5 min read

Should I Hire In-House or Outsource Graphic Design?

Published on
November 25, 2022
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Leah Camps
Marketing Executive
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Graphic design plays a crucial role in capturing the attention of consumers and visually conceptualising your brand. As a business owner or team-leader, you may find yourself faced with the decision of whether to hire an in-house graphic design team or outsource your design needs. This article aims to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the pros and cons of both options, helping you make an informed decision that best suits your company's needs and goals.


  • What are the options for in-house and outsourced graphic design?
  • Pros and Cons: In-House Graphic Design
  • Pros and Cons: Freelance Graphic Designer
  • Pros and Cons: Design Agency
  • Considerations when making your decision
  • A New Alternative to Graphic Design: Subscription-Based Design

What are the options for in-house and outsourced graphic design?

Before diving into the pros and cons, it's important to have a clear understanding of what in-house and outsourced graphic design entails. Graphic design is a crucial aspect of any business, as it helps convey your brand's message and visually represent your products or services. First, let’s consider your base options across both in-house and outsourced design. These essentially boil down to the following three:

  1. In-house designer - refers to the practice of hiring and maintaining a dedicated graphic designer (or team) within your company. These designers work closely with your internal stakeholders and have a deep understanding of your brand's values, goals, and visual identity. 
  2. Freelance designers - these tend to be individuals who are self-employed that are contracted in to work with organisations on project-by-project basis. They can work with multiple clients but tend to work with one organisation at a time.
  3. External design agency - this is where you work with an external company to your own organisation. They have a team of designers on their own payroll who are specialised in different fields, like UI/UX, and graphic design and work on different ranges of design projects. They often work with multiple clients daily.

Pros and Cons: In-House Graphic Design

The benefits of having an In-House Graphic Designer

  • Availability of immediate design support
    If you have an urgent request or a last-minute design requirement, having designers on-site can save you valuable time and expedite the project.
  • Exclusive to your organisation
    They are entirely dedicated to your company and are not working on other client projects, meaning your organisation’s work is always prioritised.
  • Cohesion and brand familiarity
    They are familiar with your brand guidelines and can ensure consistency across all design materials. Additionally, being part of the organisation allows them to have a better understanding of the company culture and target audience, resulting in designs that resonate with your customers.

The downsides of In-House Graphic Design

  • Limited perspectives and skill sets
    Outsourced designers often bring a wealth of experience and can inject new ideas into your design projects. Designers also tend to specialise in certain areas, so if you’re looking for someone who can do socials, motion and web design, you may have a hard time finding the right candidate or you may have to outsource anyway.
  • Lack of scalability
    If your design needs fluctuate over time, maintaining a full-time team might result in underutilisation or overburdening of resources during quieter or peak periods.

Pros and Cons: Freelance Graphic Design

The perks of Freelance Graphic Design

  • Easier access to specialists
    By working with freelancers you get access to a global talent pool, giving you access to designers with diverse backgrounds and skillets. This often translates into innovative design solutions and fresh ideas that can set your business apart from competitors.
  • Save on costs
    There are fewer risks to your organisation as you don't have to bear the overhead costs associated with an in-house team. Design agencies or freelancers often work on a project-by-project basis, allowing you to control your expenses more effectively. With outsourced design, you pay for the services you need, when you need them.
  • Flexibility
    Working with freelancers does not require any long-term commitments.  As your design needs change, you can work with a freelancer on an hourly, daily or even a project-by-project basis. 

The Challenges of Freelance Graphic Design

  • Communication and availability
    This can be a real challenge, especially if you work with designers in different time zones. Clear communication channels and project management tools can help mitigate this issue but can only take you so far. Additionally, as a freelancer does not work exclusively for your organisation they may have other commitments and can only dedicate a certain amount of time to your organisation which could put your projects on hold.
  • Finding talent and quality control
    It can be difficult and time-consuming to find the right freelancer for your organisation, and not all external designers may have a deep understanding of your brand values and visual guidelines. 
  • Scaling quickly
    This may be a controversial opinion, but hear us out. As already discussed, finding talent can be time-consuming and difficult to get the right people. Freelancing is a more scalable option than hiring in-house but still requires a more significant time investment of posting the job ad, interviewing and onboarding your freelancer. Solutions like Design Cloud allow for scale at the click of a button where you can add additional designers to your plan for your busier periods in as little as one business day.

Pros and Cons: Design Agency

The Advantages of using a Design Agency

  • Availability of talent
    Agencies will have a range of experts working on their payroll already, so you don’t have to worry about finding the right person with the design skill set you need. This means that you should be able to get more complicated projects completed faster without any downtime.

