Updated: Sep 20
Whether you are in the early stages of your startup, celebrating your 10th year in business, or running a larger organization, at some point you will be faced with the decision of hiring a designer and there are numerous routes you can go. Let’s talk about each option and some example scenarios.
These sites are marketplaces where you can find independent freelancers who can do specific tasks. The prices on these sites are going to be the most affordable and the turnaround times are quick. You’re able to see reviews from past clients, portfolios, timelines, budgets, and clear scopes. These sites operate a bit more transactionally which means what you ask for is (usually) exactly what you get.
Use Cases: We often recommend using Upwork or Fiverr when you have a very clear idea of what you are looking for but you just can’t do it yourself. Or you are first testing your business idea and want to see if an idea is worth pursuing.
You have a vision for your logo but you have no idea how to use Illustrator.
You have a pitch deck you need formatted and you already have your brand guidelines.
You need a basic landing page for your new business idea to start collecting emails but don’t have the skills or time to learn one of the website builders.
A freelancer is going to be a one-person machine. They are the designer, project manager, and salesperson all rolled up in one. Most often, freelancers have a specific expertise or service that they are hired on for. As a solo operation, their overall project prices tend to be lower than an agency but because the process tends to be more involved, they are usually more expensive than Upwork or Fiverr.
Use Case: We recommend hiring a freelancer if you’re looking for specific expertise and looking for more of a relationship with your designer.
You hire an UX/UI freelancer for some Figma mockups of potential app screens that you can use in investor pitches
You hire a Social Media freelancer to help create a strategy and manage your content calendar.
You hire a copywriter to help you write the content for your website
Hiring a designer in-house means you are hiring a designer to be a part of your team, whether that is a part or full-time employee. Most larger companies will have designers in house to manage all brand assets, create new marketing material, etc. Most small business or early-stage startups do not have in-house designers due to cost of adding someone to payroll.
Use Case: Your business is heavily design oriented or is rapidly growing meaning that there are constant assets that need to be created quickly.
You are a DTC clothing brand with your main marketing channel being Instagram and Tiktok so content creation is a core part of your business.
You are a small media company that has illustrations and graphics accompanying every new article or podcast.
In contrast to the other design hires, when you are hiring an agency, you are hiring a team. There are pros and cons to this. The biggest con is simply the price. It is going to be more expensive to go with an agency rather than a freelancer because you are getting a range of expertise. The pro is that you are going to get the backing of a full team. This means that it’s easier for an agency to take on a project that contains a wider range of deliverables which can often mean offering a one-stop shop to you.
Your startup needs branding including a strategy, visual identity, content marketing, logo, and website.
You need a brand awareness campaign including copywriting, experiential marketing, social media marketing, and a short-form video series.
You are a beverage company that needs package design, an e-commerce website, and a social media strategy.
And truthfully, it’s not as cut and dry as this is laid out. Your agency may hire a freelancer for a specific skill that they don’t offer in-house. Your in-house designer may encourage you to hire an agency for a specific goal that your business has outlined. Your freelancer may use your Upwork landing page as the foundation of your SEO strategy.
Ultimately design is a process and knowing your goals along the way will help you be better informed as you hire designers.
Interested in chatting about design, branding, or even just cool shit?
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
About The Author
Olivia Wisden is the Founder + CEO of TwoLips Creative. She has worked with dozens of brands over the years ranging from city initiatives to product launches and beyond. When she’s not fan-girling over the design team’s illustrations she can probably be found reading a novel or attending a boxing class.