Top 4 Differences Between In-house vs Agency for Design Work

To hire in-house or to work with design agency? Read this article to learn about the top 4 differences between in-house vs agency when delivering UX work.

Written by:
David Yap
Jun 22, 2023
Last Update:
Oct 15, 2023
5 mins read

Every business wants good design because it sells like hot pancakes.

However, not all businesses have the same approach to getting the design work done and out to the market. 

Some prefer to hire an in-house designer or build their own design and product team, while others choose to outsource their design needs to an agency. 

Both options have their pros and cons, and the best choice depends on various factors such as your budget, goals, resources, and preferences. 

The top 4 big differences between in-house vs agency are:

  • Cost
  • Combined Expertises
  • Risks
  • Numbers of Skill Sets

In this article, we will tell you exactly the top 4 big differences between in-house vs agency when delivering UX work, and help you decide which one is right for you. 

#1: Cost

The cost is one of the most significant differences between in-house and agency.


Hiring an in-house means you have to account for salaries, benefits, training, equipment, software, and other overhead costs. Additionally, the recruitment process can be time-consuming and expensive, especially when you're looking for top talent in a competitive market. Retaining this talent also requires continuous investment in their professional development and job satisfaction.

➕ Complete control over the design process

➕ Potentially deeper understanding & resonance towards your brand.

➖ Higher costs due to salaries, benefits, training, equipment, and overhead costs. 

➖ Time and resources needed for recruitment and retention.


Hiring an agency can be more cost-effective and it eliminates the need for a continuous salary and benefits package, and you don't have to worry about the costs associated with hiring, training, or managing a team of designers. The agency handles all of these aspects. Furthermore, working with an agency offers more flexibility and scalability.

You can always adjust your budget and project scope according to your changing needs and goals.

➕ More cost-effective, only pay for services when needed.

➕ Flexibility and scalability in budget and project scope.

➕ No need to pay for software subscriptions.

➖ Potentially lesser control over the design process since agencies typically don’t work in the same office as you. 

#2: Combined Expertise

The level and range of expertise available also differ significantly between in-house and agency.


An in-house designer or a design team can be trained to have a deep understanding of your brand, product, industry, and target audience. However, an in-house team's skills and experience might be limited by the people you hire.

A single in-house designer may not possess all the knowledge and abilities required to execute everything, which leads to the need of hiring more people to cover all aspects of design, such as UI/UX design, graphic design, web development, animation, etc.

➕  Deep understanding of your brand and audience. 

➕ Close collaboration with other departments.

➖ Limited skills and experience. 

➖ May need to hire multiple people to cover all design aspects.


In contrast, an agency can offer the all-in-one design services and skills that you may not have access to in-house.

An agency typically has a team of experts who specialize in different areas of design and who are constantly updating their knowledge and tools according to the latest trends and best practices. This breadth of expertise can bring fresh perspectives and creativity to your design projects.

However, an agency is usually not as committed as an in-house team. They may also have multiple clients to work with at the same time.

➕ Wide range of design services and skills. 

➕ Fresh perspectives and creativity.

➕ Battle tested from working with various different industries and projects.

➖ May have other clients to attend to.

➖ You cannot expect extreme commitment like in-house team members would.

#3: Risks

The amount of risk involved is another key difference between in-house and agency.


Hiring an in-house means you have to deal with the challenges of staffing, training, and retaining your design employees. Regardless of who you hired, training and developing your design staff can also be costly and resource-intensive.

Moreover, retaining your design employees can be challenging due to high turnover rates and employee dissatisfaction.

If things go wrong, leaders often take the blame first, you bear the responsibility and accountability for your design results. You also have to deal with any issues or conflicts that may arise within or between your design team members.

➕ Full control over the design process. 

➕ Direct accountability for design results.

➖ Challenges of staffing, training, and retention. 

➖ Full responsibility for design results and team issues.

➖ A great hire can be extremely game-changing but a wrong hire is very costly.


With agency, you don’t have to worry about staffing, training, or HR issues. The agency will take care of finding, hiring, and managing their own team of designers who are qualified and experienced in their fields. 

Furthermore, you can share most of the responsibility and accountability for your design outcomes with the agency. You can set clear expectations and goals with the agency, and hold them accountable for delivering on them. 

However, hiring an agency is not all roses.

You have to trust the agency to represent your brand’s interest in the best possible way. You also have to rely on the agency to provide you with accurate and timely data and reports on your design performance.

➕ Reduced staffing and HR issues. 

➕ Shared responsibility for design outcomes.

➖ Need to trust the agency to represent your brand well. 

➖ Dependence on agency for accurate performance data.

#4: Number of Skill Sets

The number of skills and resources available is another crucial difference between in-house and agency.


An in-house designer usually only comes with a limited number of skills. You may not be able to afford or find all the specialists or generalists you need to cover all aspects of design. You may also not be able to access or afford all the tools and technologies you need to execute and measure your design projects.

➕ Potential for deep understanding of your brand and audience. 

➕ Close collaboration with other departments.

➖ Limited skill set and resources. 

➖ May not be able to cover all design aspects or afford necessary tools.


Conversely, an agency can have a larger number of skills and resources at their disposal. An agency can have a diverse and talented team of designers who can handle any design challenge or opportunity.

An agency can also have access to the latest and most advanced tools and technologies that can help you optimize and improve your design performance.

However, having more numbers does not necessarily mean having better quality or results. You also have to consider the relevance and effectiveness of the skills and resources provided by each option.

➕ Larger skill pool and more resources. 

➕ Can handle various design challenges and use the latest tools.

➖ More doesn't always mean better.

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About our author

photo of David Yap
Written by
David Yap

David is the founder of Zensite, a product design agency based in Singapore. Since 2016, David have been involved in many UI UX related topics covering user experience, product design, digital experience and also founded Friends of Figma, a Figma Community in Malaysia.

photo of Fiha Febiala
Reviewed by
Fiha Febiala

Fiha is a passionate product designer hailing from Indonesia. With a background as a Frontend developer, Fiha transitioned my career into the dynamic world of product design. Fiha is dedicated to translating conceptual visions into user-friendly interfaces that resonate with users. In meantime, Fiha serve as a mentor, guiding aspiring individuals who seek to delve deeper into the realms of UI/UX.


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