Design Agency or Freelancer?

As a business owner at some point you’re going to need to scour the internet and look at hiring somebody to design something to help move your business forward. This could be as a start-up and looking for an entire brand for your fledgling company, or you may be well established but feel you’ve neglected your online presence and need a new website design.

Whatever your company size or industry it’s going to happen and when you do make that decision another one is quick to follow. Should you hire a design agency or a freelancer to undertake this project for you?

It’s a valid question and one which requires several more to answer fully. That’s because a freelancer and a design agency can offer you very different services within the same industry.

the project size.

The first aspect to consider is what type of project are you undertaking? Is it a one-off flyer design or is a fully immersive brand identity relaying into a comprehensive marketing strategy and online presence? Obviously the latter may be just a tad too much for one person to undertake in a reasonable time-frame and an agency would be the only choice. However, that’s a simple scenario. I’m going to explore the grey area where both a design agency and a freelancer are a viable option.

During my career I’ve worked at a small agency, as a freelancer, and now run an agency of my own. Even I struggle to know where the line is. I often felt as a freelancer companies wouldn’t give me a second look for their projects as they felt it was too much for an individual to undertake, whereas I probably disagreed. I felt like the efficiency of working on my own more than made up for the lack of man power, and plus if all of the work is undertaken by one person it’s bound to be more cohesive, right?

Since setting up Foundation Design Agency and working on projects with my colleagues I’ve discovered that I was possibly slightly blinkered in my approach as a freelancer. Yes, I could have completed the work, and to a very high standard, but I wasn’t accounting for problems along the way, problems that would be near impossible to solve with just one person running everything.

Simply put, when it becomes a large scale project with a realistic time-frame, there’s just no substitute for more manpower. 

the project type.

One major misconception is that freelancers are only specialists and only useful for one specific project type. Whilst that may be true for some, it most certainly is not the case across the board. It’s fairly accurate to assume that a design agency will be able to offer more services and have a larger skill set than a freelancer it does not mean they themselves are not capable of taking a project involving 2-3 different skills along the way.

As a freelancer I marketed myself as a logo design and branding specialist, which is the area I originally trained in. However, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t able to work on projects outside of my specialist area but now at Foundation we all stick to our specialist areas and that way nothing but the highest quality is produced.

It is unlikely though that a freelancer will have the skills required to also develop more complex websites, or put together marketing strategies and create engaging copy for online and offline materials as well as general design skills. This is where a design agency really comes into its own element.

working relationship.

When it comes to hiring someone to undertake your design project you’re not going to do so based solely on their work, you also hire them based on the type of relationship you want moving forward. There are obviously differences between the type of customer-client relationship when it comes to freelancers and a design agency.

Many businesses prefer the closer working relationship you get with a freelancer. Knowing you’re only dealing with the same person each time and that they understand your business and ideas thoroughly because they’ve been there from the start.

Others may prefer to be able to talk to someone different every once in a while, to feel like they can bounce fresh ideas off them, or to be reassured by someone else that everything is moving in the right direction.

We like to offer a middle ground when it comes to our working relationships. We will take the time to get to know you and you will deal with the person specialist to your project, but if you feel the need to talk it over with someone else we’re more than happy to help.

so, design agency or freelancer?

Ultimately, for most businesses, this is going to come down to personal preference. I set up Foundation to bridge the gap between design agency and freelance. We’re a small team so the close working relationship you get with a freelancer is still there but we have a vast array of skills and experience between us that allow us to tackle much greater challenges than any of us could individually.

Why not give us a call and discuss your project and we will happily advise if we think a design agency like Foundation is right for you, or if you’d be a better fit with an experienced freelance designer.

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About the author

Foundation is a graphic design agency and web design agency founded by freelance logo and brand identity design Mark Sims - 'The Logo Mark'.

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