  • Scalability
    Going back to talent availability, design agencies have employees ready to take on additional client demands at times when they are busier. Agencies will be able to quickly add in new designers to a client project and take them off when necessary.
  • Service Level
    A design agency will have some structure in place regarding adequate communication and service. They’ll also have routines and onboarding experience that make getting started easier and painless. Additionally, you don’t have to manage anyone unlike using a freelance designer or hiring-house, all you have to do is communicate what you need and when.

The Disadvantages of using a Design Agency

  • Choice of who you work with
    Unlike hiring or using a freelance designer, you get less control over the person you work with. At a design agency, your designer will usually be assigned based on the expertise you require and by the availability of designers. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you’re after someone who you can hand-pick, it’s probably not the best option for you.
  • Working times and exclusivity
    Agencies will typically work on a normal 9-5 hours so they will only be available during select hours, whereas freelancers are often more flexible with their time. Agencies also work with multiple clients daily so your requests may not be the only thing they are working on at that time. Properly managed project timelines, deliverables, and expectations is crucial to ensure smooth collaboration and successful outcomes.
  • Communication
    Some agencies can charge for additional calls, reports or revisions. This can often be frustrating if you are not getting back the level of work that you require. Creating effective, clear briefs that detail all the dimensions, copy, and visual examples for what you require can be an effective way to mitigate this. However, some services, like Design Cloud do not charge for any extras or revisions, you simply pay a flat-rate monthly fee.

Factors to consider when making your decision

Assessing your company's specific needs

When deciding between in-house and outsourced graphic design, it's important to assess your company's specific needs. Consider factors such as the volume and frequency of design projects, the diversity of design requirements, and your budgetary constraints. If you have a high volume of ongoing design work or require constant collaboration with internal teams, an in-house team might be the best fit for your business. On the other hand, if your design needs vary over time or require specialised skills, outsourcing can provide you with the flexibility and expertise you need.

Here are some of the key considerations, we’d suggest you take into account before making your decision:

1. What kind of design work do you need?

If you only need a handful of simple tasks like creating content for socials, looking to hire someone in-house or using a freelancer as and when you need it could be a viable option. But if you’re requiring a wider range of work or support on complex projects, using an agency that has access to the right talent is a good option.

2. What is your design budget?

Financial considerations play a significant role in this decision. Building and maintaining an in-house team involves fixed costs such as salaries, benefits, equipment, and software licences. Freelancers and agencies, on the other hand, allow you to control costs more effectively, paying for design services as and when you need them.

3. How important is communication and control?

Communication and control are key factors to consider when choosing between in-house and outsourced graphic design. If you prioritise direct involvement in the design process, maintaining control and having immediate access to designers, in-house might be the way to go.

On the other hand, if you value fresh perspectives, diverse skill sets, and the ability to tap into a wider talent pool, outsourcing can provide you with a broader range of creative solutions and strategic input. Effective project management, clear communication channels, and regular feedback loops can help bridge any geographical or cultural gaps.

4. Will you need to scale graphic design work?

Are you looking for one-off projects? Do you need consistent work? Do you have busy periods where you need more help? These are all questions that you need to consider. If you’re looking for someone to support with occasional bits and pieces, hiring a freelancer might be the right choice. But if you have periods where you have consistent work and then times where it gets really busy, some agencies can act as a more scalable and affordable option when compared to hiring an in-house designer.

The decision ultimately depends on your company's specific needs, budget, and long-term goals. Some businesses may find that a combination of both approaches works best, with an in-house team handling day-to-day design tasks and outsourced designers being brought in for specialised projects or during peak periods. Ultimately, the key is to find a solution that aligns with your brand's vision and helps you effectively communicate with your target audience.

A New Alternative to Graphic Design: Subscription-Based Design

There is another option when looking to outsource design, one that sits between all of the choices discussed… and that’s subscription-based graphic design. This works in a similar way to any subscription service, where you pay a flat-rate monthly fee for certain tiers of design work. Design Cloud is one of the UK’s leading design subscription services and offers flexible and cost-effective solutions. Design Cloud customers can access:

  • Unlimited graphic design and revisions
  • A flat-rate fee with no hidden costs 
  • Scalable solutions to fit your busier and quieter periods
  • Quick access to a dedicated design expert

If you’re looking for a graphic design solution, book a demo with one of our service experts and they will take you through our platform and answer any questions about our service.

Leah Camps
Marketing Executive
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Need help with design work?

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