Hiring Freelance Designer vs Design Agency (5 Benefits)

If you’re reading this article, you may wonder what are the pros and cons of hiring a Freelance Designer vs Design Agency.

There has been always a debate that every company needs to face: Should we hire a professional design agency or a freelance designer?

Perhaps you need a new logo & brand identity system, website design or any other type of print/digital designs for your brand. So, the chances are that you ask yourself:

What's better: to hire a graphic designer or a design firm? Click To Tweet

Hey, you’re in the right place!

The purpose of this article is to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each. To do so, I distinguish five important criteria that can help you determine which is the best fit for your project.

I will walk you through the benefits of hiring each, so you can make a decision that suits your needs best. Remember that my goal is to help you chose the right graphic design services provider. Whether it is an independent designer or a design firm.

Freelance Designer vs Design Agency

Should I hire a remote designer or local agency
Should I hire a remote designer or local agency

My intention is to offer a fair comparison in terms of five areas that I found are most important to any type of clients. I have distilled the following 5 key criteria:

  1. Price
    For big players, money is not a problem but for smaller business’ or startups it might be an issue. The budget can be limited. The reality is: cost alone is often the number one reason behind the decision of who to hire. However, it is important to consider several other factors before awarding the job.
  2. Quality
    In theory, quality should be the most important driver in the decision making. But you’ve probably heard the expression before “you get what you pay for” and that is generally true. Even if the price is right for you, make sure the style and quality is a good fit.
  3. Flexibility
    No matter how good the quality or how low the cost is, it won’t do you any good if your project comes in late and you miss a critical deadline. If you have a project that absolutely must hit a specific launch date, this could be the single most important criteria for your decision.
  4. Experience
    The simple fact is the more experienced you are, the more efficient you are. Hiring an inexperienced freelancer at a very low hourly rate could ultimately cost you more if takes few times longer to get the job done. Or even worse, you might never get it right and would have to hire someone else.
  5. Communication
    Nothing can ruin a project faster than putting trust in someone who isn’t dependable. If you’ve ever encountered unanswered e-mails or phone calls that regularly go straight to voicemail, you can relate to just how important these criteria is.

Now, that you understand the decision-making criteria, let’s take a look as to how freelancers and agencies rank in each category. But first, let’s start by asking yourself these three questions about the project at hand:

  • What is the vision of my finished product?
  • How complex is my project?
  • What is my budget?

With this information in hand, we can start looking at the pros and cons of each option. In this article, I’m assuming that both (the freelancer and the professional agency) are highly-reputable and outstanding in their respective work.

I know you don’t have much time and this post is long. So I prepared an infographic to summarize advantages and disadvantages of working with both.

Have a look at the infographic below: Freelancer vs Agency.

Freelancer vs Agency
Freelancer vs Agency – 5 criteria

Working With A Freelance Graphic Designer

Often, the reason why a professional chooses to become a freelancer is that they are talented at a specific niche skill-set. For example, if your startup or existing company needs some branding work done, you can likely find a freelance brand identity designer who is up to the task.

Let’s face it, being a freelance graphic designer is tough. In what other arena is one person responsible for answering the phones, balancing the books, paying the bills, designing the website, creating the graphics, and working with the customers throughout the entire process?

So if the freelancer can manage to be a one man banding and remain professional, this is probably who you want to work with. Someone who is dedicated 24h not only 9-5pm. Why? Because he/she will get down to work at their best convenience and won’t be limited to working hours.

The reason to hire a graphic designer who worked previously at design agencies is that he/she can provide you with the same top quality work, but for much less money. They won’t waste time on the commute to the office and will truly dedicate to your project.

And I’m a living example. I’ve been working with some of the top branding agencies. So I if you hired an agency like CGH from New York some time ago I would be designing your logo. I would get assigned to your project. Therefore, you’re getting the same service but you pay signifantly more.

Make sure you know about the types of different graphic designers, before you hire a specialist in the field.

Why? Because if you choose the wrong type of designer, it can lead to frustration and disappointment. When it comes to hiring a freelancer you have to make sure you’re hiring an expert. Web Designer can design a logo, but won’t as efficient and effective as a logo designer and vice versa.

Brand Identity Designer
Freelance Graphic Designer working at the office.

5 advantages/disadvantages of working with a freelance graphic designer

  1. Price
    Advantage
    Freelancers typically are able to offer lower pricing than agencies. Rates can vary from as little as $25/hour to more than $150/hour. Freelancers will always be able to offer lower pricing than agencies. Many freelance graphic designers work from home office, so overhead costs are drastically lower than a company who has to pay the office rent and all the people working there. These savings for the freelancer can get passed down to the client.
  2. Quality
    Disadvantage
    If you choose to work with an inexperienced designer you won’t get the best quality. Most freelance graphic designers are passionate about delivering a quality product, but an only true expert can do so. They’ll do everything to provide you with the type of work that both you and they’re proud of. It’s simple – more referrals equal more business. Remember to check portfolio for quality.
  3. Flexibility
    Advantage
    Because many freelancers don’t have additional personnel to rely on, it doesn’t mean that a 40-hour project could take 2-3 weeks. I think it’s the opposite. A true expert will work fast anytime and anywhere. No matter if you pay a fixed price or hourly, you will always meet the deadline because they manage their time themselves. So your call at 11 pm can get answered and your print files will be ready by next morning.
  4. Experience
    Disadvantage
    You have to choose the right designer for the type of project that needs to be done. I can’t stress enough. That’s not to say there aren’t freelancers who are versatile in the services they offer, but for the most part, an agency with multiple designers employed will obviously be able to offer you a more well-rounded collection of services. However, If you hire an experienced designer, the whole process will be smoother, shorter and result in a better-designed product. Hire only experts.
  5. Communication
    Advantage

    Unlike design agencies who don’t have set work hours. So, many freelancers will respond to evening and weekend emails and phone calls. Because freelancing is supplemental income for many freelancers, they will dedicate to your project – it’s on their top priority list. When you hire a self-employed freelancer, you have also the benefit of one on one communication throughout your project. You’re dealing with one person and no middle man.

