Design Studio or Freelancer - Which Is The Right Move For Your Project?

July 16, 2019

Naturally, the creative industry is as diverse and complex as the work it delivers. Artists and designers come from all walks of life, their unique backgrounds molding their different perspectives and lifestyles. To survive in this competitive and innovative industry, these professionals are tasked with catching lightning in a bottle. On command. With every project.

It's not surprising that a routine 9 to 5 may not suit all designers. The creative process is as unique to every artist as the patterns of individual snowflakes, each with its own structure and nuances. Freelancing gives these distinctive minds the freedom to create on their own terms, in a way that works best for them. And possibly, as these individuals morph and recrystallize, they could find themselves gravitating towards the structure of a design studio. 

From our experience in the industry, we have noticed a collective questioning amongst potential clients regarding whom to work with, a freelancer or a design studio. Both have their own strengths, equally capable of producing amazing work. However, some projects are more geared towards one or the other. This blog post will help clarify the specific advantages freelancers and design studios offer their clients, as well as provide you with points to consider as you decide whom to hire. 


First off, how much dough are you willing to drop on your project?

If you’re a small business or brand new startup, you may not have access to the funds necessary to contract a top design studio. In this case, a freelancer could do wonders for your business without busting your banking account. These creatives often work remotely and aren’t burdened with the overhead costs of running a brick and mortar business. With that being said, freelancing is a very attractive lifestyle to many individuals, drawing as much top talent as the leading design studios. A renowned and experienced freelance designer would put a strain on any budget. As to be expected, you get what you pay for.


How certain are you of the direction and look of your project? Will it require different skill sets?

If you are unsure of what your final product should be, the multifaceted capabilities of a design studio would prove extremely valuable to your project. Design studios house many specialists under one roof, facilitating a collaborative environment full of different perspectives. If a client were to approach a studio with an idea of what they wanted to say, but without a plan or vision to communicate it, that wouldn’t be a problem. These businesses are designed to not only produce and create a project, but also to brainstorm and concept, working on a project from the first idea to the final render.

 Additionally, with multiple designers, each possessing a unique set of talents, your project is not confined to a specific style or medium. A complex project involving multiple skill sets would be well within the wheelhouse of a studio. Furthermore, if you start down one path, but then want to take the project in a different direction, the studio could adapt to the changing vision, but not without a conversation about scope, of course. Like the ultimate creative one-stop shop, your ideas face few limitations. While a design studio guarantees a wide range of skills, they aren’t the only ones who can tackle a versatile project.

When working with a freelancer, having a specific vision of the final product can be helpful. Freelancers are oftentimes highly specialized, meaning that they are skillfull within a specific design discipline or artistic style. If you are confident that your project should be a 2D explainer video with a minimalistic approach, then a freelancer will crank out just that.

However, there are many generalist freelancers in the industry, able to execute various styles and tasks with expert skill. If you are seeking a designer without a set look or concept for your project, consider exploring the breadth of the individual artists’ reels.


Are you operating on a tight deadline?

And are you researching this the night before that meeting to settle on a designer? Of course not. We’re just playing. The morning of - that’s when you start that research. 

If you are pressed for time, a design studio’s ability to divide and conquer may serve you well. With multiple sets of hands, various aspects of the project can be worked on simultaneously, getting the job done as efficiently as possible. 

Unlike a studio, a freelancer's schedule may not necessarily align with the 9 to 5 of a typical business day. These designers operate on a case-by-case basis where one could be willing to work 20 hours straight and the other may operate best with shorter hours and fewer days off. Moreover, with only one set of hands on deck, you run the risk of your designer catching the flu or being pulled away on personal matters, rendering him unable to, well, render. 

Accidents happen to all of us. With a design studio, however,  having multiple designers enables the business to compensate and delegate if an artist were to be unexpectedly absent. It really is a toss up, with as much to do with circumstance and luck as attitude and work ethic. However, with a set work week and several employees, you are guaranteed an efficient timeline at a reputable design studio.


So on a scale from 1 to 10, how much of a “control freak” are you?

Wherever you land on the scale, have no shame. Needing a different level of control is a product of your work style, and yet another factor to consider when looking to hire a design professional. 

Starting with those on the lower level of the scale, a design studio could make a great fit for you. Studios are equipped with trained and dedicated producers responsible for managing the designers, maintaining the timeline, and staying on budget. The producer is as integral to the process as the artists themselves. Give them the brief, settle on a concept, and let the studio do what it does best. 

While this may sound nice, those residing at the top of the control scale may find this approach to be out of their comfort zone. Such individuals may have a more positive experience working with a freelancer. With only one person creating your project, communication is simple and direct, allowing you to deal directly with the designer. Moreover, the freelance designer is just that - a designer. There is no designated producer to take care of budgeting and managing the project. Though freelancers have their own strategies for dealing with the aspects beyond the design, if you prefer having a more hands-on approach, you may be able to find a freelancer who can tailor their workflow for your project. 


Taking the personality test one step further, how trusting are you?

If you’re someone who needs to see it to believe it, working with a design studio may suit you nicely. Likely in the planning stages of your project, you’ll venture over to meet with the producer, creative director, or design team. During this discovery session, you get a look into the company’s resources and style. Walking through the space, you’re likely to discover impressive setups full of the latest technology or a few designers working with laser like focus, not even breaking to blink. This is your project’s home base. And while appearances aren’t everything, a lot can be said about a first impression. 

Freelancers, however, can work from home, at coworking spaces, or anywhere that lets their creative juices flow. And with design platforms, like Adobe Photoshop and After Effects, being laptop compatible, the world is a freelancer’s workroom. As long as the absence of an opulent office with hard drives stacked to the heavens doesn’t leave you unsettled, all is well. A great artist will create great work. Whether or not you hire a freelancer or a studio, you will still receive a high quality product that will change the game for your business or creative endeavor.


A Final Takeaway

You’re a trooper if you’ve made it this far. While we’ve brought a lot to consider to your attention, making the “right” or “wrong” choice won’t make or break the final product. 

When weighing cost, speed, and control - what's most important to you? And when navigating a massive project, do the other preferences fall to the wayside when versatility is non-negotiable? It really comes down to personal preference and the scope of your project.

And although we are a design studio, many of our producers and designers have worked as freelancers in the past, and could possibly revisit that lifestyle in the future. In the fluid world of design, we aren’t strictly freelancer versus studio folk. We are professionals, each with their own approach, capabilities, and style. Dig into our portfolios, take us out for coffee (please?), and get to know what makes us special. Our uniqueness, eccentricity, and individualism are precisely what makes us creatives. And for those same reasons, sorry not sorry, we aren’t designed to fit into tidy little boxes.