Work for an Agency or go Freelance?

A Designer’s dilemma: “Work for an agency or go freelance?”

Are you fresh out of school and thinking of ways to add to your work portfolio on a part-time basis, or have you worked for an agency for the past 10 or more years and are now ready to stand on your own two feet and take advantage of the experience you’ve acquired? Whatever your situation might be, every designer has at least once in his life considered going freelance. Just think about it: working with the clients you want, on the projects you choose and at the time that’s convenient for you. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Before you do, or do not decide to make the transfer, there are a few things you must take into account.

When working as a freelancer:

The perception: Image
As David Airey asks in his “Are freelance designers really suckers?” blog, “When someone tells you they’re a freelancer, what are your immediate thoughts?” What David is saying here, is that not everyone will consider you an expert in the field because you are on your own. Some people have the perception that work done by an independent designer will not be as good as the one executed by an agency. This is unfortunately a common misconception that independent designers have to live with.

The clients:
As a designer you will encounter clients, who won’t necessarily hire you to “design”, but rather to reproduce on paper the exact idea they have in their head. They don’t care about the fact that you have 20 years of experience and know what works and what doesn’t.

They will call you. And again. And then once more:
No they’re not concerned with the fact that you’re working on a different project at this moment. It’s your job to answer them, answer their questions and do so every other time they call again.

Last Minute:
You will have your clients calling you for last minute changes and they expect you to execute the request for them asap. After all, these last minute changes might be the reason why they gave the project to you and not to a design agency.

Late calls: Image
You probably got it by now. Yes, it’s your job to reply to them, or at least to call back as soon as you can.

Late nights:
You do get to make your schedule and go to the beach on Wednesday. Yet as a trade off, you’ll have to pull late nights and eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at your desk.

Unpaid Invoices:
You will have to play the role of a credit collections agency and call out your clients on unpaid invoices. Remember to always stay polite and professional. Your future success depends on your reputation and word of mouth.

Never stop learning:
Design school isn’t over once you leave it, as a matter of fact, its end is the beginning of a new learning process. The latest cover of Design Edge Canada carries the quote of a successful photographer Shin Sugino: “Evolve or die”. Sugino attributes his success to constant learning and pushing the boundaries to always be ahead of the game. So make sure to stay up to date on what’s new and upcoming.

You are your own boss now and managing a business involves managing its financials. However you don’t have to do it all on your own. Hire a good accountant and enjoy the benefits of going solo.


It won’t be easy:
Beginnings are rarely easy. You will need to:
– Create a reputation for yourself, network to establish your client list and grow it.
– Manage your time accordingly to have all the projects completed by the deadline.
– Type out contracts and determine the correct pricing for your work.
– Learn to deal with rejection and alter your work numerous times until your client’s needs are satisfied.
– Constantly promote yourself. Many designers find themselves doing free, or charity work to get their names out in the public eye. Other type of free work involves overtime to complete your project on time. So estimate correctly the time you will need, but this is also something that comes with experience.

October 17, 2013 by Ekaterina Moustafina