Considering your Options: Freelance vs Agency Positions in Design and Development



At a time when digital has crept into most industries, digital capabilities and technological agility is one of the key vectors of success, regardless of which industry you are in. This is great news for anyone working in digital, from content marketing to web design and development, as it means that there are plenty of opportunities to be had. 

According to the IT Salary Guide on Motion Recruitment, with skilled web design and development specialists in high demand, job opportunities and rewards are on the rise. Nearly 77% of employers are reporting difficulty filling roles which means that employers are being forced to get creative, hire less experienced staff, offer more flexibility in terms of where and when their staff work, or offer more money. This shortage of talent means that there is plenty of choice for experienced tech talent, leaving many individuals facing the decision of whether to go it alone in a freelance capacity or chase a permanent position in an organization or agency. Here are the pros and cons.


As a freelance web developer, you will work independently. This means that you will have to find your own work contracts, but it also means that you can set your own agenda. Work in a way that suits you, charge what you want, providing it is in a ballpark that your prospective clients are likely to pay for, and keep all of the financial rewards for yourself. It’s no wonder that there are more freelancers than ever before.

The pros of being a freelancer:

  • Complete autonomy: you are free to do what you want, when and how you want, as long as you get the job done to your clients’ specifications. 
  • With freelance developers in high demand, the market is on your side, and as long as it stays that way, you get to pick and choose the work that you enjoy doing, while avoiding the more mundane contracts.
  • Your financial reimbursement for your work is likely to be much higher than if you were doing the same work on an hourly rate or salary with an agency or organization

If freelance work sounds too good to be true, don’t worry; there are some downsides. 

Here are some of the cons of being a freelancer:

  • Starting up can be a challenge. With no reputation and no existing clients, becoming a freelancer requires a leap of faith, a lot of luck, or a financial buffer to get you through the early days. 
  • The buck stops with you. No work? You don’t get paid. There is nobody above you making money from your work, but that also means that there is nobody who is going to keep paying you when things go quiet. 
  • There is no buffer between you and the client. If you work for an agency, there will be parameters that are set for your employment and if things go wrong, the team will pull together to rectify it. As a freelancer you are on your own: no team to support you means the potential for long days and nights working to fix the unexpected. 


With digital at the center of everything they do, digital marketing or web development agencies sell their services to organizations who are looking to fulfil a specific role. This means that as a designer or developer working for an agency, you are likely to get plenty of opportunities to work for a range of clients, without the risks associated with being freelance.

The pros of agency work:

  • You get the best of both worlds: the variety of working freelance with the stability of working for an organization.
  • You will be able to develop your skills and work your way up the ladder by working with other professionals, taking advantage of training and professional development opportunities, and proving your worth to your supervisors. 
  • You get to sleep at night knowing that, unless something drastic happens, your wages will be paid and you can enjoy all of the benefits of permanent employment. 

However, there are downsides of working for an agency:

  • If you have been employed for a specialist skill, you may become pigeonholed, and face only being given the same kind of work on repeat. 
  • You have to work to your agency’s schedule; no more working when the mood takes you or doing 12-hour days so that you can have a long weekend; you may be required to work in the office for a certain period each month, which could incur additional costs. 
  • You will be paid less than you will as a freelancer, because your agency will take a cut to accommodate the fact that they bear most of the risk.
  • Agency staff aren’t quite as secure as organizational tech departments; if an agency loses their biggest client and struggles to replace that revenue, it could be your job on the line. 

Whether you choose to work freelance or for an agency or organization will depend on your financial and career needs and ambitions, as well as your current circumstances. If you need to develop your skill set then a permanent contract may be the place do to that, allowing you to see a diverse range of activities and industries. If you possess the skills, want to achieve work-life balance, want to see how far you can push your own initiative, and have the courage or funds to take a risk, then the freelance route may be best for you. 

If you are not sure, take some time to look at the tech jobs that are around, the skills required, and how the salaries offered match your needs and expectations.