Graphic Design Agency Ownership vs Freelance Graphic Design

Graphic design is a field that many people find themselves in because they have a passion for creativity and design. However, what many people don’t know is that you can take your skills as a Graphic Designer to the next level by starting your own Graphic Design Agency. In this video article, we will discuss the benefits of owning your own Graphic Design Agency and how you can freelance graphic design while also having the security of an agency owner.

Evolution of a Graphic Design Agency

Hello to all my fellow creatives; Adrian Boysel, here. Today, I challenge your thinking on how you see yourself as a graphic designer. I started my career 15 years ago as a graphic designer doing nightclub flyers and really low-paying work. For the last several years, I’ve been able to accumulate talents that have allowed me to become a business owner and my identity has evolved from simply being a graphic designer or graphic artist to a company owner, which is what I want to discuss with you today about stacking abilities and moving from graphic designer to agency owner so if you’re ready to have some fun, learn some new things, and really challenge yourself, this article is for you. So let’s get started right away.

Stack your skills as a designer to become an agency owner.

First, it’s storytime. Back in 2006, I was doing graphic design just as a side hustle while I was working in the mortgage industry. Making great money, then the economy crashed. “Uh oh,” I’m thinking to myself, “what am I going to do? I have no money coming in. I have to find a way to make money.” So, I was doing nightclub events and doing graphic design on the side while working in the mortgage industry.

Then, I talked to my mentor. He said, “I will pay you to do my nightclub flyers for these events that I have. And I know that you’re doing events on the side, as well. You just need to focus on doing graphic design right now. You have a great talent for it. I will go ahead and pay you every single week for each flyer that you do and I need two or three flyers a week.”

That was an opportunity for me to make $200-300 per week which was okay at the time. It wasn’t the best money for me at that time but it was something and something was better than nothing. I was at the very beginning of my career as a graphic designer. I wasn’t at the level that I am today.

One Year of Progress

Over about a one-year period, I started doing graphic design for all of the clubs and all of the bars and restaurants in my area. My prices went from $30 per flyer all the way up to $125 and even as much as $150 per flyer. Instead of making 1-2 hundred bucks a week, I started making a few thousand dollars a month, which was great. I was gaining getting more skills, I was gaining more attraction from people and businesses, people were seeing my work and they loved it. But I was capping myself out.

No matter how hard I worked, or how many hours I worked, if I worked 24-hour shifts I couldn’t get over that six-figure mark. It didn’t click until Larry–my mentor, whom I’ve mentioned many times–said, “You need to start upselling printing people need printing, they need these flyers printed, and there’s great money in it. You’ve already done a lot of that for me, and the work that you do on the printing side is great. So why don’t you just upsell printing?” So that was a skill that I had to go learn. I learned how to do the printing side- I learned the different paper styles, the thicknesses, all that stuff. And next thing you know, my income went from under six figures to over six figures because I added a new skill every time.

Industry Variation: Conditions to Thrive

The beautiful thing about graphic design is there’s a lot of demand; I think the demand in the industry is massive. That’s why there are so many people in the space from all over the world working from different prices, from a dollar an hour to as much as $500 an hour.

You have to follow the demand, and this is one of the things I learned early on in my career. The problem with that, though, is that as a graphic designer you’re basically just a commodity. There’s nothing really unique or special about a commodity. Now, there are rare commodities out there if you’re a super talented designer like Jazza or some of the other guys that are out there. But most commodities are replicable, and you can go anywhere to get some graphic design. It’s really hard to stand out in that space, especially being as competitive as it is now.

From Designer to Agency Owner

If you fast forward to when I sold my printing company, I was forced to make a new decision: what was I going to do next? Well, during my “adventure” and during my “journey” as a business owner and owner of a printing and graphics company, I learned a lot of new skills. I learned how to do SEO, I learned how to do website design, and I already knew a little bit of website design but I really took my web design skills to another level by having my own business.

