Before I run my design business, I was fortunate to have a chance to work as a freelance, in-house designer and in an agency. It was a fantastic learning curve and today I’m going to share some insight about it.

Freelancer — (The Iron Man)

The man in the iron mask. Who’s multi-functions and provide a specific design service. A Freelancer is a “walk the walk” that does not talk much. They can contribute good work that beat the agency price tag. Freelancer is flexible, fast turnaround, straightforward, less paperwork or even work on the weekend. 

As a client, you must know what do you need and be very precise. Perhaps, some design knowledge may be required to get the most out of your engagement.

There is a high chance that Freelancer will align services with their skill sets rather than the results you’re looking for.

Design Studio — (The Fantastic Four)

Independent group of fantastic creators. They might work collaboratively (or independently) with their creative partners (or Freelancer) to meet specific needs and drive the project toward the business goals.

In general, Design Studio is around 50% Thinking and 50% Making. As a client, you must have the proper purpose. It will require a lot of your effort. You may be required to participate in the design workshop, touch-based, a shorten feedback loop and so on. 

Agency — (The Avengers)

The group of Avengers that pursue a big mission. Usually, the Agency will be established by the founder(s) who define the visions for a whole company, but the founders do not necessarily have to be creators themselves.

Sometimes, the Design Agency came from a successful Design Studio pitching for a big client and rapidly growing their business. 

In general, the Design Agency is around 80% Thinking and 20% Making. However, you can not compare the 20% of Design Agency and Design Studio above; the scale is too different.

The big idea is a real currency for the Agency. The Agency has several talents in-house and actively hunting for an award-winning designer to empower its empire. Frequently, the Agency will sub-contract with Design Studio, Freelancer or even acquire them once necessary.

As a client, you must have the right purpose with a proper budget. Agency provides full-service with a full-price tag.