UX Agency or In-House Expert: Pros and Cons, Recruitment Tips

Remote, or In-House, That Is the Question.

Clients often ask if it is better to breed a UX design team within a company than hiring outsourced experts. To be fair, the only answer we can give that pays-off is: ‘Surely, hire outsourcees!’, as HeyPxl is a well-structured team that designs interfaces for clients, located all over the globe.     f

But let’s be honest: everything depends on your goals and strategy. In this article I address the pros and cons of approaches to having remote or in-house experts and share tips with those who have decided to work with remote specialists. 

Remote and In-House? What Is It?

In 2020 COVID-19 had a huge negative impact on the business sector and many companies were forced to send their employees to work from home. As a result, the difference between a remote worker and an in-house worker is not that clear these days. Let’s define these two terms.

The In-house model implies that you hire an employee to be a staff member. They are your employees who participate in daily briefings and after the pandemic is over they will return to the office. During a workday they are engaged in your project and can complete a task you appoint to them. 

But if you prefer outsourcing, then remote work would be more applicable. In this case, you might attract a UX agency or a single freelancer who works with you for a period of time specified in a service agreement.

Talks on whether remote or in-house is better never end. The only way to decide is to analyze both pros and cons and determine which is more applicable in your circumstances.

In-House: Pros and Cons

Relying on an in-house team is a smart decision. On one hand, you get a team of engaged professionals and a creative environment in the office. On the other hand, it often happens that staff members spend more time chatting to colleagues over a cup of coffee, than actually working. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of the in-house approach.

Pros of the in-house model:

  • A staff member is more engaged with a project. Outsourcees work on several different projects, while your in-house professional directs all necessary resources on your project. As a result, they have a better understanding of a product and will be more capable of developing it in the future.  
  • It is easy to load an in-house design team with work. When employees get a fixed remuneration, you can appoint them to doing any other task related to an internal project, in case they have any spare work time. However, outsourcees will ask for a separate agreement to complete a task. 
  • You are always aware of what your employees are doing. You have control over their workload, the workday, and can change the remuneration they get. 
  • It is easier to plan a budget and cash flow when you know the fixed salaries of your employees. 

However, this desired certainty has its price and negative consequences.

Cons of the in-house model:

  • Recruitment and adaptation. You need time to look through CVs, conduct interviews, and make a decision on each candidate. It is not that bad if you are hiring one UX designer but what happens when you need a whole team? In this case, you have to evaluate not only the individual but their potential to fit in as part of the new team being built. New team members require time to understand a product, adjust to a new work environment, and change of pace. If you are hiring only one designer, then there is no one who could help them adapt. 
  • Resource management. To adapt a new UX designer or a team you need a Project Manager. You either need to engage an existing employee from another department or to hire a new one. More employees require more expenses. 
  • Extra hardware, workplace, and software. It consumes not only money but also time. You will have to wait for at least a week to deal with it all, and some projects simply cannot wait for that long. 
  • In-house employee is always fully engaged in work. Well, it only seems so. A major money-saving brand Vouchercloud conducted research, analyzing the work of 2000 in-house employees all over the UK. It found out that office workers are productive only for three hours a day. They spend the rest of a day on breaks, social media, and news. 
  • Adaptation to working from home. COVID-19 introduced another complicated scenario into employers’ lives: you hire an in-house employee but this person starts working from home. Professionals who have zero experience of remote work require more time to adjust to such a format and plan a work schedule. In this case, the efficiency of remote outsourcees is significantly higher.  
  • Employee’s development is among your responsibilities. It is another item of expenditure. Any employee is expecting opportunities for further growth, such as sponsored courses, seminars, and conferences from a fair employer. Outsourcees plan their development themselves. 

The In-house model fits you if you have the time and resources to lead a long game and invest in an employee. But no one can guarantee your success. There are dozens of reasons why an employee might leave a company, leaving you with a necessity to restore a team and start all over again.  

Remote: Pros and Cons

The intent to breed a highly professional UX designer within a company commands respect. But the chance to avoid such clutter and waste of time is usually more tempting. You make your life easier by outsourcing UX design. 

