Archive: Sep 2013

  1. Freelance vs. Agency – Job Security, Added Hours and Other Considerations


    One of the most immediate decisions facing newly graduated designers is whether to work freelance or whether to apply to an agency – a problem that a lot will wrestle with throughout their career. Each time you jump from job to job, the niggling knowledge of working for yourself can eat away at your desire to take orders and work long hours. Each situation has its own ups and downs and it’s a case of taking stock of your priorities and capabilities to decide on which suits you best.


    The basic attraction for freelancers is the inherent prerogative to be able to choose what they work on, who they work with and when they work. But this does come at the cost of having to do a lot of the other work which wouldn’t be in your remit as an agency worker. Marketing, e-mailing, paperwork and even account management will be under your charge – meaning you’re taking on a multitude of jobs and you’ll have far less time to spend on the actual design. Being responsible for your finances and accounts can be a thorn in the side too, particularly if you’re new and inexperienced. You only file your taxes wrong once.

    Agency work tends to remove most of the administrative duties from the graphic designer, allowing the designer to focus on the job at hand. Designers who draw their motivation from the passion and enjoyment of their artwork might struggle to keep on top of things if they have to jump through the admin hoops of freelancing. Agencies will restrict you in your flexibility – tying you to individual assignments of which you (normally) have no capability to refuse or delegate, or to choose when you work on the project. Graphic design is a comparatively modern and progressive industry, meaning that a lot of agencies will write some flexibility into your working day – but it will never match the happy-go-lucky schedule of a freelancer.

    The Social Factor

    It seems affectionate and obvious to state – but freelance work can be a very social and isolated role to assume. Working alone in your chosen workspace, whether that be in your home office whilst the house is empty, or in the local library – you’ll really be on your own professionally. Agency and office workers are immersed in a much more social situation – which will result in far more psychological enjoyment throughout the working day, but can also have a professional advantage with peer reviews of your work.

    The opportunity for collaboration will offer a faster way to improve your skills and the natural social life in the office can work wonders in reducing the stress of an intensive workload. On the flip side, the vicious politics of an office can be distracting and debilitating to the worker without 100% focus.

    Rewards and Wellbeing

    The satisfaction on delivering for a large project at your agency can feel great – but you can’t match the feeling of a freelance client’s satisfaction when you’ve brokered and commanded the assignment from the ground up. With your freelance cap on – you can choose your own clients, set your own rates and work your own hours. The canny freelancer will select clients with projects they can always smash expectations on – and collect glowing testimonials by the dozen. Don’t forget that working from home can save you the time and money you’d spend on the commute – which you can instantly convert into productivity. But be aware that holidays or vacations can be unheard of – your home becomes your office and you’ll find that any time spent watching TV can quickly make you feel guilty. Add to the fact that freelancers are often hired during ‘crunch’ times and you might find that the stress and intensity of individual projects can be much higher than the steady pace of an agency with long term contracts.

    At an agency – most days the graphic designer will come in, work steady hours and go home, relatively stress free. The regularity of pay cheques can help you budget for life’s little mishaps too, something freelancers bemoan. One of the main disadvantages of agency work is that whilst the workload and lifestyle might seem more stable, the market can result in unpredictable hiring and firing practices.


    If you can handle the uncertainty and extreme self-motivation needed to go fully freelance, you can be in for a great life without rules and anybody to answer to. If you’d rather make the concession and live a more social, involved life with an agency guaranteeing your job – perhaps this is the path for you. The challenge and freedom of freelance is appealing, but it comes down to your personal preferences to make the decision. Take a frank assessment of yourself and ask whether you can really pull yourself out of bed on the cold winter mornings to shuffle over to another room and sit there for 8 hours. Psychologically, it can be difficult.

    But you can watch TV while you work…

    Photo Credit to *spo0ky*
  2. Attract New Clients & Keep Existing Ones

    Comments Off on Attract New Clients & Keep Existing Ones

    In the design world, your relationship with clients is one of the easiest ways you could find to market yourself. No cost, no special effort, just making sure you treat the people who pay for your services more than walking work projects.

    This is common knowledge to some extent. But, as freelancers will note, sometimes you just can’t get your head above water long enough to pay some extra attention to the people behind your incoming projects. Of course, this is a problem you’ll have to manage for yourself, but we’re here to remind you what to keep in mind as a permanent side goal, regardless of specifics (projects and people).

    Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Well, it’s a little more complicated because as you may have noticed how in the previous paragraph we’re assuming your clients already have chosen you to work for them. If you haven’t actually got to optimizing your presentation so as to attract prospective clients’ business, we’ve covered that in the following article.

    Portfolio approach


    What message would you like to convey through your portfolio? Often, designers feel the need to indirectly “boast” in their portfolios, focusing on their highest accomplishments in terms of well-known projects they might have handled or technically difficult designs. This is called “playing it safe”. Unfortunately, safe somewhat implies unremarkable.

    Why do you think your clients choose you? What separates you from the crowd? Your involvement in certain projects do show you were trusted in the past. But do they say anything about who you are?
    We are all different people, with different ideas. Being remarkable means nothing else than showcasing your own ideas, telling the story of who you are and why you do what you do. Quality work does speak for itself, but it only goes so far as to pull in attention and interest. Your potential clients have more than likely done their research. You need to leave an imprint in their minds.

    So, what are we trying to say? Think of your portfolio less as a business card and more as a ‘creativity profile’. Include personal projects in your portfolio, include the works you used to do when you weren’t so focused on technique, but excited about the artistic side of things. Every passionate designer has some past and present projects of his or her own, encompassing their personal vision. Show that vision to your clients and you’ll start getting discovered by the right people.

    Write your pitch


    Wait! First thing’s first. Before you get to be chosen by potential clients, you need to make yourself known to them. When this doesn’t happen because they’ve found your work online – or perhaps you’ve been referred to them by someone else, it usually means that you’re going to have to forward an application. Some designers feel the need to go overboard by composing a motivation letter as to why they should be chosen for the job. This isn’t the best way to do it, though. Some people won’t even care about who you are or what you’ve done; more importantly, they’ll focus on what your actual work looks and feels like. Keep it short, simple, make sure to link to your portfolio.

    After they’ve agreed to meet with you, you’ll have to convince them that you can handle their project with eyes closed and hands behind your back. Confidence in your concept while pitching it is a must. Many designers hate this part of the job, which is pretty mandatory if freelancing.

    While you need to stay sincere – and if you’re the introverted type we certainly won’t tell you to act differently – feeling like you can handle the project is what made you apply in the first place, isn’t it? This isn’t about “selling yourself”, it’s simply about showing who you are to your client/investor. Your ideas, your work, these also make up who you are as a person when you’re professionally creative.

    So, on to the point. Know your audience: do your research on the client and see if he or she makes a good fit for your style or future goals. When you decide this is the case, do even more research on them and whatever product/concept you’re supposed to work around. Create your pitch starting from the essential 2 or 3 ideas you have for the project. It’s been known to happen for some investors to be in a rush, so be prepared to express the main points hastily, but naturally. Go further into detail when writing your pitch, but don’t get hung up on little things. These are likely to matter only after you’ve received the job. Lastly, make sure you tell the client what advantages he or she will be enjoying if they decide to go with you.

    Client relationships


    Congratulations, you got the job! Next you’ll get to doing what you do best and probably need no more guidance. But it’s time to come full circle with this article, so here we are back to what great relationships with clients should be like.

    Being considerate towards your clients’ needs and wants is still the most valuable advice we can give you. This means taking the time to get to know them. Some may appreciate if you take them through the whole process, explaining everything in between concept and realization. Others may not want to know anything about it, but even if they don’t, they’ll appreciate the offer. It shows that you care about what you’re involved in, seeing it as more than just an income boost.

    You don’t have to be a people person to pay attention and empathize with your client. Think of it this way – what would you want out of a designer? How would you like to be handled, what would you like to be told and in what way. Generally, attention to detail and interest in people go a long way. This is how recurring clients get made and how referrals to friends or business associates start circulating. But don’t, by any means, do it only for show. You need to be sincere. Contrary to what some may think, hypocrisy isn’t quite so hard to detect.



    To sum up, the key is being yourself all the way. Doing what comes natural to you, what you enjoy usually ensures you do the best work you’re capable of both in terms of substance and form.

    We encourage you to share your successful pitch experiences. Or, better yet, tell us about your presentation mistakes. You could help other designers avoid the same mistakes you did. We’d also be interested to know how you address your relationships with clients. Do you approach them more as a friendly acquaintance rather than thinking of them as just a “boss”?

    Photo credit to baggyjumper

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