Knowing that you love art and you love graphic design is one thing, but knowing where you want to offer this passion is quite another. In general, graphic designers have three options when it comes to employment: In-house, agency, and freelance. Although designers will be doing similar jobs in each situation—creating ad campaigns, tag lines, graphics for a website, etc.—the environment provides a very different experience.

Many designers do shift from one to another back and forth, but the majority of designers stick to one type of graphic design job. If a designer is used to working in a design agency and has the experience, this is usually where he/she will stay. Therefore, it is important to realize the pros and cons to each type of job so that you can make sure you’re working in the environment that is right for you. Consider below some of the differences between these three options:

inhouse graphic design

( Photo credit: inhousedesign )

Graphic Design in an Agency

Working in an agency simply means that you would be working with a group of graphic designers and have several different clients. You would be working in an office with other designers as your co-workers, and you will be working on several different projects. A client may call a design agency and ask for assistance with a project. This project would then get delegated down to you, you complete the project, and then you move on to the next client.

Pros

Cons

 

  • Variety: Because you are working with many different clients, you get a good variety of projects.
  • Coworkers: Almost all of your coworkers will be fellow designers, so you have the opportunity help each other when projects get tough.
  • Fast Pace: Most consider a faced paced environment desirable, but this can change from person to person.
  • Collaboration: You often work on projects with others, so you have the opportunity to learn from those more experienced.
  • Salary: Agencies usually pay well and give you the opportunity to move up in the company.
  • Long Hours: Designers typically work long hours when working in an agency.
  • Deadlines: This is a huge part of working for an agency. If you don’t do well working on a deadline, this may not be the environment for you.
  • Job Security:The entire company relies on clients, so if the clients are not there then business will suffer. This is true with any profession, but generally there are more chances of success (advertisers, customers, investors, etc.).

 

Graphic Design In-House

Working as a graphic designer in-house means that you are working for one company and working in the office of that company. This means that your co-workers will be your typical business department workers such as accountants, marketing professionals, IT staff, and salesmen and saleswomen. In some cases, there will only be one or two graphic designers. Your projects will be projects for that company every single day whether it be creating a banner ad for that company, helping create a logo for that company, or trying different website photos for that company.

Pros

Cons

 

  • Stability: This is the best part about working in-house. You are THE graphic designer, and you won’t be at the beck and call of clients. Your company is your client.
  • Communication: It will be easy to truly understand what your client needs because they’re sitting in the office next door. Any stress/confusion is lessened.
  • Benefits: You will get company benefits such as high quality health and dental insurance, retirement, disability, etc.
  • Hours: Unlike an agency, you probably won’t need to work long hours. You know when you’re supposed to be at work, and that’s it. Fewer deadlines.

 

  • Less Challenging: You won’t be able to foster your creativity quite as much with an in-house job. You’re only working for one company, so it can get monotonous.
  • Salary: In many cases, your salary will be slightly less than working in an agency.
  • Less Collaboration:You could potentially be working alone (or with just one other person) as an in-house agent. This doesn’t allow you to learn from others.
  • Dull Work Space:Agencies have creative and interesting workspaces, but a regular-old company has the typical cubicle style layout for privacy and clients (not design clients) that visit.

Graphic Design as a Freelancer

Being a freelance graphic designer means that you are your own boss and operate your own business. You get to choose your schedule and the clients you work with, but you must make sure that you have a solid portfolio for others to see. It is also your responsibility to find your own jobs and find your own clients. You may even want to consider creating your own website for those interested. Many graphic designers become freelance designers after working at either an agency or in-house first.

Pros

Cons

 

  • Flexibility: Because you get to pick your own hours and own clients, you can do as much or as little work as you want (provided the work is available).
  • Salary: You get to set your own pay rate as a freelance designer. Your salary will be good or bad depending upon the amount of work available, but you know you won’t be getting cheated!
  • Work from Home: Most freelance designers work from the comfort of their own home,
  • Risky: If you can’t find clients, you won’t get paid. It’s as simple as that.
  • Working Alone: It is hard for many people to really get work done when you’re working from home and alone. This makes it harder to learn from others.

 

Many designers take the first job they can find, which is not a bad idea. Times are tough, and beggars can’t be choosers. However, there will come a time when you get your experience and more job opportunities open up, and this is when understanding these key differences will matter.

Do you work as an agency, in-house, or freelance designer? What has been your experience?

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer on topics ranging from social media to business proposals. She writes for an online resource that gives advice on topics including VoIP phone systems to small businesses and entrepreneurs for the leading business directory, Business.com.