Freelance Agencies Tips

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Types of Graphic Design Agencies

Artisan Talent Tip: Before committing to a graphic design agency for your job search, research different graphic design agencies and find out who their clients are, the agency's job placement success rates, and get referrals from past job seekers before looking for work through them. Know your own career goals and see whether there's a match with the agency's specialties.

If I'm thinking about a career change, what are some steps to take?

Switching Careers

If you have decided that it is time for a change in your professional life, you may want to speak with a career counselor to discuss your options. Career counselors can help you find a direction that will be a good match for what you want—and what your skills are. You may wind up going into business for yourself, or even going back to school to study something you have always loved. Once you decide on what you want to do, it will be time to think about where you can find employment.

Some career counselors can help you with this next step as well. Another option is to register with a talent agency so that they can do the job search for you. These places form relationships with companies that are looking to hire a freelancer, and this can be a great way to work yourself into a permanent position. Even if the job doesn't wind up being a long-term position, you will gain experience that you can use to move yourself up in the field.

What should I look for in an agency?

Avoid Common Agency Pitfalls

Whether you're a freelance designer looking for work or a client seeking help with your design needs, the right agency can be a lifesaver. The wrong agency, though, might be more trouble than it's worth. Here are some common trouble signals:

  • The design agency is really a staffing agency, with far more secretaries and accountants in its files than designers.
  • The agency is vague about how much you'll be paid and when.
  • The agency isn't willing to supply the names of customers and/or freelancers to serve as references.
  • The agency is aggressively peddling full-service advertising solutions rather than listening to the needs of a client who just wants a designer.

If I am going back to work after a break, how can I make that transition?

Career Re-Entry

Going back to work after a break can be a difficult thing. If you have taken time off to do something like raise children or care for a parent, it can be hard to know how to get back into the workforce. This is especially true if it has been a while since you held a full-time job. If you are looking for freelance positions at a corporation, you may want to sign on with a talent agency.

Talent agencies can help match you with a job that you are qualified for, but that isn't all they are good for. If your resume needs a little help or you aren't quite sure what to say during an interview, the people who work at the agency can help you prepare for these things. Ultimately, a career agent can help you feel more ready to get back to work after some time off. It's nice to have someone who is invested in finding you a new job—besides yourself!

What kinds of jobs are there in graphic design?

Types of Graphic Design Openings

Artworkers (also called Mac operators or graphic artists) are skilled in the craft of taking a design and setting it up for the best results in print. While the terminology can be confusing, these jobs are not essentially creative. While they often require specialized knowledge of print technology, they tend to be lower-ranking jobs in a design organization.

Graphic designers or junior designers have some creative responsibilities, but also wind up supporting senior designers and art directors. When a senior designer has a logo and needs to make different versions for Web, print, business cards and trade show displays, a junior designer may do the actual work.

Senior designers do more problem-solving, taking on some client responsibilities, but still keep their hands in the nitty-gritty of design work. Art directors often don't do as much of the actual designing, instead working with clients, creative directors and copywriters to come up with concepts. Creative directors form the bridge between words, design, and the client's needs.

A good graphic design agency will accurately assess your skills, recommend or even provide training to improve them, and connect you with jobs that are at your level.

How can I be sure a talent agency is a good match for me and my skills?

Make It A Good Match

If you want to use a talent agency to get freelance work instead of looking for design positions on the web, it can be a great way to find work. One of the key things to consider is whether the agency is a good match for you. Trying to sign on with a design agency that doesn't meet your needs is a waste of time, both for you and for the company. How can you know when it is a good match? Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Find out who they represent. Designers may want to pass on agencies that work primarily with other fields. If you can't tell from the website, you can ask if they have relationships with any design agencies when you speak with a representative.
  • Make sure you are qualified to work in positions that you would get through the agency. If you are just starting out and the agency works primarily with high-level freelancers, it may not be the right place to find work.
  • Be sure you are comfortable. Talent agencies run a service. You should feel comfortable with your representative and be able to communicate your needs easily.

What if I find I don't enjoy marketing my design skills?

For Designers Who Hate Marketing

If you're a designer who lives and breathes design, you probably hate those times when you have to get your hand off the mouse and your head out of the Pantone color chart long enough to market your services. You might even find you're not very good at it!

A good design agency has professionals who care about marketing as much as you care about design. Working through them, you can keep doing the work you do best and let your agency handle the client recruiting and retention.

What are some things to consider before signing on with a talent agency?

