The Case for the Little (Small Design Firm) Guy

The design field is a particularly competitive one, filled with providers ranging from individual freelancers to huge multinational firms. I’m here to present the case for the “little guy,” the owners and employees of  small design firms.

I run a small design firm. We’re “little guys,” for sure. I’m the sole employee, and along with a creative partner, we’re supplemented by a couple of excellent, part-time contract designers. We routinely go up against the “big guys” for projects. These are design firms and advertising agencies with a huge amount of staff and almost unlimited resources. It can be daunting.

But, we’re fortunate to regularly work with some big names, on some important projects. People are sometimes surprised when I tell them the names of the companies we’ve collaborated with and, inevitably the question arises: “Why would a big name like so-and-so ever work with a small design firm like yours?”

More to the point, though, why wouldn’t your company consider working with a small design firm?

The small design firm wants your business more.

A small project for a large firm is a large project for a small firm. A small design firm never wants to say “no” to a project or a client, and is motivated to work creatively to make your vision a reality.

The small design firm is less expensive.

It all comes down to lower overhead. A small design firm likely doesn’t have the expense of a prestige address, probably isn’t paying to advertise and (hopefully!) isn’t subsidizing luxury lifestyles for its proprietors.

The small design firm is more responsive, meaning more face time with the people who are working on your project. 

Fewer projects in the mix mean fewer plates for a small design firm to spin. Each project has more riding on it. When you call, you’ll likely speak directly with the designer or owner. There’s likely no dealing with an account manager or receptionist. Nothing gets lost in translation.

The small design firm is personally invested.

Many small design firms literally have the owner’s name on the door. There is a level of pride that runs through the whole operation. A small design firm understands that a good reputation takes a long time to build and will work to protect that reputation fiercely.

The small design firm is scalable.

A small design firm runs efficiently day to day and has the flexibility to get more talent on board, typically in the form of freelance consultants, when needed.

The small design firm puts out quality work.

Small design firms are staffed with people who attended the same schools, have the same experience and approach their work with the same passion as those working for large design firms. And, more often than not, those at a small design firm have a sense of entrepreneurship not necessarily shared by those working for the big guys.

The small design firm relies on word of mouth to succeed.

A small design firm relies almost exclusively on word of mouth for business. It’s in the firm’s best interest to keep customers happy and willing to refer the firm to others.

Yes, I’m biased. But when it comes to motivated people who produce quality work quickly, efficiently and on time, the “little guys” are tough to beat.

ABOUT Ryan Bahrke

One of Wordsmithie's senior designers, Ryan has more than 15 years of experience in creative direction and management, working with companies like Google, Quantcast, RSM, Navigant, Starbucks, and Ace Hotel. Ryan is the principal of Auslander Creative in Denver.