Working with UX freelancers:  Which UX design team to choose? – Part 1

Why work with UX freelancers

If you run digital projects from time to time, sooner or later you’ll have to admit that you need some UX folks. You may have been aware of it for a very long time, but you’ve been delaying your decision to step forward. This might be for several reasons. You don’t know how to pick the right UX people since it is not your profession. You might think that they are expensive, and your smartest UI designer can handle UX tasks as well. Or perhaps you think that the process of selecting and onboarding UXers is complicated, and you don’t have time for it.

As you might know from your favourite productivity book, procrastination never brings you closer to your goals. It’s time, therefore, to make a change and get some UXers on board in your company before it’s too late and all your digital projects fail.

It’s worth seeing what the most important criteria in the selection process are before you evaluate your options:

  • Size of your project(s)
  • Workload stability
  • Budget
  • Alignment with your business goals
  • Flexibility
  • Reliability
  • Level of professionalism
  • Specialisation
  • Innovative approach
  • Handover process
  • Crisis management
  • Communication and presenting skills
  • Challenger approach

You have three options to solve your hiring needs: agencies, freelancers, or an in-house team. The real issue is figuring out who you should work with on any given project setup. You have a lot of good options, but the right selection really depends on the situation and scope of the work you’re looking at. The key is to pick the experts who match your goals and expectations without ruling them out simply because they fall into a basket you weren’t even planning to consider. Never assume that the labels “designer”, “freelance UX” and “product design agency” are anything more than just a label. Their work should speak for itself.

If you need some UX help, your obvious first choice is to test the whole UX process with freelancers. You can find them easily in every country and if you can’t hire a good one in your country you can reach out and contract somebody nearshore whom you can see from time to time in reality as well. It’s the first approach that pops to mind but let’s see whether it is a good idea…or not.

A UX Freelancer can be an obvious first choice


The benefits of working with UX freelancers

You get what you see

I mean this literally. The very sympathetic guy who understands all of your requests, wishes, and goals will be the same guy who will design them. This has at least two benefits. First of all, it’s more practical for you to evaluate whether you will like the team because you will meet them during the sales cycle. Easy.

The other advantage is that you can call them to account for what they have promised to do for you. Did the sales guy promise designed screens for all of the states of your app? Now the product design guy can’t say that he did not know about this promise!


Superheroes for peanuts

Good UX strategists can be very expensive. If you go to established agencies like Designit or Frog and you request their strongest UXers, you can end up easily paying €2000–€3000/day. This is a lot of money. Is it worth it? Well, it depends on the impact of the product where you use their knowledge. But you don’t necessarily need McKinsey or KPMG guys for a big sum of money. If you know the UX network well, you can find real UX strategists for €800€1000/day even in more expensive countries like the Netherlands or Belgium (the USA might be a bit more complicated). In Central European countries like Hungary or Slovakia, it is possible to find really strong experts for €300€400/day. Of course, you need connections, luck, and persistence. There is no such thing as a free lunch, even in UX.


Hire the best

After some successful projects with your freelancers, you can offer them a good salary with the intention of hiring them. Some of them will say yes if you offer decent money and you maintain some symbolic elements of their freedom like more home office time or a flexible working schedule, more freedom of speech, fewer administrative tasks, etc. They can keep things that they really liked about their freelance life and say goodbye to the insecurity that they have hated so much. In Ergomania, we also like to hire people with a freelance background because they are independent, proactive, and reliable people most of the time but they like the security we can provide them. Some of our best colleagues were freelancers before joining our team.


They like to teach you

Freelancers are often philanthropists and idealists. They believe in a better world. They want to make a change and what is an easier way to make an impact on the world than to educate your clients? If they feel that you don’t want to exploit them and throw them away later on, they are very happy to teach and train you…sometimes even for free.

