Can You as a Freelance Designer Compete with Bigger Companies?


We’ve talked about freelancing, – what to do and how to do it. In this article we’re gonna have a look at some of your stronger and weaker sides compared to bigger Design Companies. By reading this you’ll get an idea of how you can compete even better and which things to focus on when selling your designs and services to new clients.

One of the main things that designers think through before going freelance is the benefits compared to working in a company. Then they often think about if they’ll be able to get the same size on the paycheck and so on.

Picture by Dani Simmonds

One thing I believe should be way up on that list is to compare what you can offer to your clients when you’re freelance, compared to what a design company can do. You’ll be quite likely to struggle a little bit with getting clients to choose you if you’re new in the game and they have dealt with a bigger company in the past.

If you know some of the major differences and keep these in mind it will be easier to sell them the package you have to offer, while eliminating some of the risks that the clients are facing.

Picture by Matthijs van Heerikhuize

Now let’s have a look at some of the differences for a client. We know there are several more, and would love to hear your own tips in the comments!

By chosing bigger companies

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A more extensive portfolio

Bigger companies have more designers and they have more extensive portfolios. This can be a challenge for you when you’ve just started up. This being said, you should focus on building up a really good portfolio for yourself. Include a good variety of your very best work, and remember to show your versatility. The power of a good portfolio should never be underestimated!

More versatility

Picture by Billy Alexander

As bigger companies have more workers, they’re also usually a lot more versatile than what you are. Don’t let this get you down though. If you’re really good at listening to the client, you will be able to compensate for this mostly. The designers also have great opportunities to get feedback from each other and work together on projects involving several products/services.

Not vulnerable to people being away

In a bigger company there’s usually someone who can step in if a designer is sick or has to be away for other reasons. When you’re a freelancer this can be a potential risk for the client. There’s not a whole lot to do about this other than having good communication with the client and look for options on how to solve things if you have to be away for a day or two.

Better prices/more extras

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This doesn’t always have to be the case, in some cases it can actually be the opposite but we’re including it here anyway. Bigger companies can afford doing projects where they lose money if they’re part of a bigger plan. This means that sometimes they can throw in an extra product or service when negotiating with the client.

More stable

I’ve had the question from clients several times: But what do I do if you’re out of business tomorrow? Bigger companies have a more stable economy and a better economical core, where freelancers can be very vulnerable to changes. One of the ways to solve this can be to have the client pay after a project is done, or at least very late in the process. This usually makes them feel more comfortable if it’s a case to begin with.

By chosing a freelancer

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A more personal service

This is many times your strongest selling point. The fact that you are the one they will be in touch with in every stage of the process can be a great advantage. This will prevent clients from having to deal with several different designers and make sure that the chance of misunderstandings is a lot smaller. My tip is to use this actively when trying to get a deal with a new client.

Freelancers often “give more”

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This is a fact in many cases and it can be both good and bad. For the clients this is usually a good thing. As freelancers depend more on each project, they also tend to give a lot more during the process. It’s not uncommon that we give our phone numbers for clients to reach us outside of regular work hours, and meetings after hours/during weekends happens a lot more with freelancers than with regular employees in bigger companies. Obviously you should try to get your deserved time off to recharge the batteries in-between work, but this can be used as a final selling point to tip the client in your direction.

More characteristic designs

Being able to show versatility is important, and so is having a design style. Where companies have many different designers with different looks, you as a freelancer will most likely build your own look over time. This can be a great selling point for you and clients will often get very happy with this. In a market today where many designs look similar (logos, websites and so on) a look that stands out is a good thing. If you’ve made a good portfolio, clients will be very likely to fall for this point.

Better prices

Picture by Dani Simmonds

In general, freelancers are many times able to give better prices. This point was on the company side as well, but there a little bit different. Where you as a freelancer can’t give anything away for free, you are still likely to be able to get a lower price range on most things. Bigger companies have more costs to cover, and along with the other advantages from chosing a company, clients have to pay a bit more. Don’t under price your services but be aware that as long as you’re not being extremely expensive, you’re probably cheaper to use than a company.

They’re helping

Some companies/clients are actually very interested in helping out new designers and/or local ones. This can be a good reason for them to choose you. By letting them understand that you’re thinking forward and have a good plan for the future, they can be more than happy to help you out by choosing you. For many designers, starting out in the local community can be a great way to start building up a portfolio and getting some practice before stepping out into the rest of the world.


Picture by Eduardo Schäfer

Being a freelance designer can be hard, that’s no secret. Remember to read up and know what you’re dealing with and you can be in for many good surprises along the way. By knowing how to sell your services and being a serious competitor, you can land many deals from this. Never talk bad about any competitors but know what your forces are and use them in your sales pitch. If you have a client or two saying no, don’t give up! With time you will get a more extensive portfolio, good and loyal clients and a great reputation. When you get there you’ll get even more clients.

Good luck!



  1. Justin


    As a freelancer a wouldn’t agree more :)
    but the only problem i face not getting new clients but getting paid :) i guess every freelancer has the same problem….

