- Navigatng a Full-Time Hire
- Navigating a Freelance Hire
- Navigating an Agency Partnership
- Scenic West Design’s Fractional, Flexible UX Approach
As a UX/UI design and product strategy consulting agency, we have worked with countless B2B SaaS product leaders, helping them navigate the big question of when is the right time to engage a UX agency partner, hire a freelancer, or full-time in-house designer. While yes, we enjoy meeting and partnering with new companies, we know that hiring a third party isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.
Pursuing an agency partnership is a fantastic way to gain access to a team of senior-level, multidisciplinary designers and strategists, but can come at a higher cost than a freelancer. If you need a one-off design for a special project at a lower cost and have very clearly documented requirements, a freelancer might be for you! If neither of those seems like they’ll serve your team best, then weigh out the pros and cons of hiring in-house.
All-in-all, we know that your team needs help if you find yourself in any (or all) of these scenarios:
- There’s more work than you can manage
- Your team is struggling to see the bigger picture
- Your team lacks the creativity and innovation necessary to stay competitive
If your answer to any of these is yes, keep reading.
Navigating a Full-Time Hire
While hiring a full-time in-house designer might be a great option for some companies, it comes with its own set of challenges and considerations. One of the primary factors to weigh is your budget. If you find yourself constrained by financial limitations but still in need of senior-level design expertise, outsourcing may be a more practical choice. Hiring a full-time designer involves recruiting costs and time, salary commitments and benefits, and the challenge of finding the right cultural fit for your team. Outsourcing allows you to access the skills you need without the long-term commitment.
At a high-level, here are some benefits to hiring a full-time designer:
- Long-Term Commitment: Hiring in-house is a long-term commitment. Through the recruiting process, you’re likely looking for a team member who is looking to stay and can integrate well with your existing team and processes. An full-time team member that aligns with your internal culture and champions your product goals can be a wonderful asset.
- Immediate Availability: Freelancers often work on a variety of projects for different clients, which brings a range of experience but can also mean that they are busy when you need them for a burst of work on short notice. A full-time designer is a dedicated resource for your team.
- Company Knowledge: Hiring in-house means that sooner or later your team members will gain a deeper understanding of your organization, its culture, brand guidelines, long-term goals, and more. Plus, there's room for more collaboration with your team.
At a high-level, here are some limitations to hiring a full-time designer:
- Higher Costs: In-house hires typically come with higher costs due to salaries, benefits, office space and equipment. If you’re looking for short-term project assistance or don’t need 40+ hours of support every week, a full-time hire is not for you.
- Limited External Perspectives: In-house teams often become very close to their project and can have a harder time to see the bigger picture, or have lack of exposure on design trends and perspectives. This might lead to a team that is less innovative and efficient overall.
- Less Flexible: When sudden spikes or surges in work come in, it can be difficult for an in-house team to adapt to a new workload because of their fixed schedule. Freelancers and agency partnerships offer more opportunities for stacked projects, expanded working hours, and larger project scopes.
- Recruitment Challenges: Finding the right person for your team is a long process, making it more challenging to find a qualified candidate that meshes with your team. This process also might have higher costs upfront if you decide to utilize a recruiting agency to sift through job applications and publish job openings.
Navigating a Freelance Hire
Freelancers can offer flexibility and specific skills tailored to your project. However, they often work on a project-by-project basis, making it challenging to maintain continuity and a cohesive design language across various initiatives. Additionally, freelancers may have limited availability, which can be a bottleneck for ongoing projects. Outsourcing to a UX agency like Scenic West provides a balance by offering the flexibility of freelancers, but with the cohesion and reliability of a dedicated team.
At a high-level, here are some benefits to hiring a freelancer:
- Flexibility: Freelancers can adapt quickly to changing project needs and are often available for short-term or part-time commitments.
- Diverse Experience: Freelancers often work on a variety of projects for different clients, which can result in broader exposure to a variety of design challenges.. Their varied experiences can bring fresh perspectives to your project.
- Cost Efficiency: Hiring freelancers can be cost-effective, especially for short-term projects with clear requirements, as you only pay for the specific work they do without additional overhead costs. There's no need for long-term commitments, benefits, or office space, reducing overall expenses.
- Large Talent Pool: With the ability to work and hire remotely, you can leverage the large pool of talented product designers. This enables you to find the right expertise regardless of where they live.
At a high-level, here are some limitations to hiring a freelancer:
- Lack of Company Knowledge: Freelancers may lack deep knowledge about your company culture, brand guidelines, and long-term goals. This can result in designs that may not fully align with the company's identity or strategic objectives.
- Limited Availability: Freelancers may have multiple clients and projects, making their availability unpredictable. Urgent changes or additional work might be challenging to accommodate on short notice.
- Niche Skill Sets: If a freelancer’s main focus is design, they may not be able to adapt to varied team needs like user research, product management, and strategy.
