When is it preferable to hire a package design company vs a freelance packaging designer?

Well, if you have a physical product that sells in-store at a supermarket, in your own shop, or from your e-commerce store, then you’ve most likely given this topic quite a lot of thought. When making the investment to make your product more attractive to your customers which course of action will suit you best? 

Today, you can find many low-costing design services and websites where you can create designs by using an algorithm or hiring a cheap freelancer. It sounds too good to be true – and you know what they say about that… there’s a “catch”.

Before we look at potential risks and catches, let’s review the differences between a package design company and a freelancer. This will help to determine which would be the best option for your package design?

What’s the difference between a Package Design Company and a freelance packaging designer? 

Let’s start off with the differences between hiring a package design company or a freelancer. If you have never heard the term Freelancer before, let me share with you the differences.

An Online Freelancer

A freelancer is someone who works independently from an agency or company. They have skills and experience in their field of work, and often work directly with the business owner. Many of them are actually employed on a contract basis with creative design companies or in some cases they may even work for sweat shop design houses. Thanks to the advancement of the internet and technology, these freelancers work and can be communicated online. Freelancers are often working in isolation, as solo-preneurs, without the contact or collaboration with other designers.

A Package Design Agency

A Package Design agency on the other hand will typically have experienced package designers working and creating in-house. They collaborate on the projects they are working on, and generate ideas and strategies for their clients. Many package designers in the company will each have a large set of skills and experiences they can draw upon to use in your design. Package Design companies also have the ability to test and research your target audience before they start designing.  

What’s the Catch of Hiring a Freelancer Packaging Designer?

We thought the best way to show you the difference is to compare the two and see which one would suit your needs and the results you want. Here’s some pros and cons for hiring a freelancer over a Package Design company to consider.

Risky Business?

Hiring a freelancer for packaging design can be great, if cost saving is a critical component of your project especially when you have other things you need to prioritise. But, if you need someone to “hold your hand” through what can be a design minefield, going from design to print, to shelf, to online, then you should consider using a professional team. This is especially vital if you can’t afford to make an error. Errors in packaging design can be very costly.

EXAMPLE: Let’s say you have secured a meeting to meet with a buyer at Coles or Woolies. You only get one chance to make that initial sale. If you can’t sell them on gaining access to their shelves with your product, you won’t get access to their customers. This may be a huge setback for your company. That said, with the right presentation it could be just the business boost you are after. A professional packaging design company can help you put together your sales pitch and your product pack to increase your chances of winning business.

Now, let’s assume you win the product category buyer over with your pitch and they decide to range your product on their shelf. Often here’s where the challenge starts! Now in many instances you have between 90 to 120 days to hit their “hurdle rates” –  This means selling enough units at the set price that the buyer chooses. If you don’t… you’ll be discounted off the shelf.

So…If your risks of losing are not that high, you can choose to play smaller and consider the freelance hiring model.

Challenges with Choosing a Freelancer for Your Package Design

There are 4 challenges you will have to face if you decide to hire a freelancer.

  1. Varying skills and experiences
  2. Responsibility of costs
  3. Misunderstanding your vision and ideas
  4. Risks of investing hard earned money without a satisfactory return

Freelancers’ Skills and Experiences Vary

When you are hiring freelancers, their skills and experiences will vary. Some freelancers might be graphics designers, visual designers, corporate marketers – all of their skills vary. Some freelancers may have worked for package design companies, large corporations, or they just designed a few packages for some friends. Some may have designed for clients and some may have only designed packaging for an assignment at design school.  

Imagine if you need a food packaging design and you decide to hire a freelancer. The freelancer will hear about what you want, look at your current design, create something that looks nice, and lets say you’re happy because you got a good deal. So the freelancer is happy, you’re happy, everyone’s happy. