When searching for graphic design services, you’ll come across a mix of independent (freelance) designers and multi-person design agencies. While both options are adequate, knowing which is better suited for your particular needs can save you time and money. Below are a list of pros and cons to hiring an independent / freelance designer vs hiring a larger design agency.
Benefits Of Hiring A Freelance / Independent Graphic Designer:
Cost Of Services:
Freelance / independent designers typically offer much lower pricing for their services, compared to larger design agencies. Many freelance designers work alone from a home office, so their overhead costs are less than what an agency spends on things such as: larger office/building space, secretaries, executive salaries, employee health insurance, etc. These expenses are ultimately passed down to the client in the form of higher prices.
This isn’t to say independent designers like myself don’t have many business costs. I’ve invested tens of thousands of dollars into my business on things like education, computers, fonts, software licensing, stock imagery, accounting, and so on. My taxes are also very high, since I don’t receive the tax contributions which employees receive from their employers. Yet, my home office space, lack of a secretary, etc saves me money; which is why I can charge much less than a firm.
When you hire an independent, you have the benefit of direct communication with the designer. This typically is not the case when working with a multi-person agency, who delegate client communication to a secretary or project manager. This lack of one on one contact with your designer may prove to be challenging, as things can be misinterpreted and simple requests delayed.
Unlike design agencies who usually have set work hours, many freelancers work long days, are more flexible with their availability, and willing to respond to evening or weekend inquiries (as long as it’s not a phone call at midnight or 6am). So if you find the M-F 9-5 scheduling a bit restrictive for your design needs, find a freelancer who works long hours and will be accommodating to your schedule. Not all independents offer after hours availability, so it’s a good idea to establish your needs prior to hiring a designer.
One of the main considerations when choosing your designer(s) should be their portfolio. Every designer has their own work style and set of abilities, so naturally you should hire someone who’s style and quality of past work aligns with your needs/tastes. Naturally, this will increase the likelihood that you’ll be satisfied with the outcome of a project.
When you hire an independent designer, you have the advantage of hiring with the expectation that what they create for you will be on par with the quality and style of their past work. The issue with hiring a multi-person design firm, is their portfolio will consist of works by many different designers, with a mix of styles and levels of quality. You may end up having a designer assigned to your project who’s work you’re not particularly fond of, or maybe they’re new to the company all together.
With that said, if you’re wanting to go the agency route with your project and you find their portfolio of work to be varied in quality or style, make sure to let your point of contact know which portfolio pieces you’re drawn to most. Request that the creators of those particular designs be assigned to your project if possible.
Benefits Of Hiring A Design Firm/Agency:
One Stop Shop:
Design firms with many hands on deck are able to offer broader skill sets than their freelancer counterparts. This can be convenient for clients in need of a variety of services, but don’t feel like hiring multiple freelancers to get the job done. That’s not to say there aren’t freelancers well versed in a variety of skill sets; but multi-person design agencies will have a broader depth of services available, more years of combined experience, and will be able to distribute projects between designers best suited for each task.
Larger Work Loads:
An agency with multiple designers on board can handle larger client work loads than any freelancer. This may be beneficial for clients with consistent design needs and/or for those needing something done yesterday. There may be a downside to this approach however… since every designer has their own style, the various components of your project may end up lacking a cohesive aesthetic.
While freelancers are typically available to their clients more hours of the day compared to agencies with set work hours, sometimes we get sick or experience family troubles. In these instances, clients can be left waiting longer than expected for their project to be completed or certain tasks to be handled. And if your freelance designer goes on vacation, you may have to wait a few days for assistance (unless a secondary contact is provided). This isn’t an issue when working with a design firm / agency, since they have multiple persons on hand. Though during major holidays when agencies close their doors, some freelancers remain available to their clients.
Please note: these pros and cons are general rules of thumb. Every designer and design company is different, and therefor not every point mentioned in this article is applicable to all. To ensure the best possible experience with whoever you hire, consider quality of work, experience, communication, reviews, and areas of specialty. Hiring strictly based on price may cost you more in the long run. Thanks for reading.