Company or Freelance? Curious

I am curious as of your views about the pros and cons of working for somebody else or on your own?
What are the advantages and disadvantages?
Is there anybody on here who has experience in both and would like to share there stories?


Active Member
Here's a few off the top of my head, will edit this post and add more in as I think of them!! :)

Freelance Positives

  • Choose your own working hours, work when you're most effective, not just when the office is open.
  • Once you have a good portfolio together and enough regular work you can start to be more selective about the clients and type of work you take on.
  • You have direct contact with your clients (in most cases) which takes out any chance of a chinese whispers type scenario.
  • Your earnings are not capped to an hourly/weekly/monthly/annual wage/salary, you have a direct influence on what you'll earn.

Freelance Negatives

  • You never stop thinking about upcoming projects and work, it's very difficult to switch-off from work.
  • You don't have a regular income, especially in the early days, one month you could be turning work away, the next struggling to pay the rent.
  • You have to wear a lot of different hats! Be it reception, admin, bookkeeper, accountant & a bit of designer now again.
  • You have to file a self assessment tax return every year, and budget for paying your taxes accordingly.
  • It can be a lonely world, and going back to the first negative, working from a home office, it can be hard to separate work and personal life.

Side note, if you're considering going freelance I would personally advise getting some £ saved up to support yourself in the first 6-12 months. Don't forget you need to register as self-employed (you have 3 months to do so).

I worked freelance throughout my degree, prior to that had a few years working in a signage company as their designer, and also had a year at a regular design agency after my degree. I've always had 'entrepreneurial' interests, so going freelance was a logical move for me, as it gave me freedom to work on other things when work was slow (like Design Forums!). In the first year I thought about trying to get back into a regular job, when you have no upcoming projects and a very low bank balance it's really difficult, you need a certain amount of perserverence to keep finding the work!

Now, I would find it near impossible to return to working for someone else (partly due to bad habits!!) I love what I do, when I do it, the people I get to work with, and most importantly not having someone else telling me what I should do.


Senior Member
I thought as a full time creative working in a company I would contract Greg's post with the positives and negatives of working for someone else:

Company Positives

  • The chance to work with other creatives, learning from those more experienced than yourself
  • You will probably work with clients that are larger and more respected than you would if you had just started freelancing
  • You get paid every month, no matter how busy or quiet you are so you don't have to worry (so much) about how to pay the bills
  • All the tax issues are sorted on your behalf
  • You can still freelance in your spare time
  • You build up contacts quickly as you meet people on a daily basis (printers, IT people, copywriters, illustrators etc)

Company Negatives

  • Your wage is set each month, even if your days are really busy, you get paid the same as you would for those other normal weeks
  • You have no control over the clients you work with
  • You may have to work on projects that you dont like/enjoy as you will be lower down the pecking order of designers
  • Your working hours are normally set in stone so you have to work every week day, 9-5 regardless of how you feel
  • You may not get direct contact with clients and have to work from second hand briefs passed on from a senior member of staff
  • You may not get personal credit for work produced


Active Member
Good contrast, Dave, although thought I'd pick up on this one, as not all employers will be happy with you freelancing & some may actually include that you're not permitted to do so as a condition to your contract.

davewill said:
You can still freelance in your spare time
Working with people with greater experience, and clients with bigger budgets/more exciting projects is definitely a big positive to employment with an agency. As is the on the job training and experience you'll build up off tha back of that, can prove to be invaluable.


Senior Member
Good point Greg, I suppose I take that for granted as my employers are happy for me to work on my own projects but I did work at a studio in the past that banned me from freelance work (i still did a little bit on the hush hush)

I was just making the point that you can work full time to start off with and build up your personal portfolio in your spare time (if allowed by your employer of course) wheras that doesnt work the other way round.

Something to consider if you want to go freelance but cant afford to so in the short term.
A lot of these students come onto the forums saying 'oh I'll go freelance, that will be nice'. Do they really believe that out of the blue they can get enough work to live on?.
Years of working in lots of companies all over the UK has helped me establish a very usefull network of 'people I know'. I find a lot of freelance work comes through these contacts.
I think get a job first, get your grounding make the contacts and later a tad further down the road take the leap. I have always done freelance whilst employed and had no bother just do it on the hush hush.

