11 March 2022
6 Mins Read
Freelance vs Working on a Team
The questions of whether to join a design team or to work as a sole agent and the effects of both situations have remained for as long as anyone can remember. In this episode of Crunch Talk, Harold Agaju, Sherman Baloyi and Tunde Mason all came together to air their distinct opinions on the pros and cons of both working conditions, while also sharing their individual experiences.
What are the peculiarities of working as a freelancer and working on a team?
To Harold, the major twist is with control. According to him, a freelancer has more control over their design process. While it may seem nice to shoulder the end-to-end responsibility of a project, it’s daunting. On the other hand, Harold explains that working with a team gives you less control; a designer works with existing blueprints and on the parts set out for them.
Interestingly, Sherman agrees with Harold. As a freelancer, Sherman believes you have the creative freedom to choose projects that suit your style and extend on your preferred niche. “Working with a team limits the extent of your creative freedom,” he repeats.
Tunde, however, brought an entirely new perspective to the conversation when he mentioned the distinction between project size and timing for each side. While a freelancer works on a large number of projects at a short time constraint, a team player has the luxury to spend more time on projects. Thus, the latter has more time to iterate the work done and the former comes up with a minimum viable product to just keep going. That seems like an interesting insight from Tunde.
What are the pros and cons of each?
It isn’t shocking that there are a lot of overlapping insights from the three designers while discussing the pros and cons of the two working citations, however, there are opinions that stand out. Harold mentioned that what is considered as a pro and con boils down to the preference of a designer. “To me, control is a pro as a freelancer. I can direct the project from beginning to end. The onus is on me and I can’t give excuses. But then, control is also a con. You can burnout easily since you are in control of the entire project—end to end”
“To me, control is a pro as a freelancer. I can direct the project from beginning to end. The onus is on me and I can’t give excuses. But then, control is also a con. You can burnout easily since you are in control of the entire project—end to end”Harold Agaju
As much as Sherman agrees with Harold on the lack of so much control, creative freedom as he calls it, he believes it’s dependent on your level of expertise and job title. Being in a senior role still allows you a level of creative freedom despite being with a team.
Tunde tabled the earnings that come with both, but with a more different approach. To him, a lot of Nigerian clients demand a lot from freelancers while paying so little, which is a con. But this isn’t the case with foreign clients. “If you can build a retainer relationship with these (foreign) clients or get into a platform like Toptal, your income can increase dramatically over a short period,” he explains. Harold endorses that freelancing pays much better than working with a team.
Another factor this trio brought up that’s worth mentioning is the speed with which decisions are made. As a freelancer, you make decisions really fast as it all lies on you. However, with a team, decisions drag because “everyone has to be carried along and everyone’s ideas have to be considered,” as Harold puts it.
What advantage does one have over the other?
To summarise everything said by Tunde and Harold, one could easily say freelancing lets you have a wide range of design knowledge while working with a team enables you to dig deep into an aspect of design. Tunde explains that projects come to a freelancer from a wide variety of industries while a designer working with a team “gets to spend more time fine-tuning details.” Harold supports this motion as he says that while working with a team, a designer has easy access to immediate and helpful resources; a team member can help if one should get stuck. A luxury that a freelancer doesn’t have.
However, to them, a freelancer gets to work on different projects which a team player might not have access to. Also, a team
Sherman added that an advantage working with a team has over freelancing is the support and validation from your peers. You have a lot of fresh perspective on your work and do not get stuck in a loop of designing with the same style every time.
Discuss growth concerning each scenario.
Sherman and Harold held opposing views about growth for a freelancer and a designer working with a team. To Sherman, a freelancer has more growth opportunities. It’s more than design knowledge—a freelancer takes on a project, makes mistakes, learns to close deals, make business moves and has different experiences across the board that someone working on a team may never be exposed to.
Although Harold holds the same views on the wide range of experience set, he believes that being on a team helps one grow faster, have access to helpful resources and network with other designers-cum-team members, all of which are especially helpful for a junior designer.