Freelancers are often happy to teach you


You can make new friends

This is probably not the most important factor in selecting your UX team but if you hire the right freelancers, you can build real human connections with them that can last for decades. If you pay them a decent wage and they feel your respect, they will put their hearts into your project. And if you have similar principles and some difficult puzzles that you solve together, it can lead to a valuable friendship.


Bad choice, easy to correct

Everybody makes mistakes. Even in selecting UX people. If you have chosen the wrong UX expert though they seemed better or they are simply overloaded with other projects, this is a problem that you can fix. It is much easier to change freelancers than employees or agencies. Just be fair when you are ending a relationship and pay for the real value of what you have already gotten.


Test multiple people

When you have a lot of UX tasks you can hire multiple freelancers, in the beginning, to work on the same task (then you can compare the quality of the results) or to work in parallel on different tasks (you can still compare quality and attitude). As time passes, you can keep the best of them; it’s not too much hassle to say goodbye to the less stellar ones.


Happy to pick up smaller challenges

Freelancers are not super picky most of the time. They take smaller projects, and they pay attention to those smaller challenges as well. Do you want to customise a WordPress template, or fix the end of the funnel of your webshop sales process, or do you need to redesign a contact form? These tasks are okay for them, and you can fix your pressing issues for some hundreds of euro sometimes.


Fill in the gaps

Do you have a relatively steady workload but need a few more people from time to time? It’s easiest to get freelancers on board in these periods. They don’t ask for food in the peaceful periods but when the war drums are beating you can call them for battle. And when the war is over just release them gently. Of course when you have some freelancers who you use quite often in your projects you have to entertain them in the less active periods as well because they will go away. Maybe they’ll get a big project from Zürich and you’ll find their absence is really painful when you need them again.


The shortcomings of working with UX freelancers

They disappear

Most freelancers are decent people but still, they can surprise you. They can completely or partially disappear for many reasons: illness, other more important projects, family troubles, a hurt ego, etc.

How to handle it?

  • Handle Vis major cases properly in your contracts and have penalties for disappearance.
  • Document and follow all steps. If they disappear forever you can hand over the project to a new freelancer or a more reliable agency.
  • Have a backup freelancer or a smaller agency to take over in case one disappears.
  • Watch for early signs. If they start to disappear for short periods from time to time you can sit down with them and discuss the problem. One of the reasons might be that they have underestimated the complexity of your project and they’ve asked for too little money. For this reason, they’d rather drop the project without caring about the consequences or they give precedence to better-paying clients. In this case, it is better to amend their fee (if they are good otherwise) than to lose a good expert because you were too good at bargaining.


They can be stubborn

Freelancers are not necessarily good diplomats. They usually believe in the better good and they’d rather fight against you if they think that your solution is wrong. Listen. Maybe they are right and it’s just that their communication style is not very polished. But some of them don’t pay enough attention to reality and insist on solutions that are not applicable in your context.

How to handle it?

  • Make sure that the UXer understands your goals, KPIs, OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), and context so that they can make educated decisions. Nobody can make good choices without properly understanding the background.
  • Watch for early signs during the sales and contracting process. It is better to catapult in this phase than two months later when the handover will be very painful.


They might be expensive too

Though in general freelancers work for less than agencies, they are not always cheap. Since they don’t have the specialised expertise that in many cases a bigger team has, you have to pay for fixing these missing knowledge pieces. Let’s say you need a voice channel in your new offer or you really have to pay attention to accessibility. They won’t say that they can’t help you. They will just price in that they have to learn these new skills and you will be the idiot paying for their education while a bigger team could simply send the right expert to complete the necessary subproject. Although most freelancers are cheaper than an agency some of them can be pricy. For example, in Poland, you can find an agency working for €300/day but you can meet freelancers also asking for €500–€600/day. You can go very wrong if you don’t know the prices in your target country. Of course, if you find a superhero for a higher rate, just hire them because they will do the work of five other people.

How to handle it?