Good luck and enjoy chasing people for payment...there's a lot of that.
...and working at night.


Active Member
Typo said:
A lot of these sudents come onto the forums saying 'oh I'll go freelance, that will be nice'. Do they really believe that out of the blue they can get enough work to live on?.

I think get a job first, get your grounding make the contacts and later a tad further down the road take the leap.
Agree with this Typo, think with the advent of all the freelance 'rockstar' type blogs, coupled with the crowdsource contest sites, leads a lot of students to thinking the work is easy and it will find you if you have a website! Imagine there's a lot of young guns taking on freelance work without being self employed too, just through not knowing rather than ignoring the rules.

If I'd tried to go freelance out of Uni I think I would have struggled a great deal, and I had prior experience to Uni, many graduates don't have the practical knowledge of print or the web to pick up and complete good quality freelance work without some studio/agency experience IMO.


Senior Member
Honestly, i think there's no way anyone could go Freelance straight from University.

By spending just one year in an agency you'll learn far more than 3 in education.

Plus i think the experience you'll gain will only serve to set a strong foundation of confidence should you decide to go freelance.


Senior Member
Sage advice here, to add my two pennies, Im two years into uni myself and i started going freelance about 6 months in, I didnt and dont make enough to live off from it but the plan is that by starting early I'll be cooking with gas by the time I graduate next September. Having said that all that i'm doing essentialy is hedging my bets, in the final year show it was quite sad last year to see most of the graduates work on display next to some freshly printed vistaprint business cards sporting a hastily concocted company name and logo.
Typo said:
A lot of these students come onto the forums saying 'oh I'll go freelance, that will be nice'. Do they really believe that out of the blue they can get enough work to live on?.
OK Thats sure answered my question ha

I'm not completely oblivious to the fact that freelance is no joke or hardwork and that it will be 'nice' as such, but I do still have a hell of a lot to learn and this has definitly opened my eyes alot more. We don't get told any of this kind of stuff at Uni unfortunately. So at the moment I rely quite ALLOT on this forum and advice from yourselves.
I agree with you Typo and will definitly be taking your advice on board, and everyone elses for that matter.

I've read through all of your replies and I have weighed the pros and cons...
I think gaining real experience/building a foundation for myself/ establishing contacts through a company is the best way to go. walk before I run and all that!
Particularly Gregs Freelance negatives have not 'put me off' but helped me to think alot about making decisions and having to accept the cons of working alone.
Things like seperating work/personal life and switching off is something my worrying character wouldn't be to good at!
The company sides of things-I wasn't aware that some employers ban freelance work.

Appreciating the advice a great deal!

Thanks :)
Being a 'freelance' designer is a great ideal for a fresh young student.

In reality it's bloody hard - i tried it 6 months after leaving uni (after i was made redundant from my 1st job), the truth is most graduates don't have the required experience, ability and contacts to be a good freelancer.

Self promotion is a major problem. As is liasing and dealing with clients and potential clients. Organising non design work relating tasks - invoicing etc.

If i'm being honest - only now some 8 years after graduating could i comfortably handle 99.99% of 'freelance' projects - and thats through hard work, understanding, skills, ability and knowing the industry.
i think as a fresher you should join a company as you can communicate many ppl over there your senior can guide you. i dont have doubt in your ability still we are not perfect as a fresher you can learn so many things from others
I only skimmed through the replies so not sure if anyone else mentioned this!

Lots of design agencies use freelancers when they are really busy, so this is another option you could consider. You can still get your own work direct from your own clients as well if you wish, but working within agencies means you get to mingle with other people more and that means you'll probably learn more.

It could be hard to juggle onsite agency work with direct-to-client work if you were very busy. Some agencies are happy for you to work from home though. A drawback would be that it's difficult to add to your portfolio as you might not work on a project from start to finish, plus most agencies won't let you put the work in your portfolio regardless.

I would personally say you need at least 5 years experience to freelance, especially for an agency as you do tend to be thrown in at the deep end (you're only there because the **** is hitting the fan after all!)