Hire a freelancer or an Agency?

Once you’ve decided to invest in your brand’s future and develop an identity as unique as your product, the next step is finding a designer to work with. You have several choices: work with a local or regional design firm, work with an independent designer, or work with an anonymous designer offered by one of the budget online logo design sites. As with anything, there are pros and cons to each choice.

I’m not a fan of the work I’ve seen so far coming out of the budget online logo design sites and there have been some ethically grey allegations against some of these sites for possible copyright violations, so make sure to do some research if you think this is the right option for your business and budget.Typically, for small or medium businesses who want to create a custom brand identity, the choice is whether to work with a design firm or a freelance graphic designer. Here is my perspective on how these options stack up against each other.

Variety

A design agency will probably offer more variety if you aren’t sure yet what creative direction you’d like to take. Agencies are usually staffed with many designers with varied styles. A freelance designer will likely have depth in one or two defined styles. This is neither good nor bad, it just depends on what you are trying to achieve with your project. However, if you have a specific style in mind, it will likely be easier to find a freelance designer that you know has the style you want, where as with a design firm, you’ll never know what designer your project has been assigned to.

Exclusivity

On exclusivity, I think working with a freelancer is a clear winner. While I am certainly bias here, you can be sure that you will have more direct access to the person working on your project. Bigger design agencies and marketing companies operate on a larger scale and will have many more clients at any given time than a freelance designer. With a freelance designer you’ll have direct access just by picking up the phone. This affords much more flexibility in when and how the project is completed.

Experience

A design firm will likely give you more experience for your money. Agencies are staffed with multiple designers, project managers, and executives that add up to multiple years of experience. A reputable agency will also likely have experience with bigger clients compared to an independent designer. This experience and notoriety also allows a firm to charge more for their services. So if your are diligent in your research, you may be able to find a designer with enough experience to feel comfortable they’ll get the job done, while also giving you a better price.

Pricing

It could go either way here. A reputable design firm will likely charge more for their services, however there are many generalist marketing firms who will charge you $49 for your business logo design. These companies are priced for volume so all that I’ll say here is: you get what you pay for.

I think you can find good value going with a freelance graphic designer. A solo designer doesn’t have the type of overhead a fully staffed design firm would have and therefore can sometimes offer similar quality design at lower prices.

Capabilities

A full capability design agency will surely have an edge here. A design firm will likely be able to deliver on all aspects of your project; from logo design to web site design to packaging design. However, be wary of a firm who says they can do it all – what you gain in the convenience of doing everything in one place, you may lose in quality in one of those areas. Most generalists design firms actually have one area of strength, but you most likely will not have any way of knowing which that is.

However, if you work with a designer who specializes in logo design, and another designer who is a web design specialist, you’ll know that you have experts working on every aspect of your project. This may be a bit more work for you, but would you want someone working on your project who gives you a great logo but has sub par web design skills? This a likely scenario in marketing firms who say they can do it all. Or a print shop that also offer design services. How can you be sure you’ll get great design when they are specialists in the print process? Usually they will throw in the these extra services at a discount just to get you in the door.

Luxury

If you are the type to be wined and dined you’ll likely want to work with a design firm. However, if you’re a small or medium sized business willing to forgo the posh meeting place, you might be happier knowing that your money is not being spent on expensive office space and instead is most likely going directly towards the design hours spent on your project.

What to do

Deciding can be a tough choice. My advice would be to pick a couple of reputable design agencies and a few freelance designers and compare them based on price, preferences, and how they respond to your inquiry. Many design agencies won’t even talk to you until you have a budget and scope for your project worked out. Freelancers may be a bit more  flexible and receptive to working with you to define these parameters.

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