Freelancer, Studio or Agency, what's in a name?

Freelancer working alone with other workers in the background

For those who are starting out in the creative sector, the importance of choosing the right name can be daunting, but perhaps an even bigger challenge is categorizing yourself as a creative entity. How do you want to be perceived by potential clients? How do you want to perceive yourself as a creative? Will you be a Freelancer, a Studio or an Agency?

The Freelancer

The freelancer uses "I" and is proud of it. There are no third person's here, only the single "I". "I" do everything myself. "I" am a one person business and "I" make no bones about it.

"I" am all "I" need to do a great job and to make you, my client look great. While "I" may have ambitions for future growth "I" tell it how it is and "I" sell myself as a single, self contained creative entity.

The Studio

The studio is a small collective of creatives, perhaps comprising of no more than two people. They deal in "we". "We" have dreams of something bigger and "we" want to take on larger projects with larger budgets. "We" divide our roles according to our talents, if "we" can't do something in-house, then "we" may well outsource to a trusty freelancer ("I").

While "we" are happy to be a small studio, "we" have plans to one day expand and move up the chain to become what is known as…

The Agency

The agency consists of a group of workers all with unique skill sets, all pulling together to provide the ultimate client experience. This group of creatives is better known as the "team".

As a "team" we can take on larger projects, offer more services and charge rates that few studios and even fewer freelancers can hope to attain.

Ironically the "team" is based on a hierarchy with a clear chain of command. Every member of the "team" answers to someone else within the "team", and someone higher up has the final word, (this may or may not be the client).

"Team" leaders can potentially make a lot of money, the "team" members perhaps not so much…

4 freelancers at a high wooden desk


Now while all the above are huge generalizations and there are always exceptions to the rules, it tends to be that most people have a perception of what each entity should be, and how they should present themselves.

The wrong label can work against you.

These last few weeks I've been reviewing a lot of websites within the creative sector. My eyes have been opened to a lot of things, a lot of common issues. One thing that really stood out were the amount of freelancers calling themselves Agencies. This is just asking for trouble.

How could I tell? Photos of their workspaces for one :) I'm in no way judging, we all conduct our businesses in the best way we can. The danger is that you may unwittingly be selling something that you simply can't provide.

Clients who lean towards working with Agencies expect a certain level of treatment, they expect you to be able to deliver everything you say you can and they expect things to be done on time, on budget and done to a very high standard.

Of course both the Freelancer and Studio alike can provide these services, and work to an equally high standard but the distinction is clear.

I, we, and team.

If you sell yourself as something, then you should be that something. Don't sell what you want to be in 3 or 4 years. As with any relationship trust must first be established. Misplaced trust can backfire, badly.

Since setting up nusii I've come to realize that I too have been guilty of confusing the "I" "we" and "team", and so, as I like to practice what I preach from here on in "I" will be "I", no more "we" or "team".

So if you're beginning in the world of design or you've already setup shop and are working under one banner or another, think about how you sell yourself. If you were handing over a substantial sum of money to someone you'd want to have complete trust in them, right?

How do you "name" yourself, have you ever run into any issues?

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