Signing With A Talent Agency

If you are looking for freelance opportunities, you may want to consider signing with a career agency. These organizations will help you connect with work in the field—but there are a few things you should know before you hand over your job search, for example:

  • Does the agency require exclusivity? Some talent agencies don't want you signing up with anyone else. This shouldn't be a deal-breaker, but if the agency has this policy you should feel sure they will be able to help you find work.
  • Are there any hidden fees? Although career agencies will make a percentage of your wage if they find you a job, you shouldn't have to pay a bunch of fees to sign with them—or stay with them. Ask ahead of time.
  • Do they have connections in other cities? If you are looking for adventure and don't mind moving to take on work, you may want to see if the talent agency has branches in other cities.
  • What are the policies you need to follow if you have difficulty with a particular job or client? Ideally this situation will never arise, but if it does, you'll want to know what is expected of you.

What's the best way to stay fresh in my freelancing field?

Working in the Media Means Devouring the Media

As a freelancer, staying current or fresh in your field means reading everything you can get your hands on. Read magazine, newspaper, trade and Web publications. Think about how each made you feel as a writer. Did the writer connect with you? Look at the visuals. Did the graphic designer hit his or her mark? Is the design original? Catchy? Did the producer of that web site keep information orderly, yet interesting? Think about the choices behind all that you see and read. This will help you to think about how your own work will be interpreted by others.

How can I shift from freelance to full-time?

Going From Freelance to Full-time

Many freelancers turn to a job placement to achieve full-time placement in a company. In many cases, these agencies have already assisted them in finding freelance work.

Some freelancers discover that their good relationship with a company as its freelancer develops into a full-time position.

Can a job placement service help me find an employee?

Where to Look for a New Hire

When hiring a new employee, it is a great idea to consult job placement services. These professionals are trained to assist you in finding the right hire for your particular company, whether you're looking for a full-time or freelance employee. This saves you the time and energy involved with placing an ad yourself and weeding through dozens of resumes.

*Many placement services will pre-screen applicants even before representing them, which means more quality candidates for you!

How can I find a reputable freelance agency to do business with?

Finding a Reputable Freelance Agency

When you are looking to work with a freelance agency, look for a National Association of Press Agencies (NAPA), which are known in the industry as reputable. NAPA agencies are tried and tested. To qualify for NAPA membership, freelances must have traded for a sustained period, demonstrating that they are reliable and trustworthy. NAPA members observe its Code of Conduct and the Association takes note of any justified complaints about the activities of its members.

Am I stuck working nine-to-five?

Nine-to-Five Not Your Thing?

If the daily grind grinds you down, chances are you are a creative type. Luckily for you, there are a number of creative jobs out there to satisfy your sense of adventure. Graphic designers, desktop publishers, writers, proofreaders, illustrators and many more have found careers that allow them to create their own schedules.

Keep in mind though that working from home does not necessarily mean working fewer hours per day. In many cases, freelancers work more hours than most. However, when you're doing what you love, time flies by!

How do I get started as a freelancer?

Starting a Freelance Career

If you are just starting out in the freelance business, one of the best ways to find work is to register yourself with a freelance job agency. Many of these can be found Online, making it very convenient for you to search for work.

Registering with a freelance job agency involves filling out a brief Online form, submitting a resume and sending samples of your work. From there, you can have access to a number of companies looking to hire freelancers in your field.

What can I do if I run out of freelance work through my regular clients?

A Quick Fix for Your Freelance Career

Let's say your freelance career is going really well. You have acquired many contacts and built a strong client base. However, for some reason, you have no projects at the moment. Is your situation hopeless?

Why not register with a freelance job agency? Finding work through an agency is a great way to keep paying the bills when your freelance workload dwindles.


How to Hire a Graphic Designer

Artisan Talent Tip: Working with an agency can be helpful because the freelancers they provide have been pre-screened. A Chicago graphic design agency will know the local market and be able to match your organization with a designer who matches your needs and your budget. Working with an agency puts you in touch with freelancers who have been pre-screened. A Chicago graphic design agency will know the local market and be able to match your organization with a designer who matches your needs and your budget.


For Designers Who Hate Marketing

Artisan Talent Tip: While marketing is a skill every designer can and should learn, there's no reason you should have to depend on your own marketing abilities to pay the bills.A good design agency works to benefit both its clients and its freelancers, providing challenging assignments while relieving designers of some of the heavy lifting of marketing their skills.

How can I find a reputable freelance agency to do business with?

