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The Best Way to Get Graphic Design; Agencies, Design Contests, or Freelancers?

Good graphic design is essential to any business venture, and unless you are an excellent graphic designer yourself, you’re going to want to hire out your work. The question is, which option, a graphic design agency, design contest, or freelancer, will fit your business and project best?

The first thing to do is to take a good look at your project. How much thought have you already put into it? Do you already have a decent idea of what you want, or is it the kind of thing where you’ll know it when you see it? Consider how much time you have for the project, is it time sensitive? Is it a small project for a single logo or graphic, or is it a larger scale project with several components, like a full re-branding? And, of course, you’ll need to consider your budget.

Your ideal graphic design route will depend a lot on your answers to these questions.

Graphic Design Agencies

An agency will take a lot of work off your hands, they deal directly with designers, make sure you get quality work within the set timeline, as well as dealing with the logistics of your project. If you have a big project and the budget to allow it, consider going with an agency.


● Ongoing work projects. If you have more than a project or two an agency will have designers available full-time to do your work.

● Brand development. An agency is also a natural choice if you need to develop your brand or marketing strategy.

● Quality work. ​You are more likely to get quality work and to work with a designer that will follow a set timeline.


● Time. An agency might take a bit longer to deliver a project, possibly weeks or months, since they often keep normal business hours, have more clients, and shoulder a larger workload

● Expense. Working with an agency is the more expensive option.

Design Contests

When launching a design contest, you fill out a quick form to let contestants know what you’re looking for, as well as any specifics about branding, like colors or fonts. After the contest runs you receive multiple options, and pick the graphic design you like best of the lot. You can also give feedback if the design isn’t quite what you envisioned.


● Several options​. If you have an idea of what you want but want options to choose from, a design contest is a great idea. The amount of interpretations you get with a design contest is the greatest asset of this option.

● A variety of design styles. ​A design contest can take your idea in several different directions because you work with several designers rather than just one.

● Inspiration.​ If you feel stuck on your brand or design, hosting a contest is a great opportunity to see your idea through many sets of talented eyes and find inspiration.


● Not a one-and-done.​ You will have to pick between multiple, and possibly similar designs, so if making those kinds of decisions is not your cup of tea, you might want to skip this option.

● Not suited for large-scale projects.​ Design contests are a better option for projects like book cover designs, logos, or one time graphics for mugs or t-shirts etc.

● Effort. ​You will need to spend some time daily giving feedback, so if you want to drop off an idea and pick it up when it’s done, this is not your option.

Freelance Graphic Designers

With this option you work directly with a freelance designer.


● Time.​ Most freelancers don’t follow regular office hours, which means they are likely to work at odd times and deliver projects faster.

● One designer. ​You get to work with one person, and have a better chance of getting cohesive branding.

● A good fit for small-scale projects.​ Projects like illustrations, app designs, and book layouts can work better with a freelancer than with design contests or agencies.


● Not all freelancers are the same.​ You have to vet your freelancers well, since you otherwise will have no guarantee of the quality or timeliness of their work.

● Communication. ​It is essential to communicate well with the designer, as well as make certain of what exactly you’re paying for. Are revisions included? If so, how many? What is their normal response time, and so on.

● Payment differs. ​Some freelancers require upfront payment, some send invoices after a finished project, and some will ask for a deposit up front and invoice the rest after the work is done.

Another option is to use a freelancer service (like Upwork) where you still work with freelancers, but the freelancer service takes a small amount of the payment in order to offer a searchable database of vetted freelancers, handle payments securely, and help resolve conflicts.

In Summary

Remember that picking between an agency, design contest, and freelancer for your graphic design work is not a one time choice. Different projects require different solutions, and you might go with a freelancer for one project and hire an agency for another. The best thing you can do is to be flexible and choose the option that fits the design work you need done today.

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