alternatively, you can send your project to a few freelancers you trust and then make your decision based on their drafts.
Adapt to varying workflows
As you know, your agency has sometimes more and sometimes less to do. If graphic design outsourcing is part of your business plan, you can always adjust to the scope of the work. Do you have more work? Hire more freelancers. Do you have little work? Hire a designer to take care of it. Companies rarely grow at the same rate. Speed up the process (and slow it down if necessary) by hiring the number of freelancers you need without taking the time to find and train a new employee.
Outsourcing is also a way to get work done that is too much - there may be less glamorous tasks (like a few banners) that you need to do. Freelancers are ideal for this!
And of course, outsourcing can make work get done faster. If your in-house designer already has five projects and a new one comes in, don't push a sixth on her. Outsource this project to someone who can get it done right away.
How to effectively outsource graphic design
The flexibility and savings that outsourcing brings can make it an attractive option. But don't forget the importance of delivering quality work that meets the client's needs. This should always be your priority when deciding which project to outsource and how to handle the outsourcing.
One option is to hire an in-house designer or design manager to develop relationships with freelancers to work on projects. They should have experience screening potential freelancers and do some of the design work themselves, such as creating high-level design concepts, tweaking the freelancer's work, and / or maintaining the style of your company to ensure that all graphic work is done match your style and standard.
If you're a smaller agency, you may have to be the one. You can find quality work and talented designers through online freelancers and competitions. If you are unsure of your design skills and ability to test freelancers, consider hiring a freelance creative director to entrust all or part of that role. Services like 99designs Pro for agencies can do this too, as they carefully select the best creative talent and help you learn how to find the best designers for your needs.
Five years from now, your company's graphic design needs may be very different than they are today. And that's normal. You may find that by this point your cash flow and amount of work make it economically feasible to buy this service from a design agency.
Or you may find that in the early days of your business you were able to outsource the outsourcing, but later you find yourself too busy giving that part of your business the attention it needs. When it comes down to it, it's time to hire someone. However you choose to design your company, always ask yourself how the decision will positively affect the company and its ability to serve its customers. If a decision doesn't save you money, doesn't make your workflow more efficient, doesn't save time, or doesn't result in a better product, it's probably not a good decision.
What to consider when outsourcing graphic design
Outsourcing your graphic design can be a great decision, but it's not always the right choice. Before you start a contest or post a job posting on 99designs, consider the following:
- Your graphic design budget. Find out what you can spend on graphic design and what the work will cost when you hire a freelancer.
- Who manages the graphic designer, regardless of whether it is a freelancer or an internal position?
- Are you going to tell your customers that you are outsourcing the graphics they commissioned? You may feel they have a right to know, or you think there is no need to tell them - there is no “right” answer to it; you have to find out what works for your company. If you want to "white label" the designs, make sure the designer agrees. (Sites like 99designs give you the option to set up a confidentiality agreement with the designers so they know how you work directly.)
- How should the designer work? Does he have to be in the office all the time or can he work remotely and only come for certain meetings? Does the graphic designer even have to come to the office?
- How do you handle conflicts with the designer? Always have them sign a contract before work begins that clearly explains how much they will be paid, what the payment terms will be, and how disputes will be resolved. Work with a skilled labor lawyer to draft an enforceable contract. It's also a good idea to understand the difference between an employee contract and a self-employed contract and what it means to you, the employer, before outsourcing graphic design.
When to outsource is not the right choice
You may find that outsourcing graphic design is not the right choice for your business. If you plan to make graphic design an integral, continuous part of your business, it might be better to employ one or more in-house designers. This can save the agency money by paying a full-time designer for the amount of work that needs to be done, rather than paying by the hour or by the job. It also means your design costs are fixed instead of varying based on the amount of work required, which makes budgeting and predictions easier to calculate. With an in-house designer or design team, you also get more even work - you know how your designer / team works, you know where their strengths lie, and they know the requirements of your agency, your corporate culture and your niche better than a freelancer it could. It's also much easier to discuss projects if your designer is just a few tables away instead of on the other side of the world.
On the flip side, working with a freelancer can save the company time and money while allowing you to focus more resources on things that you cannot easily outsource. It can also be the beginning of a strong relationship with the freelancer you choose, who could one day become a permanent employee or keep working with the agency, potentially helping it grow by recommending you to new clients.
Determining how you handle your graphic design needs - like any other decision you make to grow your agency - requires that you go through the numbers and look closely at all of the relevant factors. Start your calculation with numbers to develop an understanding of how outsourcing graphic design affects your bottom line. Use this number as a starting point, not an end point. Never sacrifice quality to save money, but don't lose sight of your financial resources. A strong understanding of the financial side of outsourcing graphic design will help determine how it fits into your business strategy. When outsourcing, you should always ask yourself, "How can this help my agency deliver better designs, both now and in the long term?"
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