The Graphic Dilemma: Agency vs. Freelance
by Liat Kohanteb, Brand Specialist & CEO, Kre8ive Touch Design Studio
Are you considering your career options as a graphic designer?
As a designer, you have the opportunity to work in different settings, either as part of an agency or as an independent freelancer. Each option presents unique benefits and challenges.
Let's dive into the details and compare the pros and cons of both agency positions and freelance work, helping you make an informed decision about your career path.
Working in an agency allows you to learn from experienced designers who are at a higher level in their careers. This exposure to their design expertise can significantly enhance your skills. By starting in an agency, you have the chance to work your way up the ladder. Eventually, you may become one of the top designers yourself, enjoying the satisfaction of professional advancement.
Agencies offer an excellent opportunity to learn everything about client management. You will gain experience in dealing with diverse clients, understanding their needs, and delivering projects successfully. In an agency, you will learn how a well-established process operates. This knowledge is invaluable in delivering projects efficiently and effectively. Agencies often provide exposure to sales processes. This experience can be beneficial if you decide to run your own business in the future.
By sticking around long enough in an agency, you may experience a firsthand understanding of what to do and what not to do when running your own design business. You can learn from the agency's successes and failures to set yourself up for success in the future.
Another advantage of working in an agency is the opportunity to collaborate with large and influential clients who may not necessarily approach a freelancer. This exposure allows you to work with prominent businesses and non-profit organizations, gaining valuable insights into how they operate. You can witness firsthand the dynamics of committees, boards, and stakeholders, which are often integral to the decision-making processes of such entities. Furthermore, the experience of handling projects for prominent clients enhances your skills and adds confidence to your ability to meet the high standards and demands of notable organizations.
Additionally, working for an agency provides a stable income, which can bring peace of mind and financial security. Many agencies offer additional incentives such as bonuses, perks, and benefits, which can enhance your overall compensation package. Agencies usually provide vacation days, allowing you to take time off without worrying about the business. This ensures a healthy work-life balance.
However, there are some downsides to agency positions as well. Compared to freelancers, agency positions have set pay rates and raises following industry norms, while freelancers have the potential to set their own rates and negotiate higher fees based on their expertise and the value they bring clients. This ability to determine their pricing structure can lead to higher earnings for successful freelancers. This can be a significant consideration when evaluating your financial goals.
Agency work may involve rigid schedules and limited flexibility. You may have to adhere to fixed working hours, which may not suit everyone's preferences.
Lack of Autonomy
Working in an agency means dealing with different team members and their opinions. Balancing different perspectives and collaborating effectively can be challenging at times. In an agency setting, you will have a boss overseeing your work. This hierarchical structure may not appeal to those seeking more independence and autonomy.
Due to the nature of agency work, you may not have the freedom to include agency projects in your personal portfolio. This limitation can restrict your ability to showcase your skills and attract potential clients in the future.
On the other hand, freelancers have the potential to earn more money compared to agency positions. As an independent professional, you can set your rates and negotiate directly with clients. Freelancing offers the potential to scale your business. You can gradually build a client base and expand your operations to increase your income and influence.
Being a freelancer provides flexibility in managing your time. You have the freedom to choose when and where you work, allowing for a better work-life balance.
As a freelancer, you have the autonomy to select the clients and projects that align with your interests and goals. This freedom enables you to focus on projects that truly inspire you. Freelancing allows you to express your creativity without constant critique or interference. You can develop your style and produce work that showcases your unique talents.
On the contrary, freelancing also comes with its own set of challenges. Freelancing can be demanding, requiring you to take on multiple roles and responsibilities. Unlike working in an agency where specific tasks may be assigned, freelancers often find themselves wearing many hats. In addition to the design work itself, freelancers are responsible for managing client expectations, meeting deadlines, and handling various aspects of project management. This can be overwhelming for designers who prefer to focus solely on their craft without the additional burden of client communication and project coordination.
Lack of Stability
Unlike agency positions, freelancers often face periods of feast and famine, with irregular workloads. It requires diligent lead generation and converting potential leads into paying clients. Freelancers must actively search for clients and secure projects independently. Building a reliable client base takes time, effort, and effective marketing strategies. Freelancing can lack the stability of a regular income. Uncertainty about future projects and income can create financial stress.
The Graphic Decision
Deciding between an agency position and freelance work as a graphic designer is a personal choice based on your career goals, work preferences, and financial aspirations. Agencies offer valuable learning opportunities, stable income, and comprehensive experience, while freelancing provides autonomy, higher earning potential, and flexibility in managing your work.
Transitioning from an agency position to freelancing is a common path as your experience and reputation grow, allowing for more independence and control. Maintaining a work-life balance is achievable in freelancing by setting boundaries, managing time effectively, and prioritizing self-care.
To attract clients as a freelancer, focus on building a strong online presence, showcasing your portfolio, networking within the industry, and leveraging social media platforms.
Overall, both agency positions and freelancing have their own advantages and disadvantages. Understanding these pros and cons is essential in making an informed decision about your graphic design career. Consider your priorities and long-term goals, and choose the path that aligns best with your aspirations.
Liat Kohanteb Brand Specialist & CEO, Kre8ive Touch Design Studio