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Freelance Designer or Studio? What’s the Best Way to Sell Yourself?

By Rob Williams

Here’s a question I get a lot from Folyo members and it’s a good one.

I run a small studio. Should I present myself to clients as a freelancer or as a studio?

The short answer is: it’s usually better to present yourself as a freelancer.

80% of the projects on Folyo are looking for an individual. 

Quick disclaimer: that DOESN’T mean they aren’t open to working with a studio if that’s an option, but it does mean they have a picture in mind of what they need and, usually, it’s an individual.

The longer answer, more nuanced, answer is: it depends on the company. 

For example, one exception to this rule is: RFPs. You can safely assume that any RFP I send is looking for a design agency, unless otherwise noted.

Some projects are going to specifically say they’re looking for a team while others an individual.

In those cases I don’t think there’s anything wrong with tailoring your message to what they’re looking for. For example, if you’re a studio but a client says they’re looking for a freelancer, I might just apply anyway.

Then I would have the conversation about whether this is a true requirement when it came up naturally. As opposed to leading with it in my first email.

Ultimately, they want a problem solved and if you can solve that problem for them – why would you emphasize something about yourself that isn’t irrelevant to their problem? It just hurts your chances and if you’re the best for the project, it hurts the client too.

I would never hide the fact that you’re design studio or a freelancer, but also wouldn’t lead with something that puts up a roadblock between you for no reason.

So it’s important to remember that most clients are usually looking for a problem to be solved, and some don’t even care whether you’re a studio or a freelancer at all. If you’re within their budget and can do the work, they’re interested.

That’s why personally, I try to speak in the first person as often as I can because it feels natural to me and I think it feels more personal to the person I am speaking to. So I use “I” instead of “we” in my emails regardless of my team size.

In the end, a client cares less about how you see yourself, and more about how they are seen, how they are presenting themselves, and how they are coming off. Focus your communication around this – and you will do fine on Folyo, whether you’re a freelancer or studio.

This was written for members of my design referral newsletter. With this email they also receive an MP3 featuring Paul Jarvis, Kurt Elster, Nick Disabato and more, explain how they write client-focused emails. Sign up here.

About Rob Williams...

I run Folyo which helps freelance designers find the work they were meant to do. I also host Freelance a podcast about how to be more effective at independent work featuring remote companies like Disney, Basecamp, YNAB, ConvertKit and more.