- Turnover/Bad Fit Partnership: If you’re looking for a trusted design partner and decide to go the freelance-route, it may take a few contractor hires in order to find the right fit to your company culture, level of commitment, and alignment with expectations. If you do find a solo freelancer you really like, they unfortunately might be booked the next time you call them due to their limited capacity.
Navigating an Agency Partnership
Collaborating with a UX/UI design and product strategy agency like Scenic West involves more than just project completion. It's about building a strategic partnership that goes beyond transactional interactions. A well-established agency understands the intricacies of your industry, offering insights and solutions that align with your business goals. We specialize in B2B SaaS UX/UI and product strategy for startups to enterprise clients, like REACH Media Network and Ordway Labs, where we help teams build a scalable product, streamline design processes, and ultimately, increase revenue and reduce churn.
Scenic West’s relatively small size allows us to remain nimble while still offering you full access to a range of senior-level UX/UI designers, user researchers, and product strategists. We can seamlessly adapt to your shifting needs and build a long-term relationship with you without sacrificing flexibility. We also offer fractional product and design leadership for teams that are struggling with a leadership gap between their existing C-level team and product team, but perhaps not ready for a full-time C-level, VP, or Director level product hire.
When navigating an agency partnership, communication, transparency, and a shared vision are crucial elements for success. Our team has regular check-ins, establishes clear project timelines, and places emphasis on collaboration and iteration so that both parties are aligned on goals and next steps for maximum team efficiency and product quality.
Pros of Outsourcing UX/UI Design and Product Strategy
Senior Expertise and Diverse Skill Sets
Collaborating with a team like Scenic West brings in senior-level external expertise and a fresh perspective to your UX/UI design. Whether it’s a short-term project or a long-term partnership, there is room for flexibility and lowers the risk of hiring a freelancer that’s limited by time, or an in-house team member with only one area of expertise.
Accelerated Progress and Avoiding Blind Spots
Working with a third-party can lead to more efficiencies and faster progress. A third-party like Scenic West can bring in a fresh set of eyes to help teams that are stuck or too close to their product, as well as bringing a high-level of industry knowledge and understanding of the most common pitfalls and ways to avoid them altogether. Outsourcing a UX partner can help teams identify priorities and streamline execution of tasks - one of the benefits to working with Scenic West is our team’s structure and ability to aid in UX/UI design, user research, and product strategy as needed. management, and strategy all in one.
In a UX partnership with Scenic West, you can delegate tasks to our team of senior-level product designers and strategists to optimize your internal resources. Your team can focus on core responsibilities while we handle specialized tasks. This also enables you to test the partnership in small bites before investing in a long-term decision like making a full-time hire.
Learning and Development
Beyond just getting things done, an engagement with a third-party like Scenic West can provide your team exposure to different methodologies, best practices, and industry trends. As we’ve worked with dozens of companies similar to yours over the past few years, our partnership is an opportunity for continuous learning and development that extends beyond the scope of the project.
Cons of Outsourcing UX/UI Design and Product Strategy
At a high-level, here are some limitations to a UX agency partnership:
Working with an agency may be more expensive than working with a solo freelancer. A freelancer may be the least costly option, but you’re limited by their capacity and availability. While it can be more costly in the short term, agencies and consulting firms have the benefit of broader knowledge, more capacity, and speed, without the hefty time and cost investment of recruiting, hiring, and training up an in-house full-time hire.
If you don’t choose an agency partnership wisely, communication could be difficult. Some considerations for a successful partnership would be time zones, language barriers, and what collaboration tools are available. Our team has collaborated with clients using all kinds of tools - Figma, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Zoom, JIRA, Trello - you name it! Try choosing an agency partner who is experienced working with teams in a remote, dispersed environment and can smoothly adapt to your existing collaboration workflows
Finding an Agency in Your Niche
It’s vital to choose an agency that is appropriate for your specific industry. If you’re in the B2B SaaS industry, it’s important to partner with a team who has deep knowledge of UX/UI and product strategy for B2B SaaS. If you aren’t careful to choose a partner that has a depth of knowledge in your product area, there may be limits to the engagement’s potential business impact and innovation simply because the partner isn’t the best fit. At Scenic West, our team takes the time to review a potential client partner to see if it’s the right fit for both sides.
Scenic West Design’s Fractional, Flexible UX Approach
Our fractional, flexible UX/UI design and product strategy approach at Scenic West is designed to cater to the dynamic needs of your business. Whether you need design expertise for a specific phase of your project or ongoing support, our team is ready to seamlessly integrate with yours. This approach allows you to scale your design resources up or down based on project requirements, providing a cost-effective solution without compromising on quality. By choosing Scenic West's fractional UX design service, you gain access to a dedicated team of experts who are committed to enhancing the user experience of your products and driving long-term success for your business.