How to Decide Between a Freelance Graphic Designer and a Graphic Design Firm.

Starting a business is full of big decisions; most of which are centered around how to best allocate your funds. When it comes to creating a logo, brand identity, and marketing materials, businesses will often assign an arbitrary number without knowing the true process or value of the projects.

Choosing between a designer and a design team to accomplish your marketing goals is the first step in getting the answers. At Peartree Design, our best and longest-lasting clients are the ones who do their homework, ask questions, and compare options to make an informed choice.

Below is information that may help guide your decision-making process when choosing a graphic design firm or freelancer for your business.

Freelancers: Freelancers typically work in a vacuum; that is, they don’t collaborate with other professional designers. Additionally, their work often skews to a specific style. This typically results in less breadth of style and fewer options than a graphic design firm would provide. In most cases, a freelance designer specializes in a specific discipline, such as logo design, brochure design or website design. Additionally,  freelancers don’t necessarily mean less expensive.

Graphic Design Firms: Graphic design firms consist of a team of creative professionals working together to provide a full array of graphic design and marketing services for their clients. The base team usually consists of a creative director, art director, senior designer and graphic designers. More advanced design firms may also include a copywriter, photographer, UX designer, and web developers.

Other options:

Online graphic design services. While some online design services may be worth considering, there are plenty of pitfalls, so be sure to do your homework and watch your step. For example, Fiverr has become a popular resource for projects with smaller budgets.  However, be sure to vet out designs; often times stock artwork is a resource (and you’ll never know it). This is a big no-no, as designs that utilize stock artwork cannot be copyrighted. Same for logo contests. Google’s image search tool is great a resource for uploading potential designs and seeing what matches come back

DYI Services. If you’re looking to create a unique graphic design for a logo, brochure, website or any other marketing tool, we recommend staying away from the DYI sites. That’s because very, few, if any, contain original designs or graphics, making it impossible to copyright your work

“Hiring people is like making friends. Pick good ones, and they’ll enrich your life. Make bad choices, and they’ll bring you down.”

— Jason Fried, Founder of Basecamp

We invite the scrutiny of potential clients and recommend these steps in searching for a local graphic designer. Even if you don’t hire us, these steps should help prevent hiring someone who can’t complete the job:

Google — This has become the first step in practically every business decision that involves spending money on a vendor. The first two pages of results usually tell the majority of the story.

Better Business Bureau — Old school? Maybe but it can often be an easy way of determining whether a firm is even worth a phone call. Peartree’s A-Plus rating is a reflection of 20 years of jobs well done, on time and on budget. Also, we’re not accredited by the BBB, meaning we haven’t paid them money to achieve our rating. Like all the work we do, our rating is purely organic.

Education — We’ve heard the arguments that many famous creative talents never graduated high school, let alone college, and we think that’s valid for gallery and studio artists. However, working with clients in a business environment requires more than talent. It requires discipline, people skills, a collaborative spirit and the ability to work well with a variety of people and professionals. That’s what higher education teaches, so we require our designers to have a 4-year degree.

Portfolio — Every artist, creative design agency and firm will have a portfolio of past work to show you, but that’s an exercise that’s about far more than looking at pretty pictures. You want to look for a variety of designs that communicate different brand personalities. Looking for work relevant to your specific industry is also tempting, but it’s more important to see a wide range of ideas and looks. As actors are praised for their range and chameleon-like ability to play vastly different characters, an excellent graphic design firm should be able to produce compelling work for a variety of different industries.

Personality — Many graphic design projects take weeks to complete and require a measure of collaboration with the client, so it’s essential to analyze the personalities involved. Are these people you could work with for an extended period of days or weeks? The process works better when you like the people involved, as long as they meet the other qualifications above. Peartree’s culture is centered around building relationships with our clients, so we understand how important it is to have a good fit with our clients.

We believe that hiring well is 90 percent of having a successful company and our 20 years of success is proof that we know how to do it right.


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