Designer vs Ad Agency: What’s the right choice for you?

Graphic Design

Kristin Pruis



If you and your business are beginning the search for assistance from a graphic designer, you may be asking yourself, “Should I hire an advertising agency or a graphic designer?” There are great benefits and tradeoffs to both options, but one may be a better fit for your business.

Wide-Ranging Experience vs Depth of Expertise

If you have a pretty good idea about what you need and it only requires one area of expertise, but just need an expert to help you execute it, it may be a wise choice to go with a contractor. Most contractors are specialized in only a few skill areas and sourcing an individual expert may get you better results if the scope of work you need is narrow but deep.

If you aren’t sure of what need or need a variety of different services, an agency may be a better fit. Agencies are usually comprised of multiple individuals with a wide range of experience and expertise from social media strategy to brand messaging. You could also pick a smaller agency that works in a specific niche such as small business websites or church communications if your project focus is narrow but you’d like a little more depth in value.

Value-Added vs Low Overhead Cost

It may come as no surprise that a marketing agency is more likely to come with a higher price tag. Some of this can be attributed to overhead, which helps to keep a larger enterprise running. Because an agency can employee multiple areas of expertise, you can take advantage of all the service offerings they have and experts they employ. In this instance, a higher cost would also indicate added value.

Contractors, on the other hand, usually come with a cheaper price tag; but, it also depends on who you hire. A graphic designer with 20 years experience and multiple awards under their belt certainly could merit a higher cost, while a recent graduate or student design contractor would likely be a great fit if you’re in a financial pinch. Most contractors can give you a non-obligatory estimate within a day or two if price is a real sticking point. You may also be interested to read: How Much Does a Graphic Designer Costs

Close Relationship vs Team Dynamics

If a one-on-one relationship is something you value and you would like to work directly with the person who will be working on your project, hiring a design contractor may be the right option for you. One down side to working with a sole contractor is if something comes up and they are unavailable, your project may be put on hold temporarily.

If you’d rather be working with a team of people, an agency may be your best choice. The bittersweet dynamic to this relationship is that the team you work with may be ever changing and there is a lot more communication and time that will be required of you to keep everyone in the loop.

If you’re still stuck on whether an ad agency or graphic designer is right for you, do your research. Meet with some potential options and weigh the pros and cons of each. You may also want to read How to Find a Graphic Designer That Fits Your Business.

Want to be pen pals? Subscribe to my blog newsletter and I'll share my latest tips and tricks with you every week.