Apples to Apples

This past December, I ran a poll that asked participants if they had ever worked with a freelancer, design studio or agency. It was conducted to gather more information about individuals and businesses went about deciding who they turn to – and who they weren’t turning to – for solutions to their visual communications needs.

As a follow-up that poll, in March: this time to gather more information about how individuals and businesses select creative professionals to work with. The poll asked this question: If you have worked with a freelancer, studio or agency in the past, what factor(s) influenced your decision to work with them the most? Here are some of the findings:

  • One half of the participants either hire creative professionals based on their prior experience/history with them and/or the pricing given for their services.
  • Nearly 40% of participants choose a creative professional based on the quality of their work.
  • 13% of participants specified their own reasons for choosing a creative professional for their design needs.
  • Based on poll findings, the reputation or recognition that a creative professional seems to have little influence on the individuals’ decision of whom to work with: no one specified ‘Their reputation’ as a factor in their decision-making process.

These findings support the fact that while many small and mid-size businesses may be working with larger agencies for help with their visual communications, they would benefit a great deal from working with a freelancer or design studio instead. Though the advantages are many, I’ll supply two significant reasons for doing so: the comparative abilities that many freelancers & studios possess, and the cost-effectiveness of choosing this route.


The one great advantage of working with an agency is the large pool of in-house resources that agencies have to draw from for highly structured projects spanning specific areas of marketing, advertising and design. Unfortunately, if a client doesn’t necessarily need to draw from all of the resources an agency represents, they may still be paying for them – or at least their associated overhead costs – in one way or another. This is where freelancers and design studios exhibit a great advantage. Seasoned, experienced freelancers and creative professionals that work at or own design studios are often resourceful, well-connected individuals with a large pool of resources to draw from on an as needed basis. They may not be your ‘one-stop shop’ for all of your creative needs, but they still have the ability to find quality solutions to your communications objectives through one of their many outlets.


A survey conducted by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (2008) concluded that large American ad agencies billed clients on average $974.00 an hour with smaller agencies (50 employees or less) still charging rates of nearly $300 per hour. It shouldn’t come as a surprise if you’re ever visited an agency in person, but at these rates, you’re not only paying the salary of the chief creative director handling your project, but a multitude of agency overhead costs as well. Considering all the additional expenditures and overhead agencies accumulate in daily business, it’s no surprise that many existing and emerging small business owners can invest in the talents these agencies have to offer. The costs involved become the key proponent of the process, rather than the value that the work can and should bring to their business.

Inversely, the hourly rates of solo practitioners/freelancers are considerably lower than the rates of creative professionals working at agencies. According to a survey conducted by HOW Magazine (2007) these groups are charging just south of $70 for their services, with the lowest average hourly rates around $27. The report also indicates that freelancers working in the Midwest (myself included) offer some of the most competitive rates in the country, charging on average $65 per hour.

Why the difference in price?, Is it because these professionals are less experienced or skilled in their craft? While there’s bound to be a bad one in every bunch, just as there is in every field, this difference in price is due largely to the fact that many freelancers choose to work from home or a smaller office, giving them the ability to keep prices low due to minimal overhead costs and passing on considerable savings to their clients. When compared to the rates given for agencies both large and small, business owners and individuals should not only be more comfortable with these rates, but can also focus on the value of the work a freelancer or studio represents, instead of the price tag associated with their services.

Given some of the advantages of working with a freelancer or design studio, why aren’t more businesses, both great and small, giving them more consideration? The value and quality of work freelancers and studios have is shared equally with their agency counterparts and the hourly fees serving as a basis for much of the work they do, along with low overhead costs indicate that they’re an affordable alternative for any sized business.

In conclusion, it makes sense to do a little research and find the right fit for your businesses’ visual communications needs before jumping right to what seems like the obvious solution. For many small businesses, the solutions to your graphic design needs can be found in working with a studio like Scott Creative, or one of the many other established, well-respected solo practitioners and graphic design studios that are bound to be in your area. We can save you both time and money while providing the value you would expect from working with a larger agency.

How Are You Incorporating Design Into Your Biz In 2010?

If you could improve on the visual communications of your company today, what area of your business would you most like to see improvements in?

From what I’ve observed so far this year, many clients and prospects of mine are ‘hitting the ground running’. If this is a trend (and I hope it is) among the majority of both large and small businesses alike, individuals are beginning to realize now – more than ever, is the time to strengthen their brand in the eye of their customer base.

