The Cost of an In-house Design Team vs a Design Agency

It’s difficult to define what is the cost difference between having an in-house design team and hiring an external design agency. Since each option has its own requirements and is billed in its own particular way, defining which way to approach design is more cost-effective is a bit tricky.  

However, we can still get some insights from what we know. Here you’ll find how much hiring an in-house design team can cost for your organization.

1. What is the cost of having an In-house design team?

Having a complete in-house design team can have huge advantages. Having a full-time team completely committed to creating graphic content for your organization can be a huge asset.

However, having an established in-house design team also means a fixed salary for full-time employees. According to different sources, full-time designers' wages start at around $32,000 or $35,000 a year in the US for an Entry or Junior position. This can go all the way up to $77,000 a year for Senior designers.

When deciding what kind of design team you’re trying to implement in your organization, it’s also important to take into consideration the extra expenses of utilities that they imply. In the case of a team of in-house designers, it’s important to add to their salaries the cost of equipment and resources that they will need.

Computers, graphic tablets, and design software (like Photoshop or Illustrator licenses), among other things, are all things that you will be expected to provide as a contractor.

Another thing to think about when evaluating the cost of an in-house design team is determining how scalable you need it to be and how this will impact your budget. Scaling in-house design teams is no easy job because of the constant demand they are usually in.

This means investing in upskilling, creating new managing positions and accordingly salary increases, and more likely than not, having extra hands to cover the design demand when training newcomers.

2. What is the cost of hiring design freelancers?

Hiring freelancers to cover your organization's design is the complete opposite of the fixed cost of having an in-house design team. Freelance designers are usually paid per project, and it depends widely on the freelances themself.

Sometimes this means charging per hour, while others prefer to have an average cost per type of project and define the final price according to difficulty and in coordination with the contractor. It’s a great model for specific, non-recurrent tasks. However, if you plan to hire freelancers for the bulk of your everyday design tasks, it might be difficult to budget.

According to freelance sites like Fiverr and Upwork, hourly rates can go from $15 to $45 per hour for amateur and junior designers. However, a Senior or Pro designer might charge starting on $100 to $150 per hour, and sometimes even more.  

In the case of billing by project, it depends on the deliverable you’re expecting. For example, a standard logo design is usually around $300. Illustrations go between $700 and $4,000, depending on how complex your request is, and so are infographics.  

In the end, the final cost of hiring a freelance designer depends on the designer you pick and the project you have in mind.

It’s also important to take into account when hiring freelance designers that it’ll probably take a few tries to find one that’s a good match with your organization.  And even in that case, you can’t expect them to be always available, so graphic consistency might suffer from it.

But it has the huge advantage that you only pay exactly for what you need, instead of having someone on constant payroll without much demand.

3. What is the cost of hiring a design agency?

Design agencies are very similar to design freelancers in the sense that they are also external providers that supply your graphic design needs. And just like freelancers, the final price and services depend on the agency itself.

Most agencies work just like a freelance hub, considering the complexity and the estimated hours needed for completion to define the price of projects. The cost of hiring a design agency varies from agency to agency, but it’s usually higher than freelancer prices.

However, it has the added benefit of not having to worry about quality and security. You will also be able to guarantee more brand consistency throughout your projects.

4. What is the cost of having a hybrid design team?l

Finally, we have the hybrid option. When talking about in-house design team structures, hybrid teams is the one that draws attention the most, as it offers the best of both worlds. You can have a small in-house design team that gives the strategic direction and a third-party provider to support them and do the day-to-day heavy lifting.

Hybrid teams lessen the cost of having to hire designers on fixed payrolls and rather just focus on the strategic roles and recurrent demand.

For example, instead of hiring 20 designers, you’ll be able to hire 10 and use way less money to get a tertiary provider for support. This is great for both reducing your budget and maximizing the talent of your in-house designers.

Support design agencies can focus on really specific things, like presentations, social media,  UX design, or Web design. This way, your in-house design team can focus on creating a visual identity for your brand while the support team applies the brand guidelines to your presentations and documents, for example.

Many of these support design agencies have dedicated teams, enterprise solutions, or credit packs that make them ideal for big organizations with a big, constant demand for new content.

The cost of a dedicated team in a support design agency depends on the service provided, the turnaround dates, and of course, the load of the work required. For example, Green Pixel, a branding and illustrations agency has packages beginning at 6,080€ per month.  

In our case, 24Slides focuses on presentation design. We support organizations from all around the world with 24-hour high-end turnaround designs. We offer enterprise solutions like dedicated teams that begin at $899 per month, and offer a team of designers committed to you and your brand, and the capacity for hundreds of presentation slides.

Starting your own in-house design team

As you can see, finding the correct budget for your design team depends mostly on your needs and the kind of demand you have in mind. Design is a must for every type of organization, but it’s important to pick the best option to make the most of your investment.

Learning how you want to structure and what exact services they’re going to provide is key to defining if it’s practical to have an all-in-house team or if you want to hire freelancers, certain topic specialists, or a support team on the side.

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