ikon boutique branding agency logo

building brands is a team sport

Freelance graphic designer or boutique agency

- Which is for you?

If you’ve ever watched a Formula 1 race, you’ll have some sense of the adrenalin, speed and heroics that it takes to be a racing driver on pole position.

But you’ll probably also have noticed that it’s not all about the driver. Grand Prix are very often won or lost in the pit lane, where it’s a race against the clock.

For just a few seconds a driver’s chances in the race are in the hands of a highly choreographed pit crew who work together and in sync for one end – to get the car out of the lane in the fastest time.

And it’s the same in business. It’s not all about individual managers or leaders, it’s about a multi-disciplined, close-knit team working efficiently and effectively together, focused on the same clearly defined goals, and with an eye on strategic objectives. So it’s crucial that anyone who joins that team doesn’t break its seamless flow.

Let this article help you decide whether to go for a freelance graphic designer or boutique agency.

ferrari pit stop formula one
A pit crew working in sync effectively ©Abdul Razak Latif

Keeping a tight team

Your brand is a unique and individual entity. It is easily damaged, in the wrong hands your message can be blurred, misunderstood or ignored completely. So you need to be able to completely trust who you team up with to articulate it in the marketplace. Not always so easy with so many vendors jostling for your contract.

You may be trying to decide between bringing in a freelancer or hiring a creative agency to execute your work. There’s a view that the two offers are much the same and many think it’s a better decision to go with a freelancer because the costs are often lower. But it’s not, unsurprisingly, as simple as that and you need to hire talent according to your particular situation.

Remember, short term savings can cost you big in the long term.

So let’s take a closer look at these two creative options.

Freelance Graphic Designers

The gig economy is revolutionising the way businesses source design talent to work on their brand. The benefits are pretty clear up front. If you find a good freelancer, you know you’re likely to get a consistent result every time. You’re only working with one point of contact. They are usually able to work flexibly and they don’t need to be kept on any kind of retainer. Then of course there’s the cost. You’ll likely pay less for a freelancer than engaging a graphic design agency and all the built-in costs that come with it.

Alana Walden, a Marketing Manager at Brand Recruitment UK, says “The benefit of working with a freelancer is that it is just the one individual you’re dealing with, so you know who will be working on your designs throughout the process. Freelance graphic designers have their advantages for companies who are looking for sporadic design work to be carried out. They are known for their flexibility and working with one individual has its advantages over working with several designers.”

Learn more about how to become a graphic designer.

karnatarka logo prior to being a branding agency
Our Creative Director started as a freelancer under Karnatarka so we understand both sides

So what’s not to like with choosing a freelancer?

Well, a couple of things. Firstly, no matter how good they are, they are just one person. So if they become ill, or go on holiday, suddenly go to another gig at another client - you can be left high and dry. And when they go they take all that knowledge of your business with them and you have to train another freelancer up, which costs time and money.

Freelancers can be too specialised. Good at one or two specific jobs, but unable to pick up other tasks or solve day-to-day issues. So you end up wasting time trying to find additional resource to complete the job. And sometimes, you just don’t know who you’re getting.

Boutique Agencies

The name can be misleading. Boutique is French for ‘shop,’ selling goods and services that usually command an extremely high price. But in business and indeed in the design world, the word means small and high-performing.

It’s your pit crew example again. Like the F1 team, a boutique agency is made up of a tight-knit group of individuals, everyone involved knows the goal and they are all engaged and actively working towards it. The team is small but it is agile and more able to adapt to your needs.

This flexibility extends to price too because they don’t have the same large overheads of bigger agencies. So you’re getting the same flexibility as you’ll enjoy using freelancers, but with more advantages.

For a start, you’ll have specialists working on the different aspects of your project – just like an F1 pit crew optimised for performance.

So you’ll probably get the job done faster and more efficiently with fewer revisions. A team is also able to develop a creative idea and direction together, whereas a freelancer working in isolation isn’t able to collaborate in the same way.

Shalyn Dever is the Founder & Chief Growth Consultant at Chatter Buzz and an engineer recruited by Google. She says, “When it comes to hiring talent, agencies and in-house teams alike need to assemble a group of experts. That’s exactly the benefit of using an agency: you’re not responsible for building that team yourself. Remember the last time you had to furnish your home or apartment? There are two ways to do it. You could go the IKEA route, where you assemble everything yourself.

oops ikea advertising campaign
IKEA knows too well self assembly can cause problems ©IKEA

You spend hours reading instructions and doing everything just so, only to find you’re missing a piece and the entire unit falls apart. Or, you could purchase from a showroom and have the furniture delivered, pre-assembled, so that all you need to do is sit back and enjoy. And that’s why using an agency makes sense from a skills perspective. You can trust agencies to come ‘pre-assembled’ with a team of diversified talent to fit any and all needs.”

A tailored team of specialists

Availability is also an advantage. You can always reach someone from the creative team because agencies don’t allow everybody to down tools at the same time. Customer support is among their top priorities and most companies really appreciate this.

It’s also worth thinking about the level of experience that you’ll be getting with a boutique agency. Certainly many freelancers are highly skilled and experienced, but there’s always the possibility that you could hire someone new to the industry, someone less capable perhaps than a creative who’s been in the business for many years.

“We love freelancers,” says Alex Colley, Director of ikon. “They are independent, motivated and often some of the best creatives you’ll find. We’ve hoovered up some of the best of them to work with us. But on their own, freelancers can struggle to build big. To create deep change in the minds of consumers. We think a team approach works best.”

In the end, broader experience gets the chequered flag

Freelancers are a good option when you need a simple job turned around in a hurry. But when you’re looking to build or maintain a consistent brand look and feel and tone of voice, deeper consideration, experience and research is needed.

ikon is big enough to devote the time and resource needed, and small enough to promise that the project will be handled by experienced senior creatives, not passed to junior teams as in a larger agency because of project pile up and bottle-necks.

So who will you choose?
This article is written by Alex, James & Anwar of ikon | We are a boutique branding & creative agency – but not in the traditional sense. We hand-pick a team from our experienced creatives to suit each project, delivering a personal and bespoke service. Our Creative Director, Alex Colley is always the lead contact every step of the way and our clients include the likes of Cartier, Westfield, Porsche, & F1.

We could be the agency for you