Design vs. Goliath: How freelance designers can compete with large design firms

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Hey freelance designers: just because you’re a one-person show doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to find high-caliber, high-paying clients. Ignore the myth that you can’t compete with what a large design firm has to offer.

You have things they can’t offer.

This post is all about leveraging your strengths in order to compete with large design firms. We’ll explore a few advantages you have as a freelancer today and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

Compete on grounds of accessibility

One thing you can offer as a freelance designer is accessibility. I’ve worked with so many clients that tell me they decided to go with a freelancer this time around because last time they could never get a hold of their design firm. Or when they did finally get a hold of someone working on their project, the concern took too long to work it’s way through the system.

Clients want an accessible designer who can solve problems quickly and efficiently. Take advantage of that edge you have over the large design firms. Be accessible to your clients.

Compete on the grounds of personality

People have always enjoyed a personal connection with another human being. While it may be difficult for a client to relate to a corporations full of designers, they can easily relate to you. Make your clients feel like the most important person in the world. Make their experience personal and special.

Compete on the grounds of affordability

One of the primary ways freelance designers can compete with large firms is on the grounds of affordability. Note here, that I am not suggesting that you lower your prices just to get more clients. Make sure your prices reflect your worth.

But you should naturally have less costs involved in the design project than a large firm. Likely, you don’t have to pay overhead for a huge corporate office, pay health benefits to employees, or even pay employees at all.

Take advantage of those savings and pass them along to your clients. They’ll love you for it.

Compete on the grounds of flexibility

Since you aren’t working on a team of 50 designers, project managers, and executives, you can be much more flexible for your clients than a large design firm can. Make an added effort to be flexible for your clients. You can likely move projects and deadlines around more easily than a large firm, so take advantage of that!

One person turn around much quicker than a train full of people.

Compete on the grounds of exclusivity

There are a lot of clients to be had out there, but most clients want to feel like they’re the only one your working with right now. And if they’re a big enough client, perhaps you can offer them exclusivity. Explain to your client that, unlike your corporate counterpart, you can focus more exclusively on their projects and get things done more quickly and efficiently.

Even if you have to juggle more than one exclusive client at once, you can still dedicate certain days of the week (for example) to one single client.

The thought of being exclusive instead of part of a long list of clients on a corporate white board will be intriguing to a lot of big clients.

How else can you compete with large design firms?

Those are the competitive edges I could brainstorm. What else would you add to the list? How do you compete with large design firms? Share your tips with us by leaving a comment.

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About Preston D Lee

Preston is a web designer, entrepreneur, and the founder of this blog. @prestondlee

  • michael

    I think accessibility is a big one. There’s nothing a client likes more that being able to pick up the phone and contact someone who can actually handle the problem or request and is familiar with the project.

  • Hartdesigns

    I would just like to add, while you are offering personal consumer relations that corporate can’t offer, keep it professional always! And stick to you prices, people sometimes think since your a freelancer they are going to get a super cheap deal.

    • Dan Sweet

      I agree about keeping it professional. Some potential clients may feel more comfortable with more of a corporate business relationship, but if your proposal and communications (and portfolio, of course) are just as polished and thorough as that of your design firm competition, you should be in good shape.

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  • Natasha Kahn

    Preston, how someone going to fulfill requirements of client when his project need a team to work on, you cant be flexible on the project deadline, its always a big difference between a team and lonely freelancer.

    2nd thing, You cant be expert of everything, while in a team situation you always try have experts.

    • Julia

      @Natasha Kahn,
      “2nd thing, You cant be expert of everything” – that’s why freelancers are highly specialized and pick projects themselves, I’ll never take the project if I will not be sure that I’m able to finish it

    • darren

      I do agree with the team element, but being the head of design for a large agency I come across situations where the ‘strategy’ is done in house and its simply the implementation of a new platform/website that is required, and if budgets tight then an agency is the last thing on a marketing departments mind

  • Mehboob

    Great tips
    Thank you.

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