Design work requires long hours, creativity and attention to detail. Designers can work for themselves as freelancers, hiring out their services, or for an agency designing material for clients. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012, approximately 24 percent of graphic designers worked as freelancers or were self-employed. That means the majority work for agencies, public relations firms or in-house in companies.
Here is what a typical day in the life of designer looks like:
The agency designer typically starts work fairly early to stay in tune with the demands of businesses that often run on a 9 to 5 schedule.
The freelance designer may just be stirring or may be sleeping in after a long night of design work. The freelancer has the ability to set their own schedule, but with that ability often comes a tendency to procrastinate, and this results in long hours put in at the end of a project.
The agency designer is likely in meetings with management and/or clients. Planning sessions are common to make sure everyone from the copywriter to the designer are all on the same page and working on the same vision. Seventy-five percent of agency designers work with a team of five or fewer people.
The freelance designer checks their email and uploads files to their clients. Sometimes their client might be an agency that has too much work for in-house. In this case, they also may need to coordinate with a project manager.
The agency designer may or may not have time for lunch. High demands mean they may eat at their desk while finishing up a project that is on a tight deadline.
The freelance designer has the same demands on their time and may feel like they have to rush to finish work so they can spend some time with family that evening. Lunch is usually on the run or a few bites grabbed here and there between projects.
The agency designer wraps up projects for the day and prepares to end the work day. They have put in nine long and hectic hours and need time to unwind. Tomorrow will be another fast-paced, high-demand day.
The freelance designer may or may not be done with their work. Unless they have hired assistants, they don’t have anyone to delegate tasks to. This means not only are they responsible for finishing projects, but they have to pitch new ideas to potential clients, invoice for projects they have completed, and spend a little time promoting their business if they want it to grow.
Which Path Should You Choose?
There are pros and cons to both agency work and freelance work. Working for an agency means earning a steady paycheck, benefits and working on high-profile campaigns that can lead to bigger and better work in the future. On the other hand, demands are high and the blame often gets shifted to the designer if the client is unhappy.
The freelancer has the ability to set their own schedule and a lot of flexibility. However, it is easy to get distracted and procrastinate. If you get sick or fall behind, there are no sick or personal days. There are no benefits, and a steady paycheck is unlikely.
Weigh all your options when deciding which path to take and know that just because you choose one path today doesn’t mean you have to stay on that path forever.