I learned about content management systems like WordPress and other systems that are out there. I started really expanding my skills and becoming a well-rounded business owner. This was before I was even really a great leader. I really started to stack all these different skills that I needed to know, like email marketing and direct mail marketing. I started to stack skills on top of skills, and so now when business owners came to me with their problems, with their challenges, or even just their design work, I was able to propose solutions and help them solve bigger and bigger problems.

Graphic Design Agency Owners: Solving Bigger Problems

You may not know this, but I’ll share this with you now: the bigger problems you solve, the more you’re compensated. So you need to solve bigger problems in order to receive a bigger paycheck. Look at big companies–big, world-changing companies of disrupted industries–like Uber and Facebook. They solved a massive problem: social networking was the solution to a massive problem that has actually become a problem in itself. So you have to take that into consideration when you understand that when you gain these skills, you’re going to be able to solve even bigger problems.

As a graphic designer, you are only focusing on one skill. When you own a graphic design agency, you wear many hats.

As a graphic designer, you’re really only focused on one skill: helping businesses generate ROI. It’s important for you to know that the graphic design category actually fits into one of three buckets: the wealth category, the branding category, or the marketing category. People are coming to you because they want to get the word out, present their brand in the right way, and generate ROI. So you need to take into consideration that you’re really in the wealth category and charge accordingly.

If you’re doing just graphic design, you’re really limiting the amount of income and the amount of solutions that you can provide to somebody, which is really going to cap you out. That’s what I experienced myself, and I’m probably sure that many of you guys are experiencing that as well. Transitioning over from graphic designer now to agency owner, I’m offering SEO and paid advertising and consulting–there are a lot of different services I offer. I’ve had to learn the marketing, content, social media, video, and SEO strategies. There are all these different skills that I’ve been able to accumulate over 15 years through coaches and courses and programs like I have inside of the Instagraphics Pro Network that I’m now teaching my tribe.

I think it’s really important that you understand that you’re going to have to start stacking skills above and beyond just being a graphic designer if you want to be an agency owner. The sales are going to fall on you, so you’re going to have to learn how to sell, you’re going to have to learn how to market your business, and you’re going to have to learn how to generate leads. When you learn these skills and you master these skills, then these are things that you can start helping your clients with, which is going to increase your income.

As a graphic designer, you feel more of the ebb and flow of the seasons in the job market. When you own a graphic design agency, you have stability.

The second thing that I started to experience in my career as a graphic designer was the inconsistency in income you get towards the holiday season. Everything would die off from basically Halloween all the way up until just after New Year’s, and then new businesses would start up, wanting logos or flyers or some other design work done for their businesses. Regardless of what you’re charging, it doesn’t matter.

You have these big hills and valleys inside your business, and a lot of agency owners struggle with it as well. However, graphic designers really struggle with it, and with low incomes already, it makes it difficult to really thrive as a creative. Now, as an agency owner, you go from doing one-time work–I’m going to design this for you and get paid and I’m done–to now having an ongoing, recurring relationship.

So, if I’m doing SEO that’s a monthly contract you’re going to be paying me for at least three months but with my clients, I make them sign a six-month or 12-month contract now. Now you have continuing income and the ability to provide graphic design services while also adding an add-on on top of that so that gives you recurring revenue and more stability as a firm. This is something you must do if you want to go from a graphic designer to a creative marketing agency owner.

As an agency owner, you will be able to pick and choose the projects you work on. As a designer, you can only work in the business.

The third piece I really love about being an agency owner is that now I have a team. I’m not the worst one responsible for doing all of the graphic design work. I pick and choose the projects that I want to work on. I’m working on one right now personally for Alyssa Deluna. She’s a coach who helps women, and so this is a passion project of mine that I’ve walked her through all of the consulting, now to the actual brand execution. I can pick and choose the projects that I want, but working with the team is so energizing and inspiring that being able to lead and encourage people to reach the heights of their career is a true privilege. My mission every day is to wake up and help people like you, so that they can reach their goals in life. I love surrounding myself with people who share this same mission.

