Working As A Freelance Graphic Designer Vs Agency

585 396 Derek Kimball

freelance graphic designer

For any fellow designers thinking about making the switch from working at a design agency to becoming a freelance graphic designer (or vise versa), below are some pros and cons of each. I base the following on my experience working as a freelance graphic designer for the past 8 years, as well as time spent doing some agency work.

Pros Of Working As A Freelance Graphic Designer:

freelance graphic designer

  • Ability to pick your own work hours (for the most part).
  • More time with family if you work out of a home office.
  • Create a work environment that suites your needs.
  • You can pick and choose which design projects you want to take on.
  • Not having to answer to anyone except your client.
  • More creative freedom and control of the direction a project should move in.
  • No fighting traffic or dressing up (unless you work out of an office or are meeting with a client).
  • Since you make your own hours, getting daytime chores accomplished is possible.

Cons Of Working As A Freelance Graphic Designer:

sleeping at work

  • It can be difficult to make a lot of money in today’s industry of crowdsourcing, outsourcing and over saturation.
  • Most designers have to work an insane amount of hours to remain competitive.
  • You have to wear many hats (marketing, client relations, design work, maintaining a website, keeping online profiles up to date, blogging, business documents, etc).
  • Doing taxes can be a bit more complicated than when working with an agency.
  • You have to purchase your own software, computers, fonts, office equipment and so on.
  • It can be easy to get distracted with no supervision.
  • Children or roommates can be distracting if you work from a home office.
  • No discounted health insurance or retirement plans with being a freelancer.

Pros Of Working For A Design Agency:

graphic designers collaborating

  • You know how much money you’re bringing in each week.
  • Easier to separate work and home life.
  • Agency workers tend to make more money than freelance graphic designers.
  • Fewer distractions than you’d have at home with no supervision.
  • Easier to stick to a schedule than being a freelancer.
  • Build collaborative and team work skills (if that’s your thing).
  • The ability to learn from other creatives in your work space.
  • Health benefits and retirement packages are often offered at agencies.
  • You learn to work faster (some consider this a plus…although I think it effects quality).

Cons Of Working For A Design Agency:

fighting traffic

  • Inability to showcase designs you created at an agency, in your personal portfolio.
  • Pompous coffee breath bosses who like to talk down at you.
  • Wasting hours of your life every week fighting traffic.
  • Putting miles on your vehicle and spending money on gas.
  • Lack of sunshine…it’s easy to take a mid day break as a freelancer.
  • Limited break times for stretching or giving your back a rest.
  • Rushed atmosphere where brainstorming seems less important than execution.
  • Workplace drama (unless you get lucky and work with all cool people).
  • Not being able to take care of daytime chores when needed.
  • Vacation days are limited and taking time off requires advanced notice.
  • Usually not being able to pick and choose the projects you want to work on.

I wrote a similar article awhile back titled “Pros and Cons of Graphic Design Self Employment“, which touches on similar points if you’d be interested in reading it. Anyways…let me know (comment section below) if I’m missing any pros/cons above. As always, thanks for reading.


Derek Kimball

Derek is the founder of DesignBuddy and a full time graphic designer. He specializes in logo creation and visual branding. Over the past 13 years Derek has helped hundreds of clients grow their business and establish a stronger brand identity. View his portfolio, or get in touch. If you'd like to receive an occasional free newsletter with useful design related content, please subscribe here.

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