It can be tempting to hire a freelancer to design and develop your website. For one thing, they can be far cheaper than most web development companies, and some of them are quite talented.
Sounds pretty good, right? And pretty fail-proof, too, no? Talented and cheap!
Unfortunately, good web development requires a veritable village, and your talented friend or friend’s niece simply won’t be able to tick all the boxes to ensure your website performs at maximum level for your business.
Here are nine reasons why hiring a professional web developer is a far better option.
1. It comes down to trust
Professional web developers build their businesses on trust. The web design and development industry is one of the more competitive ones out there; it’s also one that receives more than its fair share of online reviews.
A business that fails to meet its customers’ expectations gets quickly inundated with unfavourable reviews, which are easily found via Google searches. Once a web development company starts receiving bad reviews, they either improve or collapse - there are just too many web development options available for a poor company to thrive.
If you compare this to freelancers, who may have only completed a few websites, it’s easy to see how you won’t be able to firmly establish their trustworthiness. Freelancers are far more difficult to research before you sign a contract, and they can avoid being held to the same standards as established companies.
2. Experience counts for a lot
A good web development agency is staffed by experts in every area from design to web development and digital marketing. The staff will often have hundreds of quality websites under each of their respective belts.
This experience translates to a deep knowledge of easy web development pitfalls, which means they can help you avoid the common mistakes inexperienced web designers can make.
Experience-backed advice should never be overlooked, and it makes a huge difference to the final product of your web development project.
3. Better customer protection
Customer protection laws in Australia are fairly rigorous. There is a host of laws, regulations and better business practices in place that control how a business needs to conduct itself.
These laws apply to anyone who has an ABN, and the larger a business is, the greater the requirements. Some freelancers operate with an ABN, and as such, can be held to these laws (though it’s much harder for the government to enforce these practices on such a small operation).
However, if you hire a freelancer who asks for cash-in-hand, you are completely unprotected - they could easily disappear with your money, leaving you with available no practical legal options.
On top of the law’s protection, when you hire a good web development company, everything you have purchased will be laid out for you. This means that you will know exactly what you are getting, and this will be re-enforced in a detailed contract. This also means if they fail to deliver on their promises, you have something to take to consumer affairs.
4. A wide range of expertise
One person can’t be an expert in everything required to create a professional website – or, at least, it’s unlikely. Web development is comprised of a wide range of skills, including graphic design, coding, web development, digital marketing, social media marketing, copywriting, and hosting support.
There are talented people out there who are quite adept in many of these areas, but no-one can claim to be an expert in all. This is why good web development companies tend to hire experts in every area of the process. Having an expert at every step of your web development project translates to getting the highest quality work at each and every step of the way.
That old adage, “Two heads are better than one”, applies quite aptly to the multifaceted process of web development. Having multiple web development experts working on your project leads to a better design and, ultimately, a better final product. Working with freelancers, no matter how talented they are, simply can’t match the output a professional web development company can produce.
Having all these experts in one place also has another significant benefit. It means there is no need for you to take your website anywhere else. The professional web development companies have internal experts for everything a web project will need, including logo design, content development, and traffic-generating tools like SEO (“Search Engine Optimisation”). This means that many of these companies are one-stop shops that can truly take you all the way through your project.
5. Post-development support
Once your website is designed, it doesn’t just appear on the web. It needs to be hosted and maintained. And unless you’re a tech expert, you’ll need help with this. From email support to future upgrades, your website isn’t just going to maintain itself. This means that any web developer you choose should be able to provide ongoing support for your website.
This is perhaps the largest problem associated with hiring a freelancer to design and develop your website. Freelancers are not going to be freelancers forever. In fact, most will transition to full-time employment quickly, especially if they are talented designers. So what happens to your website when they move on? What happens when they lose interest?
6. More comprehensive customer service
Customer service should be one of the major things to look for when hiring a company.
The ability to talk to a real person and have your queries answered is incredibly important in web design (and, really, in any major purchase). Professional web design companies build their reputations on customer service, and this focus translates to going above and beyond for clients.
Unfortunately, freelancers are usually just the one person – therefore, they have limited time and resources, and it’s just not possible for them to match the level support you’d be getting from a team of professional web development experts.
7. Digital marketing knowledge
So, what even is digital marketing?
Digital marketing is a pretty broad term that refers to a range of techniques used to reach customers via different digital technologies.
There are several major digital marketing strategies that all businesses should be using to promote their websites.
“Pay Per Click” is a form of online advertising. Your ad targets certain keywords relevant to your business. For example, keywords for a florist could be “Online florist”, “Buy flowers online”, or “Flower delivery”. When someone searches one of those keywords, Google either places your ad in the top three results (usually in a light yellow box) or in the results on the right-hand side.
PPC is one of the most directional forms of marketing available online and will quickly bring attention to your website (if, that is, it’s done right).
“Search Engine Optimisation” is a fairly simple concept, but much harder to implement properly.
SEO is the process of optimising your website to make it more visible to search engines like Google, therefore increasing your page rank. If you use SEO correctly, when someone searches for the keywords that you are targeting, your website will show up on the left hand side of Google (the “organic” results – the ones that aren’t paid, as with PPC) as highly positioned as possible. This is generally done by focusing on keywords that relate to your business, so you appear higher on relevant searches.
SEO is a slow process, as it takes time to improve your page rank. It’s highly effective, but it’s a long-term endeavour. SEO works best in tandem with PPC, especially in the beginning of your digital marketing campaign.
Copywriting is great when done right. Good copy makes your website stand out, and it can lead to greater conversions.
The professional feeling created by well-written copy cannot be underestimated. If you also create SEO-targeted content, this can additionally drive your business by creating improved search rankings on Google. If you don’t optimise your copy, you’re wasting a great marketing opportunity.
Effective social media marketing is more than just creating a Facebook page and getting a few “likes”.
Social media marketing is another form of online advertising, and is one that has amazing reach. Social media can be used in a number of different ways for marketing purposes. These include driving online sales, driving local sales, collecting demographic information, and raising brand awareness.
All of these elements rely on the billions of people who are glued to their social media, whether at home or via mobile, on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. This can create a huge number of potential marketing opportunities, most of which are very cheap.
These are four fundamental digital marketing campaigns in which the person or company you hire to develop your website needs to not only understand, but excel.
8. High level value
Value is a hard thing to define, and it comes down to how you approach a project.
Value isn’t just about the least expensive option - it’s also about getting the biggest return from the smallest outlay. When it comes to web design, value isn’t about getting the cheapest web designer or freelancer – it relates to finding an affordable, trusted web professional that can build the website you want, for a fair price.
The difference between a freelancer and a professional web design company can really be summed up in value. The extra service, expertise and knowledge that you receive from a web development professional is worth the extra expenditure.
9. Examples and testimonies
Never, ever, ever, hire a web developer/designer without seeing examples of their work and finding credible testimonials.
Examples of previous work are one of the best ways to determine if a potential web developer is for you. Look at the websites they have created before to see if they live up to your expectations.
After looking at their previous work, find out what their previous clients are saying about them. Testimonials, especially those posted on third-party websites, reveal a lot about what it’s like working with a web development company.
Compared to freelancers, the volume of information available on professional web development companies is extensive. A quick research session should let you discover exactly what sort of product you can expect at the end of the web development process and just how difficult that whole process will be.