  • If you hire people from a different country, ask local IT friends about the prices. You can often find the local prices in studies and articles and don’t forget to ask for prices from multiple freelancers with the same level of expertise to compare their offers.
  • Ask for references for each step to be completed in your project if you are in doubt regarding your freelancer’s knowledge about the methodology or the topic in question. Don’t accept generic responses.


They hate travelling and onsite work

Some freelancers love adventure but most of them don’t. They like the freedom that translates for them to choose where they work. They usually have a nicely set up home office that they don’t like to give up easily.

How to handle it?

  • Request onsite work, travelling only if it has a real advantage. We learned during COVID-19 that in most cases remote is just fine.
  • Provide an incentive for travelling and onsite work if you really need it. Don’t be stingy about travel costs; don’t debate over taxi bills.
  • Socialise with them when they visit your office to create some positive buzz around working together.
  • Explain the value of working together from the project’s perspective. Check whether your arguments sound rational. If not, maybe it is better just to let it go.
  • Provide a high-quality environment for your freelancers that can compete with their home office: a big desk, extra monitor, strong Wi-Fi, quiet environment.
Freelancers usually feel comfortable working from home


They hate administration

Yes, all of them. Freelancers are mostly weak in administration. They make mistakes with their invoice, forget to check your 15-page frame contract on time and so on. Why? Because it is so much fun to design and so boring to deal with legal or accounting stuff. If it would be different they were lawyers or accountants and not designers. Every moment that they spend with administration takes time away from the design that they love.

How to handle it?

  • Make easy-to-digest, short contracts for your freelancers.
  • Keep the administration to the necessary minimum but with this stay strict.
  • Give them administrative help for interpreting the contract, filling it out properly, etc.
  • Have frame contacts with your regular partners and use purchase orders for the individual projects.
  • If they are silent, ask them where they are stuck.
  • Make all of your processes digital; use systems like or Eliminate paper.


They take way too many projects

Some freelancers are like cavemen. They don’t know when they can kill the next mammoth or catch the next small rabbit. So they like to take all projects whatever comes their way. Who knows whether this will be the last project? So let’s collect everything. Though this attitude sounds quite rational (and is rational in one sense) it might lead to a situation when they take your project when they are utterly overwhelmed. They start to balance the delivery of multiple projects but this might lead to lower quality, frustration, or important deadlines being missed.

How to handle it?

  • Before signing the contract try to figure out whether they are overloaded. If yes, talk with them about resolution or step back.
  • Have a fallback option.
  • Watch for early signs and discuss the resolution on time.
  • If that freelancer is your best choice pay them properly to give priority to your project.


Hard to convince them to use your software

As mentioned earlier, freelancers love their freedom. They are especially stubborn about choosing their own software. People who are working in companies are more used to using the equipment and the software they are given. Freelancers on the other hand are very hard to convince to use your software; they are convinced that their solutions are superior to yours. The bad thing is that they might be right but you can’t do anything about it!

How to handle it?

  • Stick to standardised outputs but otherwise do not restrict them.
  • Help them to understand your project management tools and machinery.
  • Check their tools and if they are better, try to adapt them.


Think twice before working with junior freelancers!

Freelancers have to master many more skills than a corporate designer. With junior freelancers, processes fall apart much more easily. Missing deadlines and delivering weak products without senior guidance are very common symptoms working with junior freelancers.

How to handle it?

Simply avoid this option unless your junior designer is very reasonably priced and having weak results and missing deadlines will have an extremely low impact on your business. But this is a very rare case!


Lower level of inclination to tolerate extra requests

During your projects, you will definitely have extra requests that were not discussed or fixed in advance. When you work with an agency, they have experienced accounts on their side who can handle your requests effectively. They charge extra money for your requests or if you are not willing to do so they simply reject you politely or they convince you that your extra requests are actually harmful to your own business. Freelancers are not that good at handling these ‘little’ requests. They simply say no, sometimes not very politely or they take the extra work but inside they curse you every moment they work on your request. Who cares, you might think. Well, it has several negative effects. They can provide you with lower quality or they simply won’t take any new projects from you since they have labeled you as a complicated client.

