Freelancer or Design Consultant – What’s in a Name?

After reading David Airey’s article Are freelance designers really suckers? I have been thinking a lot about how I should brand my own design services. I have been postponing the inevitable rebranding of myself for ages as designing for yourself is always so difficult.

When became self employed about three years ago I created a simple logo and basic online website/portfolio and the majority of my work was working inhouse for design agencies so the term freelance designer was quite appropriate. Now however the majority of my work is done from my home office, with a mix of work working direct for companies and design agencies. David’s article questions how people perceive freelancers, are freelancers seen as inferior to say someone who brands themselves as a design consultant or design company. Personally I think freelance means different things to different people/companies.

The positive points of advertising yourself as a freelancer:

  • You can pick up work from clients that prefer to work directly with a designer rather than a sales person/account handler.
  • You can pick up work from clients that do not have the budgets to pay an agency. A freelancer has lower overheads than an agency and so can afford to charge less.
  • You can pick up work from design agencies without them feeling so threatened that you may take their clients.

The negative points of advertising yourself as a freelancer:

  • Perceived as cheap (in a negative way) which doesn’t give credit to the experience you have as a designer.
  • You may not be considered by medium/large companies for design work.
  • You are seen as the hands on person (the jack of all trades) – that you should be doing the work and are not expected to subcontract work to appropriate services when required.

I think sometimes what some clients may not realise is that if they take their work to a design agency, their project could be done by someone straight out of college (no disrespect to graduates), but they will still be paying the same fee as if the creative director or senior designer had done the work. When the client looked at the company’s portfolio there may have been none of the young designer’s work in it. With a freelancer, it is generally more transparent, they know how much experience you have, they have seen YOUR work.

I have always worried about rebranding myself as a company. I know this works for some people as it makes their company seem bigger than it really is and can attract larger companies, however I am always one to be upfront and I know I would be able to pull this off working on my own. There will always come a crunch time too when the client wants to visit your office and meet your team.

I do like David’s idea of calling himself a graphic designer and design consultant it has the feel of having some experience and authority to it. Having worked in the design industry for 15 years perhaps this is the way to go, my only concern is that the word consultant could alienate some clients by sounding extremely expensive (more than an agency?).

I am still slightly undecided, perhaps there is an argument for branding yourself differently depending who you are targeting your design work at? I would love to hear your opinions on the subject?

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