Design Agency vs. Freelance
As a designer, I often get asked what is better, freelancing or working at a design agency? To be honest, there is no correct answer but there are certainly perks and pitfalls of both.
For comparison’s sake, I’ll look at the components that form the foundation of a happy designer: the type of projects they get to work on, the amount of work they have to do, what they get in return, the amount of freedom they get, as well the ‘fun’ factor.
As a freelancer, you get to choose when you work and what type of projects you want to work on, however this perk comes with much more behind-the-scenes work such as marketing yourself, doing paperwork, emailing etc. Consequently, this means you will be doing less of what you love (designing).
At an agency, the behind-the-scenes work is being done for you, which means you can do more designing but the downfall of this, is that you don’t get as much say on the type of projects you work on… however, if you find the right agency, this shouldn’t be a big problem. Another bonus of working at an agency is that you get to work for larger brands though this is not always a ‘bonus’ (so I’ve been told).
Nothing is more satisfying than running your own successful (freelance) business. As a freelancer, you can choose your own clients, set your own rates and most importantly, work when you want to. This allows for much more flexibility, more family time and overall, an arguably better way of life. (eg. no daily commutes, more time to children, etc.). The monetary rewards are also generally better than working at an agency as well, though this of course depends on many things as well as how hard (smart) you work.
Agency life also has its perks, the main being job security… the fact that you know you’re going to get paid and when. There are also other fringe benefits of working at an agency such as health insurance, parties, work outings, etc.
The Fun Factor
Freelancing can get lonely at times, especially if you don’t have anyone else around the house or office, however, you do get more freedom to decide when you are going to work and in what order you are going to do things…or just stop for a snack. You can also work from anywhere, so going on that vacation and still working isn’t a big deal or taking your daughter to her mid day play date or swimming on a perfect day. You can put in the hours later that evening after they go to bed or get up earlier the next morning. Knowing you have those options is great when you have a family.
An agency atmosphere is going to be a lot livelier than if you were freelancing at your own home/office as you can talk, laugh & collaborate with people at the office. You also have outings with your work buddies such as lunch breaks, movies, day trips, sport games, etc.
To wrap this up, I just want to say that there is no real answer or verdict. Instead it is all about what you want for your life at that moment. And you though on this might change as the years go by and things in your life change, as with how I think mine will. Being home with my children and being able to bring in income to support the family is important and what is best for us. Not going to lie-it is not a walk in the park to work with your kids or from home all the time and it can be hard to stay on task at times but you take each day and do your best as to not look back and regret. Find small moments to work and away from work and just enjoy them!