  2. Ervin

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  3. Jonathan

    As a freelancer it’s critical that you tell clients your ability to scale. By that I mean if you need to pull in other people how quickly can you do it? What kind of ‘address book’ for support people do you have? … other designers, photographers, developers. Ideally you need to have a few of each as a contingency. For me, this has been one of the most important factors in winning jobs. It’s why clients are attracted to the bigger companies, the feeling that there’s more of a support team there. The thing is they may never need that team and for most if not all of the project they’ll probably only deal with one person. So in effect they would be hiring a freelancer!

    • Hilde Torbjornsen

      Great input Jonathan!
      I definitely agree with you. Having contacts that can be used when needed is a great thing, and it will help both you and the client feel a bit more “safe” in the situation.

  4. seppe

    I rather get involved with the smaller players .. landing a big client is one thing keeping them is another. I’m a part-time freelancer (besides a full time designer position) there’s are just not enough hours in a day for me to even think about dealing with the realy big clients.

    Give me a couple of loyal small clients – I’ll give them a personal approach all the way!

    Great post!


  5. Paul

    Another great article. Any freelancers out there need to look and act professional if they want to compete with bigger companies. A good first impression will lead to more trust from prospective clients. Once you establish yourself as a professional designer, your reputation should proceed you.

    • Hilde Torbjornsen

      Thanks Paul!
      I agree. Acting professional, no matter who your clients are – you will get a good reputation and be better able to get more, and bigger projects.

  6. Great post by the way. However I believe it all comes down to the type of clients you are competing for. If you are a freelancer competing against an agency for a national brand, you will struggle. However If you’re competing against a medium sized agency for an established local business’s work you will have a greater chance.

    As a mini agency (collaboration of freelancers) the factor we have noticed people tend to favour most is the personal service freelancers can offer. People like being able to speak directly to the designer or developer rather than passing their ideas through a chain of account managers.

    Why not try to balance between freelancers and agencies like us, by teaming up with freelancers, creating a mini ad hoc agency. It benefits from best of both worlds and has a great competitive advantage.

    • Hilde Torbjornsen

      Great feedback! I definitely agree with your points.
      Collaborating with other freelancers has a lot of benefits indeed, from being able to share bigger projects, give each other feedback and a lot more.
      Very good point! :)

  7. Andrew

    Interesting article!! How’s about the smaller studio that stuck in between? I would love to see an article about small design studio…..what are some of the pros and cons? Sometime its hard to be in small design studio’s shoes….clients expect you to have the pros of both freelancers and the big agencies and non of the cons!!

    • Hilde Torbjornsen

      Great point Andrew! Thanks for your feedback.
      Will see if I can write a bit on this topic soon! :)


  8. Josh

    Brilliant post!
    As a freelance designer I find the hardest thing is definitely finding clients!!

  9. Daniel Cheeseman

    I agree with Rod, freelancers would hava a tough time competing with larger web design companies. But as long as they are good at what they do, word speads fast. They do not need as much work as larger companies and it they create memorable pieces of work, usually that customer will come to them where as many larger web design businesses need to hunt clients to keep them above water..

    Very informative article and well written, will read more of your articles..

    Keep on bloggin’

    • Hilde Torbjornsen

      Thanks for the feedback Daniel! :)
      Very much appreciated. I agree with you. If we make good designs and keep the clients happy, the word spreads fast.

  10. I’ve been working with small to mid-sized businesses for over 10 years. The perks are one-on-one communication, prompt payments, and creative flexibility. If you’ve got a killer portfolio and consistently hit deadlines, large companies will choose to work with you. Bring it and they will come.

  11. Great article Hilde! I agree with the first commenter that one of the most relevant points you have identified is the ability to shrink budget with anticipation of future projects. I find this to be one of the most challenging things about the current freelance market. If competing with larger agencies is not allowing you to achieve the success that you crave, considering altering your message. Align your services to compliment the previous relationship with their agency and continue to develop a relationship while adding to your “big money” portfolio. A time will come when you are able to compete directly with their current vendor/partner and you will have the client relationship, portfolio and experience to back their decision to work with you alone.

    Of course, this is all easier said than done. We all need a little adversity to breed innovation and creativity. Who’s to say their (the larger firm) way is the best way?

  12. Ivyclark

    Big companies also have bigger overheads, management costs, etc which freelancers do not have. They compete in a different space due to their size and their costs, not all clients can affort them.

  13. I don’t thiks it is worth competing with bigger companies, I think it is better for a freelancer to target different types of clients: maybe smaller ones at the beginning. Freelancers are often overall far more flexible than bigger companies, this is our strength and this is the point to underline in my point of view.

  14. All good points, especially that part where bigger companies can afford to lose more money than a freelancer as long as they keep the client. I say it would really be tough to compete with a big company. Maybe we shouldn’t really compete with them but learn from them.

    • Hilde Torbjornsen

      Thank you! :)
      Yeah I agree, competing with bigger companies can be a tough task, and we don’t always have to compete with them either (good point! ).
      Occasionally there will come clients along that have been in contact with or think of getting in touch with bigger companies to get an offer, then it can be a good thing for us to know our stronger/weaker sides.
      I’ve had this help me many times, but I don’t go out there and compete with them unless I have to :)