Many businesses out there are making strides with great success – but there’s always room for improvement. Maybe they streamlined their business practices by trimming some of the fat; Maybe they’ve taken an entirely new approach to their day-to-day operations. For those out there that are stuck on what could be done to make improvements this year, exploring the many ways visual communications can positively influence business is certainly worth some consideration.

Over the next few weeks, I’m conducting another poll which raises the question: If you could improve on the visual communications of your company today, what area of your business would you most like to see improvements in? I know there are many things I’d like to do this new year myself, so I’m wondering what others out there plan to do this year to improve on their visual communications (if anything at all). If the poll doesn’t urge you to contact a creative professional about how you can start making some improvements, then my hope is to at the very least make you pause for a moment and consider how incorporating design into your current strategy just might be that missing piece of the puzzle.

Thanks in advance for participating and I’ll look forward to sharing some findings in a future post. For some findings from other polls I’ve conducted, check out the ‘Design Polls’ part of my blog.

Poll Results: Have You Ever Worked with a Freelance Designer, Studio or Agency?

In early December, I posted a new poll on my LinkedIn profile page. It raised the question Have you or the company you work for ever hired out work to a freelance graphic designer, studio or agency? While there wasn’t as much participation in this poll as I had hoped for, I was still able to gather some good information from the results.
The Predictions:

  • Participants from larger business/organization will most likely answer that they have worked with a design studio/agency.
  • Participants from smaller business/organizations will be somewhat split: some may have worked with a freelancer, some may have worked with a design studio/agency.
  • Most participants will reply that they have never worked with a freelance designer.

The Findings:

  • A majority of the respondents, ages 25-34, are women in a management position with a background in sales.
  • Half of the participants represent mid-size businesses and have never hired out work to a freelancer, studio or agency.
  • One quarter of the participants have hired out work to a design studio or agency in the past.

While the number of the participants in this poll wasn’t as large as I had hoped, it did point out some things worth mentioning and did reflect some of my predictions. I was surprised to find that a majority of participants had never worked with either a freelancer, design studio or larger agency. I wasn’t surprised to find that most of the participants hadn’t worked with a freelance designer, and that makes me wonder why. Is it because these businesses don’t feel comfortable working with a freelancer?, Is it because they’ve never been approached by one?, Did the thought ever cross their mind? Maybe it’s a combination of a variety of reasons.

Keep an eye out in the days ahead for more information about the advantages of working with freelancers as well as the value it can bring to your business.

Poll Results Here

Recent Poll Results: Small Businesses and Graphic Design

Before proceeding with the premiere issue of the Scott Creative newsletter, I needed to know that my audience could see the value in it. I fully understand that graphic design questions and concerns probably aren’t at the top of the heap of business concerns that professionals are dealing with right now – but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be addressed at some point.

So, why not segue into solving a few of these problems with a friendly newsletter? The goal of this newsletter is to serve as an entry point into learning more about the role that graphic design plays in our professional lives and just how large of a role it plays in business.

Graphic design is a concern of small businesses [and] individuals who come from these businesses are interested in learning how it applies to their business.

If you participated in the poll that I posted earlier this month on my LinkedIn profile page, thank you for doing so: the information I gathered from it was extremely helpful in determining the sort of content that will end up in future newsletters. The poll asked a single question: “Are you interested in receiving an eNewsletter covering graphic design trends and design-related questions for your business?” Here are some of my findings from the poll results:

  • Three quarters of poll participants replied “yes”, they were interested in receiving the newsletter.
  • The age of poll participants varied widely. Three quarters of votes came from participants 25-54 years old. The oldest age group represented (55+) showed the most opposition to receiving the newsletter.
  • Nearly 70% of poll participants came from small businesses.

What other observations will I be taking away from this poll? It pointed out many things that I’ve spoken about with many people over the last year: that graphic design is a concern of small businesses, and that individuals who come from these businesses are interested in learning how it applies to their business.

If you own your own business or are coming from a small business, then this recent poll demonstrates the value this newsletter will have for you or your business. Of course I also hope that if/when you’re really interested in the influence graphic design can have on your business, you’ll get in touch with me. Also, if you’re interested in receiving this monthly newsletter, please let me know!