It could be very lonely as a graphic designer when I had 50, 60, or 80 hours worth of work per week in graphic design work that I was doing and I was pulling all-nighters. It was very lonely, so being a graphic designer can be lonely. If you want to have more of a team environment, moving from just graphic designer over to creative agency owner or just marketing agency owner is a really good way to start building that team. The reason why you’ll be able to build that team is because you’re going to have more revenue and you’re going to have more consistent revenue like I talked about.

That recurring revenue is super helpful for you, so if you can do that, you can start bringing people onto your team – whether it’s a VA or an assistant, or another designer, or a web designer/SEO specialist. We have eleven people on our team now, and it’s really great to be able to actually take one of my ideas and send it to my team and then have them just fulfill it and execute on my vision. Which is really neat to be able to see my ideas just simply become a reality.

Are you doing anything else in addition to graphic design?

I found some statistics that I wanted to share with you that I thought were very staggering. To give you some perspective, there are over 260,000 graphic designers in the job market. That’s a lot of competition. One of the most important things that I learned years ago from Russel Brunson was being the king of your own category. In order for me to be a graphic designer and become the king of my category, that means I have to beat out 266,000 people. There’s not enough lifetimes for me to be able to do that.

I am a very good graphic designer. I’m a great graphic designer as many of my clients have told me, but I’m not the best in the world and I don’t ever plan on being the best in the world. So for me it takes a little bit of that pressure off of not having to be number one in king of my category. But I do want to be king of my category.

Now, you switch over and you look at the agency owner world as far as marketing agencies go, and this is based on statistics from IBIS world. There are about 6,000 agency owners. You can go compete with 266,000 people or you can compete with 6,000 people. I would much rather compete with 6,000 people.

Now, as I’ve evolved even as a marketing agency owner of the last six years, I’ve realized that I want to be the king of a smaller category: the social impact marketing agency world. There are only a handful of very small agencies (<10 companies) that specialize in doing social impact marketing, which is something I’m super passionate about. I’ve lived my whole life for that, and so it was a very natural fit for me to progress my agency to working with companies that only care about social consciousness.

They want to help people in the world and so now all of a sudden, I go from 6,000 to 6 or 10 or maybe even 12. That is an even smaller category and it makes it easier for me to be the king of that category. So when people ask, “Hey what marketing agencies are the best with social impact?” I’m going to come up at the top of that list when they Google me. So it’s all about narrowing your focus, niching down, and really getting specialized but also being able to offer a wide range of skills to your clients to solve a wide range of problems.

Even if you’re creating a lifestyle blog, don’t forget to consider how many people will read it. You want to make your content that is related to weights and fitness appealing for everyone. Based on everything I’ve been able to study for years and years, including graphic designers that I know in my circle, not one of them makes more than $100k per year. That’s not acceptable to me; this isn’t the place where you can truly flourish, start new businesses, pursue other interests, and fully live your life to its fullest potential. It’s wonderful having $50,000-$70,000 every year, but that’s not where I want my readers to be

I want you to break that threshold and reach six figure mark and beyond. As a marketing agency owner, if you look at the statistics, Ziprecruiter says about $91,000 a year. But I think that’s a really low-end figure. The reality is most agency owners make 100k to up to 500k per year. And there are some out there who make a hundred thousand dollars a month or even bigger than that. I have a friend of mine, Douglas James, who literally generates a million dollars a month as an agency owner.

Final Thoughts 

The income potential is much higher, as is the fulfillment of having a team. Being able to offer recurring revenue has more stable income potential. Those are all great parts of it, and actually being able to continue to grow as a leader, entrepreneur, and business owner. Stack those skills and make your dreams come true.

That’s what I have for you guys today. I hope this was super helpful. I really want to help you start to shift your identity from just being a graphic designer to being a graphic design agency owner because this is where you can really take your life and your business to the next level. Thank you guys so much for reading. I’m Adrian Boysel and as always, keep looking up!

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