Do you have a clear design vision, and you’re focused on building your own client base? What if you have ambitions to work for a large commercial company? Are you an introvert and working alone suits you best? Perhaps you’re attracted to a fast-paced environment with a team to bounce ideas off quickly? Let’s face it, as people and as designers, we’re all different!

On your design journey, you might have visualised the work environment that gets your creative juices flowing.

Freelance collectives are an attractive alternative to agencies during this uncertain time, and Joel Rosen Co-Founder of Briefbox and ORCA says ‘we often bring in an extra pair of hands to form part of our wider offering depending on the scope of the project and always have a roster of talented creatives we can pass work onto.’ So there is wriggle room within the job market to get a taste of the two while you develop. Check out our points, but if you need quickfire pros and cons, this article by Derek Kimball founder of Design Buddy sums them up nicely.

The good stuff.

What will the design work be like? As a designer, you’ll be itching to channel your style and own ideas from a creative brief and do what you do best. As a freelancer, you can choose your projects, although at the beginning you might have to take what you can. Bespoke illustration, small website updates, or individual marketing assets are a few of the things that will suit your workflow if you’re on your own. You’ll need to deliver for your clients, but this will be based on your expertise and knowledge, and you won’t need to design with an agency’s brand ethos or tag line at the back of your mind. In an interview with 99 Designs, Gordon Reid, Founder and Art Director of Middle Boop, sums up this benefit: ‘At the end of the day, freelancing is worth the hassle, struggles, and worries because I get to properly put my own stamp on my work.’

On the other hand, with an agency or in-house role, you’ll be given a project that has been commissioned by a company, or if you’re in-house you’ll be working on that company’s brand brief. More often than not this will be a fast-paced environment, with multiple short deadlines, and most likely with a marketing-driven agenda. But the beauty with this is, you are given an opportunity to be an important cog in a larger company’s success. Also, if you want feedback on your designs in a professional environment this can be a good way and an internship could work for you. Adrian Co, a graphic designer with an agency says, ‘interns often work on real projects within a company alongside full-time graphic designers and are often critiqued as one would be in a classroom setting, so they’re not only experiencing the job but still actively learning.’


What suits you most? Working in a team or a one-man band? Working for yourself is usually put forward as one of the best parts of freelancing. You don’t have to clock in and out Monday to Friday and flexible working can be liberating. You’ll save money on the commute and you can create the work environment you want. Dribbble interviewed freelancers about their daily schedule; from wanting a lack of routine, to allowing more free time for life’s pleasures, the reasons for people choosing this route are varied! This is worth a read if you think being your own boss is for you.

However, as you begin to develop, you might want to bounce ideas with workmates in the studio and although the freelancer circle is large, perhaps you’ll feel a better sense of community working for a design team. Under the current circumstances, studio working is down and remote working is up, but it’s still good to look into perks and extras companies might offer. Innovative start-ups can sometimes offer some ‘out there’ benefits from table tennis to free food and drinks and even paying off your student debts. Also, team building weekends, if that’s your thing, can be the perfect opportunity to get a bit loose and build relationships with your colleagues out of the workplace. If you’ve got high ambitions, read this blog on the best corporate companies to work for. From Adobe to Apple these big guys have embraced forward-thinking for the ultimate employee experience.

It’s a money thang.

Money isn’t everything, and people differ in their preferences to work-life balance and job satisfaction, but we all need this stuff to get by! The average hourly pay for a freelance graphic designer in the UK is £27.50 with a day rate coming at £236. James Ewin, Creative Director form Orca has written an article on what to charge for design services. As well as charging correctly, you’ll have to do your own tax returns, and most freelancers will have their own accountant. Have a look at Freelancer UK’s finance section to get a practical view of what this entails.

Again, this is varied in itself. Whether a start-up, an agency or corporate company, all will offer different things. UX Design has fired out the pros of cons of these here. The main financial benefit at an agency is you’ll always know how much you’re taking home each month and this will be consistent. Planning and feeling secure month to month might be the reason you take this path. Salaries tend to be higher in agencies, and you’ll get paid holiday, sick pay and possible health care benefits. Shillington’s written a 2020 salary breakdown from locations around the globe to get you in the know.


As a freelancer, you need to be everything, the accountant, the receptionist, the social media manager, the PR consultant and the designer. The extra skills needed to effectively run a mini-company might be a case of trial and error but you’ll develop these from your client meetings and day to day running of your brand. As a freelancer, on the whole, you’ll teach yourself, and this might suit you to tee. Books, magazines, blogs and online tools like Briefbox are great resources. Although learning might take a bit longer, if it works for you’ll get great results and a hard-hitting dose of job satisfaction.

Being able to learn from others is a benefit of agency work and Caramillo Jaramillo, Art Director from Sketch Corp says ‘dealing with a variety of clients from multiple industries means you’re constantly learning and forcing yourself to innovate. The variety also gives you the ability to experiment with different design styles, keeping up to date with industry trends and developments, and collaborating with your peers improves your skills and knowledge.’ Time management and organisation skills are needed for both (unfortunately). It can be useful to learn these work approaches which might come in handy should you ever return to freelance work.

What to do next?

Don’t feel worried if you haven’t got your career path mapped out yet. The best thing to do is to stay proactive, learn, and keep an open mind. This could make you a diverse designer able to work in a variety of settings. Check out this blog from Creative Bloq on a few of the best design agencies hiring in 2020 and the types of roles advertised by influential companies. Whether game studios, TV and movie production houses, or in house design roles at big companies, there are many paths to take even if freelance isn’t your thing.

Freelance UK is another one to help with jobs of this nature while you’re building relationships with clients. Also, Creative Boom has written a killer list of some of the best job boards covering Europe + the UK, US and Australia. Each has something different to offer whether you’re coming from a freelance, in-house or agency background. It’s a winner if you’re in the mood to read up on ways to carve out your career ambitions.

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