Freelancer, studio, or company? Exploring your options!

The question many designers ask themselves while doing their university submissions is: „When it’s all over, what next? Should I become a freelancer? I can get up whenever I want and I can become my own boss. Or should I join a company? There I’m sure I’ll work on bigger projects and have a much more stable and relaxed atmosphere. Should I get together with some people and make a studio? Peter is good at photography, Mark is a great web developer. If all three of us put our energy into it, we can create a great studio.”

A lot of people are thinking about this, and a lot of people are late to the game. It’s important to make contacts while you’re still studying because that will make it much easier to find a job after university. It is also good to get to know the secrets of working while you are still at university. Get familiar with briefs, deadlines, working with clients.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of these paths.

The freelancer path

It can be the easiest and the most adventurous path.

PROS:

No schedules — You manage your own time, if you’re a night owl you can work on night shifts. As long as you can get the job done, your clients won’t mind this” lifestyle”.

You can work from home or even from the beach — No office, no fixed location, no matter where you are, all you need is a computer and access to the internet. And maybe, some power outlet.

You can take any job you want, you control it — If a client approaches you, you can assess whether you like the project, whether you have the skills to do it properly. Or whether you can fit it into your time.

The project is always in your hands. You communicate with the client so there is less chance of information going astray or getting lost somewhere.

Money — Your financial income is also determined by you. You set your hourly rate and your project fee. The sky is the limit!

CONS:

Being your own boss is not easy. If you don’t meet the deadlines you set for yourself, you can slip by them pretty quickly.

You have to get the clients, they won’t just come knocking on your door. So you need to understand sales strategies and advertising yourself.

4 in 1 — You have to sell, negotiate, quote, meet, invoice all in one person.

If you want to do it legally, you definitely have to take up some form of business, which has different costs from country to country. You also have to buy and pay for equipment, machines, software, subscriptions.

It is often a lonely profession — Although there are already community hubs for this, the costs of these can be quite high even at the beginning of the entrepreneurial profession. Many times you work alone, so sometimes you can be pretty lonely. And there is no feedback from anyone on the work you have just done.

Income can also be difficult to plan. Some months can be good, but if there is no income, you still have to pay the bills. And many designers lost their job or clients because of the pandemic.

Business/company:

Larger companies and bigger brands already have their own in-house graphic designer. Smaller companies may have one person, larger ones, if there is a demand for it, may have more than one person working together, as opposed to a smaller team specializing in design only.

PROS:

Stable, transparent, fixed hours. In very many firms, 9–5 is a saint. If you want a predictable daily schedule, it’s definitely a good choice.

Simple, predictable. Most of the time you only get tasks you can do.

You don’t have to deal with sales and clients, just get the job done.

It’s better socially, you’re surrounded by colleagues and people.

Financially, it’s more predictable, because you can expect a fixed salary and occasional bonuses. There’s registered employment, health insurance, and by some mammoth companies, share, and stock options.

CONS:

Progression potential is limited. You can only create within certain limits. You only work on the company’s products. If your company already has an established audience for the product, it’s difficult or almost impossible to add a new creative line.

Hurry! Often there is little time for a particular job or task.

There is no time to brainstorm, to come up with different solutions, to apply trends.

There is little opportunity to move up. Many companies are content with just one graphic designer.

Studio:

They mainly start with a smaller number of people. This gives it its diversity. Somewhere between freelance and corporate. You’re working for clients here too, but you’re involved in a larger volume of work that requires more people. They also work with graphic designers, coders, developers, account managers, and art directors. Creative freedom is better and bigger than a company.

PROS:

Variety of clients and projects. More excitement and more challenge.

Project dependent, but usually there is more time and more people for a given solution.

Smaller staff, more family atmosphere. You know everyone and you communicate with everyone.

More flexible working hours. You can choose to work from home or be a commuter. Although after the pandemic, it’s likely that larger companies will be more flexible about this.

More transparent process for projects. You have a better understanding of other people’s work.

Much greater potential for self-development.

CONS:

Because of fewer staff at the beginning, you may have to do things that are not your area of expertise.

If they are client-based, they are more exposed to the market than if they are producing their own product.

Summary:

Of course, the above only scratches the surface of the paths of this profession. There are so many companies and studios, with many possibilities. A lot depends on the client, the territory, and the country. Freelancing can also be a different experience. Someone may find their place as a 3Dillustrator better as a freelancer than in a studio. And someone may find that a fixed monthly salary from a company means more to them than the creative freedom to express themselves.

What are your experiences in this area? Which “path” do you prefer? What are the pros and cons? Leave us a comment, we’d love to hear your feedback.

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