Finding a Reputable Freelance Agency

When you are looking to work with a freelance agency, look for a National Association of Press Agencies (NAPA), which are known in the industry as reputable. NAPA agencies are tried and tested. To qualify for NAPA membership, freelances must have traded for a sustained period, demonstrating that they are reliable and trustworthy. NAPA members observe its Code of Conduct and the Association takes note of any justified complaints about the activities of its members.

My agency is offering training courses. Are they worth it?

Getting the Most Out of an Agency Job

If you're talented and eager to work, but lacking some tech skills on your resume, a graphic design agency may invest in training you to fill openings they have.

Some agencies offer online training, while others have courses that can be taken in their offices. This is a valuable opportunity to meet people and make an impression. Use it! Dress professionally, introduce yourself, and thank anyone who helps you. Don't force yourself on anyone, but it might be nice to bring along a couple of resumes and your portfolio just in case someone wants to see them.

Of course, you're there for training, so focus on learning while you're there too. It's a win-win situation -- the company gets a more marketable freelancer, and you get skills that will boost your income.

What is it like to work for an agency?

The Agency as Employer

One of the key benefits of working with a graphic design agency is having a "real" employer who can take care of things like health insurance and training opportunities. Some even file tax documents for you and offer paid holidays.

Each agency has different requirements for a freelancer to be added to its benefits list. Check these out carefully and be sure you qualify.

Be wary of an agency or freelance directory that charges designers a fee to be connected with jobs. A legitimate design agency makes its money only from the corporate clients who hire its freelancers.

Will I have to pass a test to work at an agency?

Yes, This Will Be On The Test

A good graphic design agency will not send you out on a job that you're ill-prepared to do. That's why many of them require proficiency tests on key software. You'll be given a set time limit to do a certain number of tasks in the programs you use.

There are some software certifications, such as the Adobe Certification Exam, that you can do on your own. You may find that a design staffing agency will still require that you pass their tests before they send you to a client.

It is possible in some cases to quickly bone up on software you don't know and still pass the test. However, it's better all around if you don't fudge your technical skills on your resume. If there's a popular skill that you're lacking, your agency may be able to connect you with a training course.

I'm doing fine as a freelancer. Why would I want to work with an agency?

Agency Work as Learning Opportunity

Is there a company or industry where you've always wanted to work, but there never seem to be any advertised openings? It may be because those companies use graphic design agencies to fill their needs for freelance services.

Even if you're doing fine as a freelancer on your own, working through an agency may open doors you might never get your foot in otherwise. Your skills will be the deciding factor, but a good creative agency can pave the way. Be clear about your goals and ask for the kinds of jobs you want and can do well.

What's the best way to hire a graphic designer?

How to Hire a Graphic Designer

Hiring a graphic designer, whether for a full-time job or a one-time project, is an exercise in trust. You need to trust that this person will be able to understand your organization's needs and translate them into effective visual products.

One way to do this is to place an ad and spend a lot of time reviewing portfolios and explaining your business to candidates. Unless you're a design expert yourself, though, it may be difficult to evaluate what you see and assess the candidate's real skill levels.

What kinds of graphic design agencies are there?

Types of Graphic Design Agencies

The word "agency" covers a lot of ground, and that means freelancers need to do their homework before deciding to let a graphic design agency market their skills. Here are some of the different kinds of agencies you might encounter:

  • Advertising agencies: Hire designers (full-time or freelance) as part of providing comprehensive advertising solutions to clients. May also include marketing and PR divisions.
  • Design shops: Often small companies that specialize in one aspect of design (such as Web design or trade-show booths). May hire freelancers on a contract basis when extra work piles up. If you join one full-time, you'll often be expected to give up your freelance clients -- or bring them on board with you.
  • Design staffing agencies: Provide companies with creative staffers much as a temp agency provides paralegals or bookkeepers. May provide some interesting work and a chance to scope out multiple organizations in your market, but ask questions if your real goal is to bring in freelance projects.
  • Freelance directories or networks: Often Web-based, these groups can be small or large, banding together to increase their presence in the market and share work. May be beneficial, particularly if you land a project that includes work outside your area of expertise, but most are informal and have no one in charge of marketing their services.

Where can I find a temporary employee?

Flexibility for Employers

Inevitably, your company will at some point need a quick replacement for a permanent employee. Many employment agencies are great for finding temporary job placement.

A number of agencies exist to address your specific needs in employment - from writers to Web designers. These companies provide top-quality individuals at a variety of skill levels that will be appropriate to the requirements of your project. The best part is that you'll make good contacts with excellent workers who you can call on again in the future.

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Joe Wallace