One of the main considerations when hiring someone to help you with any type of your graphic design project should be that you like their work.

It’s especially true when you hire a graphic designer. When hiring a freelancer, what you see is what you get. Usually, a freelancer’s portfolio consists of projects they alone have worked on. With an agency, the portfolio is going to consist of work from multiple designers, so it’s more or less the actual one who will be handling your project.

Working With A Design Firm/Agency

The biggest advantage of hiring a professional company is the access to an entire multifaceted team able to accommodate all of your design, development and marketing needs.

Furthermore, since every aspect of the project is delivered by one team, the final product is more consistent and polished. However, you can solve that if you were to hire several freelancers with a dedicated manager or a creative director to oversee the team work.

Professional agencies have cumulated invaluable experience working together to deliver comprehensive, high-quality projects for their clients, assuming of course, that the chosen team consists of true experts. Not merely junior designers or interns performing under the minimum supervision of a professional who is spread between multiple projects.

Design Agency Office
Design Agency working at the office.

5 advantages/disadvantages of working with an agency

  1. Price
    Disadvantage In general, prices are higher. For any particular service, it is generally more expensive to work with a design agency than to hire a freelancer. One of my recent clients even said, “I asked a local agency but the price was ridiculously high”. The cost of the services provided by design agencies includes a range of other expenses that are not included in the bills of freelancers.
  2. Quality
    Advantage Design firms with many hands on deck are able to offer broader skill sets than their freelancer counterparts. But it doesn’t mean you’re going to get the most creative solution on Earth. Design agencies do have more resources but often struggle with creativity. The concepts must go through many hands before landing on your desk. This process can simply block creativity of great designers working there, but afraid of trying new things and get ridiculed.
  3. Flexibility
    Disadvantage An agency can assign multiple people to your project in order to meet even the most challenging deadline – it’s true. But an agency won’t be flexible. The deadlines will be much longer, and every presentation must be scheduled. Same with meeting or phone calls – a design firm operates within standard office hours, so you won’t get an immediate response when you need that print files overnight.
  4. Experience
    Advantage Since agencies consist of more employees than one person, it’s more likely you’ll find a broad range of experience across multiple specialties. Design firms with many hands on deck are able to offer you complex services and handle larger work loads. This can be convenient for clients in need of a variety of services and bigger projects but don’t feel like hiring multiple freelancers. That’s not to say there aren’t freelancers who are versatile in the services they offer, but for the most part, an agency with multiple designers employed will obviously have more horsepowers.
  5. Communication
    Disadvantage 
    When dealing with an agency, you have to always reach someone during normal business hours. It might be the that a secretary or manager acts as the main point of contact, relaying messages between designer and client. Every appointment should be planned in advance. Therefore, design agencies are less flexible than sole freelancers. So, you’re not getting an immediate response, but tomorrow at 9 am if not a few days later.

These were the basic benefits and drawbacks of working with sole freelancers and designs agencies. But going back to our original question:

Should you hire a freelancer or an agency?

While there may not be one answer that’s right for everyone. I hope this article has given you more to think about than just which one is cheaper. So let’s sum up what we’ve learned so far.

So what’s better? A freelancer or an agency?

Making the right choice and ending up with a product that suits your needs best can ultimately have just as much of an impact on your bottom line as the cost of the project itself. So, it’s up to every client to make the choice. My recommendation is the following.

When you should hire an agency

In general, a professional agency is best at delivering complex work, especially when the project is not yet defined. It especially applies to bigger, established companies.

If you're a well-established brand, then opt for a more costly alternative and hire an agency. Click To Tweet

Remember, everything depends on your specific project and your specific needs. Take a deep look into your objectives, timeline, internal skill-sets, and budget, and use them as a framework to find the best possible partner for your project.

When you should hire a freelancer

In general, freelancers tend to perform best when hired for a specialized task. Define your project and make a list of services that you need to be done. Make your choice based on your needs.

Having a set of needs listed on paper will make it far easier to communicate with candidates and explain what exactly you want to attain in the end.

If you're a startup or a small business - you should hire a freelancer with quality portfolio. Click To Tweet

Communication is a must-have aspect of any cooperation. Does a freelancer or agency think the same way with you? Were you provided with clear solutions that can work effectively for you?

Ultimately, there is no one correct answer for choosing a professional development agency or a freelancer.

Disclaimer:

Because every agency/freelancer is different, there may be exceptions to the rule of thumb mentions above. Pardon, If I have forgotten any important aspects of working with an agency vs a freelancer.

Please share your experience by commenting below.