Design Studio or Freelancer: Pick Your Path

Have you ever had to design something for your business? As business owners, we all have. Things come up all of the time that need to be designed – why? Because they are CLIENT FACING! And we all know that’s important, right?


For the numbers people out there. It only takes 7 seconds for people to form an initial impression of your business. Due to extensive research, we know that there are three components that go into the forming of that impression: 1) Your words  2) Your voice and 3) Your appearance.

Surprisingly, the largest portion of our first impressions is formed by appearances—55%. The next largest portion of our first impressions is formed based on voice—38%. And, finally, the smallest amount is based on what you are actually saying at only 7%.


We all do this – even if we don’t realize it! …. Ok! So now that we agree about how important professional design is for our businesses, let’s talk about what kind of designer you need. Because there are all kinds! Design is a tradeoff. The more experienced your designer, the more expensive they will be. BUT, the more experienced they are, the less of a headache you will have at the end of the project. This is no surprise to anyone in the room, is it? You get what you pay for, plain and simple. Let’s unpack this idea.



Here are 3 main reasons someone might hire a freelancer instead of a studio.




Lower rates

Freelancers are typically young designers OR those not tied to a larger agency, so their rates will be lower than a studio rate. It may take a little longer than it would with a seasoned designer, but because the rates are lower, you’ll still come out cheaper.



Flexible timelines

They can usually accommodate a quick turnaround. As their own bosses, they can work bizarre hours, like in the middle of the night if they want. But, you should also account for quite a bit of back and forth, as there will be a learning curve for both of you and usually a lack of experience on their part.



Great at following directions

Freelancers are great for small projects if you want to be the art director completely in charge of your project. Freelancers execute exactly what you ask for. So you tell them what to do, and they’ll do that.

There’s a good handful of design tasks you’d be better off hiring a solo freelance designer for.

  • Photo editing
  • One-off illustrations or infographics
  • Personal projects like birthday invitations, band posters, t-shirts, and wedding invitations



When it comes to your business, though, design is a different beast.
Here are the big reasons to choose a studio over an independent freelancer.




They see the bigger picture.

In business, it is essential that you have a design partner that has the capacity to keep an eye on your big picture goal—your marketing strategy. Studios do more than design images, they design systems. The types of questions they’ll be asking will get you thinking bigger than the brochure you may have originally gone for. In the beginning, they should be doing much more listening than talking! To learn about your vision, your mission, and why you are doing what you’re doing.

When they know that, they can consult with you to make sure your ideas are in line with your goals. Sometimes, you may not even know WHAT you need to work on, but they’ll be able to make suggestions and help you figure out a good starting place. In your first meeting with a designer, if they are asking you about colors, fonts and pictures – chances are, it is not an experienced designer.

The best designers will know that the first step to any design project is identifying your target audience and the goals for the piece at hand. When crafting any marketing tool, the first 70% of the project should be strategy and getting the right message for the right audience, and the last 30% is making it look good.





They work in all mediums.

They should have an arsenal full of tactics that will reach your audience, and know best design practices for executing any given media. They should have expertise in PRINT and DIGITAL media, and it’s a bonus if they do ENVIRONMENTAL design, too.




They do more than draw pictures, they tell stories.

If that’s not enough, they need to be able to weave all of these mediums together and make sure the message that is going to your audience is consistent, clever, and engaging.If your piece is gorgeous, but the words are dumb-the piece will fail. If the words are great, but the design is ugly-your piece will fail. The best design is a marriage of the two: memorable storytelling and engaging visuals.



They can take on large amounts of work.

A freelancer is only 1 man (or woman!) deep, so there are only so many projects they can tackle at a time. A studio, however, has a much larger bandwidth and can work on multiple projects at a time. Because let’s be honest, as business owners, when are you ever working on just one thing?

For those of you who have an in-house design team, you may want to consider outsourcing some of your big projects. You know which ones we’re talking about – the ones that get added to your designers’ already-too-long to-do list of projects that will never become a priority.

It’s easy for in-house designers to get stuck in the brand and begin to produce the same things over and over again. BUT, If you use an outside designer, they will bring a fresh perspective that can breathe new life into your brand. And as an added bonus, once that project is done, your in-house designers will have some fresh inspiration, and you’ll see an improvement all around.
AND, all of a sudden, your project becomes a priority. Genius.



Twice the price, but five times the expertise.

Studios typically have a variety of different services they offer. For example, our studio offers marketing audits, strategy, consulting, and content writing, print, web, and environmental design. And they do it all well! But each of these roles have been filled by different experts in their own lane. Finding a single person (unicorn mode activated!) that does them all well will be a challenge, and will probably cost you an arm and leg. But that’s the role the studio plays – all of those services in one place, with one point of contact. Instead of having to coordinate a team of individual specialized freelancers, when you need to make a shift across all communications with a studio, all you need is one directive.


So how do you decide?

Napoleon Bonaparte was a scary dude, we all know that. But how would you have liked to have been his ‘valet’? He would help him dress for the day, in his elaborate battle clothes. For fear of holding him up, his valet would rush through getting him ready and inevitably make a mistake—which then had to be completely undone and redone from scratch.

He ultimately got into the habit of telling his valet, “Slow down. I’m in a hurry.” So many times, when people are forced to decide between the lower price tag of a freelancer and the slightly higher price of a studio, their default mechanism is to go cheap.

But, by hiring an inexperienced designer, not only do you set yourself up for an extremely frustrating process, you run the risk of being unhappy with the end result. Then, because it is absolutely crucial to have strong marketing materials, you end up paying for that good designer anyway! So you would have been better off just going for that good designer the first time.

Guys—they are worth it! Why put a band-aid on a problem when you can do it with a long-term strategy in mind? If you do not have beautiful, engaging marketing materials, you are missing opportunities.


Do you know which path is best for you and your business?
If it’s a studio, we are always here to help and would love to hear about your business!

Click here to start the conversation.

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