by Adam Taylor, Senior Designer at Chalkbox
The design field is crowded, with freelancers of all stripes and an array of creative agencies competing for your business. That can make looking for a design partner confusing—especially if you have never worked with a designer before. What are the differences between freelancers and agencies? What are the potential benefits and drawbacks of each? And when should you choose one over the other?
Freelancers work solo and look primarily for short-term contracts or one-off assignments. Many wear several different hats and are comfortable with an array of project types—such as brand development, web design, print layout, etc. Some freelancers are moonlighting from their 9-5 job, others are between jobs, and some freelance full-time. They can be hired directly by clients or even by creative agencies for specific tasks.
Creative agencies come in many sizes, from small and agile to large and complex. Large organizations might have multiple teams of individuals who are highly specialized in their roles; meanwhile, mid-sized and small agencies often have generalists who take on many different aspects of a given project. Agencies typically have greater bandwidth than freelancers and can take on multiple projects at the same time. They also are likely to have a project manager or someone dedicated to facilitating the work and making sure deadlines are met.
Benefits and drawbacks
Freelancers, even highly skilled ones, tend to be best suited for smaller projects—in terms of both scope and budget. While they may have the ability to do anything, the issue often boils down to whether they have the capacity to do it. Remember, we’re talking about a single person, and their schedule might be very full (particularly if they are moonlighting). If you have a long-term project, or want to cultivate a trusted design resource you can call on down the road, you could run into availability issues with a freelancer. However, they can be more cost-effective compared to an agency. And some take a more personal approach that could suit your specific project.
Agencies are built to take on bigger, more complex projects, and frequently offer related services beyond design, such as strategy. They typically have additional resources to draw on as well, which can give you access to expertise a freelancer might not be able to provide. Another key advantage is that agencies don’t have the capacity challenges freelancers often face, making it easier to maintain a lasting relationship. That means your design team can build up institutional knowledge over time, so you’re not starting over with every subsequent project.
Where does Chalkbox fit into all of this?
We are an agency, but we’re on the smaller side—which allows us to take on complex projects while still offering our clients a personal approach. Our owner (Josh) and senior designer (Adam) are both generalists with decades of combined experience and a successful record working on a wide variety of projects: brand identity, web and mobile design, print design, events, even illustration. We’re equipped to work on projects of almost any scale, from small one-offs to much larger and/or longer-term initiatives.
We’re here to stay
Our success is built on the relationships we have with our clients. For example, Chalkbox been working with Eastside Preparatory School, an independent school in Kirkland, Washington, since 2006. Both the school’s campus and student body have grown during that 14-year period, and its needs have changed as well.
Because we have been there for more than a decade, we’ve seen this evolution up close, and we already understand the school’s philosophy, mission, and vision. We helped develop new brand collateral, designing a bi-annual magazine, admissions materials, and advertising pieces. We also helped the school adapt to the pandemic, creating packaging for graduation materials to help 2020 seniors feel special and accomplished even though they weren’t able to have an in-person ceremony. We know Eastside Prep well, and the school’s staff know and trust us. That’s the kind of long-term relationship that is possible with an agency like Chalkbox—it makes the work better, and more rewarding, too.
What’s ahead for you?
Whether you’re looking for a design partner who will be by your side as your needs grow and change, or you simply need support on a one-time project, we’d love to hear from you. Just use our handy contact form or give Chalkbox a call at (206) 932-8080.