4 answers

Which is better, large market studios or small market freelance work?

Asked Columbia, Missouri

As a soon to be graduate is it better to jump straight into large market areas or begin smaller as a freelance designer. I am curious as to whether it would be more beneficial to start out small, in a local area close to home right out of college, to grow as a designer or if it is reasonable to go to the bigger market areas to bigger firms. If I jump straight into the bigger firm area how hard is it to get a job, and what would I need to do to make myself look better to larger design firms being from a small town? #design #graphics #web-design #digital-media #freelance #multimedia #visual-design #visual-studio

4 answers

Cuong’s Answer

Updated San Francisco, California

Neither is better, they both rely on each other in order for you to succeed. If you start as small market freelancer, the work you get will be less but compacted in a short amount of time, you would have more freedom while working at a large market studio is more safe, you will get paid for being there and working but no freedom. The best approach would be, start working at a large market studio workplace in order to build your work and style then do freelance on the other side and later on. Freelance work would be beneficial when attending at a university.

Julie’s Answer

Updated Indiana, Indiana

It all depends on your portfolio. If you have strong skills, and a great, outgoing personality, you can start small as a free-lancer and build up experience to get into a larger firm. Freelancing is hard though. If you're good at it, you always have projects to work on, but if you're just starting out, you might have a tough time finding enough gigs to pay the bills. Not to mention the joy of taxes. Also, almost every company needs a graphic artist or has a graphics department...I would recommend starting there vs. trying to uproot to a large city where the market of designers are already flooded and attempting to get into a large design/marketing firm. My 2¢

Mounia’s Answer


Hi, From my previous experience at a production company, I could notice that the freelancer had less advantages than the regular full time employees, also their working hours were hectics since they were not paid by the hour but by project, also the work flow and work ethics for the regular employees were set out clearly in comparision to the freelancers. If you are strating and need to learn about the business I would suggest a big marketing firm that could give you the tools you need to later become a freelancer with great advantages and work ethics.

Best of luck,

Glenn’s Answer

Updated Dallas, Texas

As an in-house leader and agency owner, I've always seen the choice for recent graduates to be between in-house design environments (Google, Nike, Apple, Starbucks, etc.) or agencies (Landor, IDEO, AKQA, etc. depending on discipline). Small or large scale may apply to both. Big markets (LA, NY, SF) have a lot more to choose from, but there a lots of very talented in-house groups and agencies in smaller markets too.

Glenn recommends the following next steps:

  • I'd recommend "shopping" different environments and see which feels best for you. I know early on in your career you benefit much more from the observation and collaboration with teams, be they in-house or at agencies, so I'd encourage you do that and freelance as you grow your network and abilities.
  • You can reach out to companies/agencies that you admire and ask for an informational interview or to shadow someone for a day. Better yet, if able, volunteer your services for a week or month to get a better sense of the environment. This is often gratis, but may be paid depending on the employer. But be clear in exchange you are there to learn, seek advice, etc.
  • Another route may be to contract with an Aquent or Creative Circle placement agency to rapidly get experience in a variety of environments, while developing future relationships.
  • Very few will turn away an eager, ambitious designer looking to learn. Ask for a little advice, a little time, a little opportunity and hustle with each chance you get. Whether in our out, small or large, that will serve you well for years and years.