Pros of the remote model: 

  • You can choose professionals with expertise in your field. The global trend among outsourcing agencies is finding a niche. It is getting easier to find designers who specialize in tasks relevant to you. Such experts have the necessary experience, understanding, and ready solutions.
  • One employee but multiple ideas. When you approach an agency, needing the service of a designer, you can be sure that the least you get is a Project Manager and a designer. HeyPixel hires only PMs with proven experience in product design. Designers can also consult with their colleagues while completing a project. Therefore, you hire a single professional but get the expertise and experience of the entire agency.
  • You don’t have to think about management. An agency usually has clear management of a team and other employees. You don’t have to control each step of a designer.
  • Saving money while maintaining high quality. By engaging foreign agencies, you can save money due to the difference in local wages. According to Payscale, $75 000 is the average wage of a UX designer in the USA per annum, $63 000 in Canada, and around $10 000 in Russia. The savings are obvious. 
  • You pay for the work done not for the time. Office employees, even working from home, need to work for a specified time. But as we already know they are not always working non-stop. When dealing with an agency you pay for a project, where the expenses have already been established and the deadline specified. Remote workers strive for good results, as their income and agency reputation depend on the speed and quality of their work. The high performance of remote workers has been proven with a study conducted by a group of scientists under the supervision of Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom. The experiment revealed that working from home during a 9-month period led to a 13 % percent increase in performance. Within the trial, the employees of an online travel company managed to complete more tasks in a time unit as they were less distracted by external stimuli. 
  • Agencies make sure that their employees have everything they need. You don’t have to spend time and money buying hardware and software, paying taxes, and covering expenses on recruitment and adaptation of an employee.

Working with outsourcees is a guarantee that you have fewer issues like this. But this convenience has its cons.

Cons of the in-house model:

  • Time difference. You hire developers from the other side of the world and save a huge amount of money. However, now you need to manage work in different time zones. Our experience shows that in 99% of cases this issue can be easily solved. You have to be ready to negotiate, create a system of deadlines and a working process.
  • Extensive transfer into in-house. There is a chance you will want to have in-house designers when you finish a particular stage of work, simply to maintain a product and guarantee its long-term development. In this case, the team of an agency needs to give your employees all the developments and accumulated knowledge. It requires time, quite a long time.
  • Issues with planning, execution and acceptance of tasks. There is an opinion that it is more complicated to work with a remote team because of planning processes and controlling task execution. Well, such concerns might come true if you work with inexperienced companies. If you start working with an experienced and well-built team, you don’t encounter such issues.

Summing up, I can say that remote workers are the perfect solution when you have short-term goals. For instance, you are developing an MVP and you need a design, created fast and in a qualitative manner. Recruiting an in-house employee will make the process slower, while outsourcees are ready to start working immediately. 

How to Find the Best Outsourced Team 

Selecting an outsourced team is a complicated quest. You have to be very attentive to find an agency that would incorporate more of the pros of the remote model and less of its cons.

Consider the following when selecting an outsourced team: 

  • Portfolio. This is the most crucial thing. Look for cases related to your niche. I would like to emphasize the following: look for something related to your niche, not a field. If a team has completed many B2B projects in medicine, there is no guarantee that they can successfully complete a project in cryptocurrency. Perhaps, they have experience in your segment but they cannot speak about it because of an NDA. 
  • Reviews and references. Read reviews about an agency, and not those published on their corporate website but the ones published on Google, Yelp, or Clutch. Ask clients that used their service. This way you can understand if this team fits your needs. 
  • Personal contact. Talk to key team members who will work on your case and communicate with your team prior to collaboration. Ask questions, check if their attitude towards a working process is the same. As soon as a project starts you will be in regular contact, working together and talking every day. It will be much more efficient and pleasant to work with people you have a connection with. Also, look into their corporate policy, and reasons why employees choose that company (is it only financial interest or are there opportunities for personal growth and development?).
  • Location. It can have a significant impact on the cost of development. Average and high prices of UX design are significantly different in different countries. When engaging great professionals based in Russia you are paying much less than you would pay for the expertise of similar experts based in the US.
  • Choose a company that is eager to build long-term relationships. There are so many companies whose goal is to earn money fast and easy. They complete a task, finish a project and forget your name the next day. You won’t get any extra value from them; they are not willing to go the extra mile for a client. They simply execute what is stated in the terms of reference. Such experts are never willing to share their expertise or help you find better solutions. It is a good investment to start working with outsourcees who want to build-up long-term relationships with clients. They are interested in providing better service, and adding value to a project which results in generating higher profit from it. It is perfect for you: your outsourcees are engaged as much, if not even more than in-house employees might have been. It is simple: client’s success is outsourcing the agency’s success too.

How to Choose

This article addresses the advantages and disadvantages of both models but the final decision shall be made only by you, considering all the aspects of your company and product.

A remote team will better suit the task of developing an MVP, for example, where it is a short-term project (up to six months of development).

But if you are planning to keep on developing a product, you are confident in it, and sales are going great, then it is possible to consider hiring an in-house designer, investing in their competencies as a team member.

You can start working with a UX agency and then later move to hiring an in-house designer. In case you don’t like it, you can always go back. Unfortunately, there is no universal advice. 

If you need advice on working with an agency, please, let us know! We will analyze your case, and determine approximate deadlines and costs. 

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