What it’s like being a freelance graphic designer in design studios

designers in a design studio

What it’s like being a freelance graphic designer in design studios

Hello everyone and welcome back to my blog. Todays post is all about what it’s like being a freelance graphic designer in design studios. I have personally been offering my design services to multiple design agencies around Cornwall, UK for just over a year now and wanted to give some insight into the process and my experience.

Why do studios need freelancers?

I guess the first question is why do design studios who already have employees need a freelancer? There are two main answers to this A.) They need your specific skill set, you may be really good at hand lettering or photoshopping products amazingly. However, these skills are not needed on every single project so therefore doesn’t warrant a full time member of staff. 

Or B.) They have reached their capacity and need an extra pair of hands to fulfil the work for a client. Similarly, if the studio has established a good relationship with you then they know they can call on you so they can take on the extra project or work. Either way as a freelancer you have something to offer them.

Getting to meet new people

Working in a design studio means you get to meet new people and those people are going to like minded! When I first found the world of design 
I finally felt like I had found my people and it was such a revelation. Being a freelancer who works solely for personal clients can be isolating so personally I find it nice to be able to work with other creatives. I always end up learning something new when working in a studio and it’s nice to be able to bounce off other people. It can be really beneficial to the design process.


When you are freelancing in a design studio you can, on the most part, just go in and design. It is nice for a change not have to wear all the other hats you have to as a freelancer. This is because the studio will most probably have their own team who deals with client relationships, marketing, finances etc. I normally go in, get briefed and get on to designing. Obviously I have to sort out an invoice at the end of each week, send over my time sheets and try and keep my own personal marketing going but it is nothing like dealing with a client on your own and everything that comes with that. 


A studio asking you to come in for a period of time is great as it means you know you’re going to get paid for a certain amount. However, sometimes this can clash with personal clients you had in the pipe line. This means A.) You need to get good at time management, so knowing you may have to work in the evenings or weekends to get it all done is something you may have to factor in before saying yes to the studio. 

Or B.) Manage expectations with either the studio or your clients. You could mention to the studio you cannot work the full 5 days a week (if that is what the studio is asking for) but maybe 3 or 4. Remember you can converse with the studio and explain your situation, they should be more than understanding as probably a lot of them have once been freelancers before.


I have found that working in studios means for me that I get paid more  promptly than with clients. I normally invoice and get paid weekly in a studio which is a lot faster than sometimes with clients which can take up to 30 days.


One thing with working in a studio is that you need to fit in seamlessly and effortlessly. If you work with the same studios all the time this won’t be an issue but, like with starting a new job or starting anything new you’re going to have to learn the ropes. 

Working in a studio also means you’re most probably working under a creative director which means you’re going to have to be a team player. This can be a little shock to the system when you’re use to being the one in control and calling all the shots but it is just the way it’s going to be. 


I do find in a studio I do incur a few more expenses than I do working from home. This is because I tend to drive to and work in the studio so, I have to factor in the cost of diesel and my time spent travelling. However at the moment with Covid this has changed and may have also altered the future of how people work. I also find I tend to eat out for my lunch, mainly due to me not being organised enough and making lunch the night before but that is obviously avoidable.


On the flip side you can save money because you do get to use the studios facilities, they probably have a mac for you to use and access to the full Adobe Suite. So if you are on a budget you could pause your own Adobe subscription if you don’t have your own personal client work to do as well.


I met many people in London which all they do is offer design support to design agencies. They have a list in which they make their way around when needed. If you wanted to achieve this type of career I do think you would have to be based in a major city to make sure you have a big enough rotation of studios. For me based in Cornwall I use freelancing for studios as a supplement to my income. I do have a few on my books and they know they can call on me when needed which I think is a great place for me to be in as it fits my lifestyle.


Working in a studio as a freelancer has it ups and downs just like with everything but ultimately it depends on what you want out of your career. Some people become freelancers because they can’t stand working in an office environment from 9-5, for others because they want control over the work they chose to do. For these people freelancing in studios will not fulfil their needs however, freelancing with clients could. Or maybe you’re like me and like a bit of both. Always bear in mind your goals and your values when choosing your careers direction and whether it aligns with what you want out of life. 


I hope you enjoyed this post about what it’s like being a freelance graphic designer in design studios. Other posts you may enjoy are: What it’s like being a freelance graphic designer, What the design industry has taught me so far and What it’s like being a graphic design intern.


If you are a studio looking for a freelance graphic designer hi. You do not have to be based in Cornwall to get in touch with me, I am all ears to hearing about what you want and need. I think with the current crisis location is really proving to not be as important as it once was! Or if you are a new potential client I would love to hear from you.

Please email contact@melisscarne.co.uk so I can discuss with your further. Alternatively you can have a browse of my portfolio site to see more of my work and the services I offer.

Lots of love, Melissa x


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