In the wake of the great recession, the notion of outsourcing became increasingly appealing to freelancers. After all, technology had evolved to the point where remote communication and document sharing were exceptionally reliable, while utilising freelancers on project-to-project basis also offered lowered operating costs during difficult times.
Such an ethos became widespread across multiple disciplines too, particularly content-heavy entities such as web design and copywriting.
This trend has continued throughout the economic recovery in the UK, as businesses have continued their cautious approach to fostering growth and increasing spending. By selecting talented freelancers from a global talent pool, companies have been able to reduce their annual wage spend while also creating a flexible workforce that can be adapted to suit different projects.
So why are Freelance Web Designers no longer in such high demand?
Given this, the continually precarious economic climate and the fact that design is arguably more important than ever before, you would think that the demand for freelance web designers would be higher than ever. This is not the case, however, with a rising number of independents struggling to find work and maintain the level of earnings that they enjoyed three years’ ago.
So what factors are driving this trend in an age where web design is so important? Let’s take a look at some of the most influential:
Companies fear the loss of brand consistency
While companies want the very best in website design, they also want their online presence to offer a seamless and rewarding experience to customers. This means that website design is now part of a wider branding strategy, where the consistency of imagery and messaging is more important than ever. They are therefore more inclined to utilise in-house staff who have an innate understanding of their brand, as this helps to drive consistent design and a relevant customer journey.
Traditional freelancers lack the portfolio of skills demanded by modern day firms
As web design as become a more fluid art, so too the skills required to fulfil the role have grown. This is why companies are more inclined to train in-house staff or employ the services of agencies, as this enables them to build and integrate the necessary skill-sets in a cost-effective way.
Some freelancers simply lacks the skills required by potential employers, such as image rendering, content management, animation and the ability to implement functional prototypes. The demand for Photoshop Design Files (PSD) is also dwindling, so independent web designers with generic rather than specialist (and relevant) skills will struggle to compete in 2016.
The Rising Demand for Web Design Agencies
We have already touched briefly on the rising demand for professional web agencies, and this is something that provides fierce competition for freelancers. While established agencies may charge a higher premium for their services, they offer a myriad of skills that can underpin an entire branding strategy and build marketing campaigns.
This is the key differentiation, as while freelancers can create a website agencies can also manage additional design functions and integrate these as part of an overall commercial strategy. Agencies recognise that web design is usually a single element of a bigger business plan, whether you want to cultivate a brand from scratch or refine your approach to digital or email marketing.
As we can see, the design landscape has changed gradually but noticeably over the course of the last few years, and we can expect this evolution to continue for the foreseeable future at least. So while the demand for freelance web designers will remain (particularly among SME’s), this demographic will need to adapt if they are to compete and thrive over time.