How to handle it?

  • Offer payment for your additional requests. Don’t try to save money by causing bigger problems.
  • If it’s hard to decide whether your request is additional or should be provided by your original agreement sit down and discuss it and reach a common agreement. Don’t abuse your strength!


Freelancers can have a lower level of inclination to tolerate extra requests


They don’t take risk

Freelancers have limited resources regarding time and money and they know it. For them, a project that gets bigger than they can handle might be devastating. For this reason, they try to avoid risk as much as possible. They won’t pick up bigger engagements for a fixed price and they try to convince you to run the project in a T&M setup. It means you are bearing all the risks, even the ones generated by your freelancers.

How to handle it?

It is better to accept reality. If you really like your freelancer because they are a good person and a good professional, take the risk. If you can’t handle it, hire an agency and work to have the setup as clear as possible.


They rarely have specialisation in one industry

Freelancers are like small companies when it comes to industry specialisation. It would be too risky for them to specialise in one industry if their market is not very big (e.g. Norway or the Netherlands) since it would be hard for them to find new projects with word-of-mouth marketing, which is their standard way to get new engagements.

How to handle it?

Hire freelancers when your business is not very complicated and does not need a deep understanding of your industry unless you want to employ the freelancer for a very long engagement and they have time to learn your specifics.


Good freelancers are not available

The best freelancers are booked for several months in advance and very often do not have 40 hours/week for your disposal.

How to handle it?

Hire superstar freelancers when you can wait. This is mostly a case when you want to set up a new start-up but are not in a hurry. If you find a good expert, it is better to wait than do something with a mediocre one when you run the risk of having to throw away everything six months later.


Hard to find the right ones

There are some really good experts for a reasonable price but often they are not good at marketing. They don’t have an impressive Bechance portfolio, a stellar LinkedIn page, etc. So if you just jump on LinkedIn and type Senior UX Strategist Amsterdam, don’t expect to find a load of good results with faces with the open to work badges.

How to handle it?

The best way to find the real pros is to ask around among your biz friends who have a huge UX network. This is how you learn whether somebody is good, whether that Product Innovation Ninja label on LinkedIn is genuine.


Special requests will come

Everybody has special requests, but experienced freelancers feel that they are in a position to ask you those things. They can’t participate in your workshops with last-minute setups; they prefer to work in the evening or at the weekend; they need to pick up their kid at 3.30 pm when you wanted to schedule that important Steering committee meeting. Not to mention that they definitely don’t want to use your obsolete corporate infrastructure.

How to handle it?

Understand their restrictions and expectations from the beginning. Talk about this topic openly. If you can’t live with them, let them go. If they are rational requests, pay for the extra troubles or at least act grateful.


Closing words

As you might see employing an experienced freelancer has significant benefits. However, if you have higher-stakes projects it might be too risky to trust an independent expert or group of experts whom you manage. In those cases probably better to build your own team or hire an experienced agency.

Share your opinion with us

    Please type your message

    Please type your email!

    Please type your message

    Send comment

    We create exceptional websites, mobile applications and software to help you realise your business goals.

    Dear Ergo,

    My name is
    . My email is
    . And I have the following message for you:


    Find out more about the topic

    Do’s and don’ts using ChatGPT in UX design

    November 27, 2023 | 9 min read

    In the ever-evolving realm of digital design, cutting-edge tools are revolutionizing how we approach UX design. Among these tools, ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, stands out as a transformative force. But...

    Atomic design methodology in UX – 7 things you need to know

    October 12, 2023 | 9 min read

    UX and UI designers apply the atomic design methodology to make consistent design changes faster and easier. But sometimes we tend to use things because of their popularity and not because we actually...