This is a frequently asked question and often seems to be answered by how big your budget is. If you want cheap, you pick a freelance designer and if you want expensive you pick an agency. But in our opinion there’s far more to it than that.

We’ve been on both sides, we’ve won work by pitching on low prices and we’ve won work on quality and service alone. So rather than try and answer the question head on, let me tell you how we found it from the viewpoint of a designer.

As a web or graphic designer you enter a very competitive world where he who quotes lowest wins the work. Most self-employed designers start here and focus on one or two elements of design that they can template and mass produce. The turnover of projects and clients is high and fast paced, and to be honest it’s quite exciting for a while. The problem with this model is you can rarely provide your best level of design or service, as the budget isn’t there to support it. Personally I couldn’t be at my best when working this way, so I set about recruiting a team and skill set that would allow us to earn the title of Creative Agency.

As an agency you are judged on results and service, rather than price alone, and your reputation is everything. It’s expensive to set up an agency and your overheads and responsibilities become eye-wateringly high (it isn’t for everyone that’s for sure). But as a director of a creative agency you are looking to build a team around you, who bring with them a varied skill set that can be exactly paired up to individual clients and their requirements.

An agency best suits a client who demands the best of their designer and is prepared to provide the budget to support this. As an agency you have to become a little more selective of the clients you work with, as you are aiming to maintain your reputation by continually delivering first class designs and a high level of return on investment. You need to be sure from the outset that you can excel in your performance and results for each client.

So my advice to anyone seeking design and marketing services is to think carefully about what it is you value most. Is it quality and service, or simply the lowest price – you decide…