Working for a Web Design Agency, Corporation or as a Freelancer?

Articles by Vlad Tudor, 17 Oct.2015
image

Depending on the place you find yourself in your career life as a web designer or web developer, you may ask yourself a bunch of questions and put in balance some of the options you have as a professional in your field.

Depending on the place you find yourself in your career life as a web designer or web developer, you may ask yourself a bunch of questions and put in balance some of the options you have as a professional in your field.

Should I continue with my job at this company or start freelancing for my own clients? Is freelancing profitable? Do I get more free time or win more money than what my current job offers? If you tried freelancing and decide to move to full-time employment – would it be in a creative agency or a large corporation?

I currently work in a large company and in my free time, I write for this blog or create graphic materials to give away. In the past, I had the chance of working for small business, occasionally as a freelancer, I participated in lots of design contests and I also held some training sessions for different people – some of them students, some of them entrepreneurs and others hired in different local or international companies.

In this article I will present some of the pros and cons I encountered in each case, and thoughts others have shared with me on this topic. Some of you might agree or disagree on some of the following, so please, feel free to leave a comment!

Working for a Creative Agency

The good part is that in a creative agency you get the chance to learn lots of new things in a small amount of time. This is the type of business that offers a wide range of services from online advertising, social media, website design and development to offline production. One day you might work on a fashion store design, the next day you might be involved in a branding project for a milk delivery service. You have diversity and you’ll be able to enrich your portfolio with awesome work delivered to some of the most outstanding brands in the market.

The working environment is usually relaxed, fun and friendly. Working hours are flexible. You can dress however you see fit, so there are few to no constraints in this direction.

The downside is that many lack good management and working schedule. Frequently, you get to stay up till late at night in order to deliver the project the second day. The deadlines are tight for the amount of work they put on your plate and also you’ll have to go beyond what you were hired to do, in order to accomplish whatever needs to be done. So, just as a warning – there will be times, as a designer, when you’ll have to make some animations, create some copy, even code a bit.

Another thing that targets the management is the cash-flow problems they might have. Don’t take it as a general rule of thumb, but quite a lot of them, especially during the financial crisis period, struggled with difficulties and ran late with the salaries for their employees. If the clients of the agency run late on paying the services they received, it’s quite natural.

In my opinion, a creative agency is a good starting point for building up a great professional experience, but sooner or later you’ll discover you can’t be promoted to “the next level” or you simply have to compromise and accept things for the clients’ sake. In that case, it’s time to think of a change and try something different.

Working for a Corporation

I never thought I’ll work for a big company and actually enjoy my job. That’s what I believed four years ago. At the time of this writing, I am still part of this enterprise and I like the team and the projects I have to face.

People tend to hate corporations and consider them evil. They brainwash you! They exploit us! They constrain you and they ruin your dreams. They make you think bad of yourself and can’t really evolve.

I honestly disagree with this kind of thinking and having a negative attitude or over criticizing. The truth is somewhere in the middle. Maybe some statements have a piece of truth in them, but on the other side – large companies tend to offer more benefits and bigger salaries to their employees.

You may have to cope with a strict working schedule and don’t have so much creativity freedom, like in a small design agency. You won’t be able to add whatever you want to your portfolio and you’ll sign some non-disclosure agreements. You’ll have to follow precise design guidelines and comply with their standards and work procedures – but the management is more mature and experienced then what you’ll find in small companies.

An obvious difference between corporations and agencies is the hierarchical organization. Agencies tend to be quite flat in hierarchy – members report directly to the business owner or to one of the business partners. Corporations have more departments and teams. If at a later moment in time you might want to promote – to a management or team lead position – chance are higher for this to happen in a bigger company, than in a small one.

As a last piece of advice that I can give you here, before you decide to apply, do a bit of research on glassdoor.com or linkedin.com. You might have in your list of people, someone how already works at the company you’re interested in and can give you some inside information.

Working as a Freelancer

Freelancing is quite another story. To try and explain it in a short figure of speech – “you are your own boss”.
Work whenever you want, have a lot of flexibility and freedom, set your own priorities and deadlines. Sounds pretty cool and catchy, doesn’t it?

In reality – you are still working for clients. Each client is your boss at a moment in time. To get clients, you need solid experience, solid portfolio and good networking skills (online and offline). It’s very helpful if people trust you and recommend you as a professional.

You can try and freelance on different online business platforms (freelancer.com, peopleperhour.com, upwork.com, previously known as odesk.com – and other similar platforms) – but from my experience, you’ll have to invest quite a lot of time and can’t charge much. These markets are full of enthusiasts, so expect quite a lot of competition. If your competitors accept lower fees, it will be hard for you to convince potential clients to get the job done by renting your services and skills.

I tried freelancer.com, worked on peopleperhour.com for a short period of time and won quite a lot of contests on 99designs.com – which is a platform for crowdsourcing designs of all kinds: print materials, logos & identity, landing pages, websites, mobile design and the list goes on. Some designers are ok with the type of projects they find and manage to win quite well, others simply don’t get the hang of them or don’t find them suitable and quit. I will discuss more about some of these websites, in a future article, but if you want, you might give them a shot and see for yourself.

Keep in mind that you also have to keep your own accountancy. Depending on where you are in the world, you have to be aware of what laws and regulations apply to you.

Freelancing or not may be also a matter of working style and taste. There are people that prefer working in teams and not as single individuals, because they might think, that what they do is part of something more important and bigger. These type of persons would rather have a job at the office, where they meet their colleagues on a regular basis and not feel stranded in their own room at home.

Another truth is that you won’t have always the luxury of saying “no” and pass projects that don’t seem interesting enough. At the end of the month, we all have to pay our bills, rent and other life costs.

Closing Thoughts

Thanks for taking the time to read this article. In the end we all exchange our time and skills for some benefits – money, awareness or social recognition. You’re free to leave a comment and tell us about your experience – what you like or dislike or if you are a freelancer – about the ups and downs you encounter.

Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn0

Leave a Comment

What you have to say matters! Tell the world what you think of this article, if you find it useful or if you want to ask a question - just shoot! The author or a member from our team will try to come with an answer as soon as possible..