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Why freelancers and SaaS don’t mix.

The hidden challenges of relying on freelancers for SaaS design

When creative teams are stretched to capacity, SaaS businesses often try to close the gap by outsourcing design tasks to freelancers. In theory it’s a great idea. Low risk high reward, right? Well, not exactly.

Don’t get us wrong. There’s a lot to be said for freelancers. If you don’t have the budget to hire an in-house creative team or a traditional design agency, freelance designers are an obvious choice. Similarly, if you’re looking for some basic assets and aren’t picky about how they are created, places like Fivver and Upwork will give you access to a pool (actually more like an ocean!) of freelancers to choose from. And if you find one who just ‘gets’ your business, that you can call on at the drop of a hat, and that produces world-class creative, hold onto them tight! 

The truth is, that for the most part, freelance designers and SaaS businesses just don’t mix. There, we said it.

In this post, we’re sharing six reasons why freelancers aren’t fit for purpose when it comes to producing creative for SaaS businesses.

Reason #1: Reliability

It’s not that freelancers are commitment phobes. But ultimately, they are free agents. It goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway) there are plenty of freelancers that always deliver high-quality projects right on schedule. But what happens if they don’t?

SaaS businesses have lots of balls in the air at any given time. They’re launching multi-market campaigns, exhibiting at events, announcing partnerships, the list goes on. If you rely on freelancers to deliver design assets for any of these marketing activities, and they fail to deliver work as promised or abandon a project midway, you’re in big trouble. 

Reason #2: Capacity

While freelancers can provide excellent flexibility, they can only do so much at the end of the day. With a roster of other clients, they have limited bandwidth in terms of how much time they can commit to your business.  This means that if scope changes or expands mid-project (as they often do in SaaS), a freelancer simply might not have the capacity to take on the extra workload. 

The freelancer-client relationship is also transactional in nature. Since capacity is finite, businesses might need to hire one freelancer to conceptualize and another to produce creative assets, leaving a possible lack of cohesion between the two. 

Reason #3: Quality

Consistent brand presentation across all marketing platforms (website, social media, video) has the power to increase revenue by up to 23%. The challenge with freelancers is that if you want to maintain brand equity, you need to ensure that each freelancer is fully up to speed on all brand guidelines and processes. This can be extremely time consuming for your team (which kind of defeats the purpose). 

Even if you have the most comprehensive style guides and SOPs, every freelancer you hire will inevitably have varying levels of experience, as well as their own design style. This can make it difficult to ensure quality and consistency across your design assets. 

Reason #4: Speed

SaaS solutions have a need for speed. Being agile and experimental often means getting campaigns live at the drop of a hat. Since freelancers juggle multiple clients, you’ll probably have to spend hours spinning your Rolodex just to find a designer that has availability for a project with a quick turnaround. What’s also important to remember is that even the most straightforward of projects are likely to need revision. So while a freelancer might agree to deliver a landing page design and twelve social media graphics in a day, it might take them two or three more days to get around to amending them.

Unless you’re working with freelancers on retainer, or that have set production timelines, you may end up having to shelve commercial opportunities because you can’t guarantee that creative will be delivered on time. 

Reason #5: Communication

Since freelancers aren’t involved in any of the day to day happenings of the business, it’s vital that they fully understand what you’re trying to achieve. When it comes to outsourcing creative, there’s zero room for interpretation. You need a clear and open line of communication as well as extremely detailed briefs to successfully get projects over the line.

The challenge here is that the ball is typically in the freelancer’s court in terms of how (and when!) they communicate with you. Maybe they don’t use Slack, or prefer to only communicate by email. This might be fine in theory, but if you’re dealing with multiple freelancers, you could find yourself spending more time trying to keep track of progress and chasing down projects than you do signing them off. 

Reason #6: Cost

Outsourcing design work to freelancers is often viewed as a cost-effective solution for strapped SaaS businesses. But while design rates might be lower than other creative solutions on first glance, there are plenty of hidden costs that come with hiring freelancers.

Do it right or do it twice. Hiring unreliable freelancers may lead to unexpected costs, such as the need to find replacement designers or redo work that wasn’t up to standard.

– Marketplace fees. Most of the popular freelance marketplaces take a 20% fee from all payments made by clients. This can add up, particularly if you have multiple projects on the go. These fees have to be paid whether you are satisfied with the work that’s been delivered or not!

– Inconsistent fees. Freelancer rates vary greatly, depending on their level of experience and specialities. This can make it particularly challenging to budget and project plan effectively.

– Time investment. The time spent sourcing freelancers, providing feedback, managing deadlines, and reviewing invoices doesn’t come without a price. The cost is often a drain on a senior member of the team who’s time should be spent focusing on more strategic tasks.

SaaS businesses have high creative needs that require specialized solutions in order to scale effectively. While great freelancers are worth their weight in gold, they can never give a SaaS business what they really need, which is a partnership. Speed, quality, and reliability are the pillars that need to support creative in such a highly-competitive space. If freelancers fall short on even one of these, chances are they aren’t a good fit for your business.

Looking for a creative solution that removes roadblocks for faster, higher quality output? Discover why more SaaS businesses are moving away from legacy models and choosing SmarterCreative to optimize, elevate, and scale their creativity.

If you want to learn about how we can help you do creative smarter by eliminating bloated processes and wasted design time, book a call with the Perpetual Team

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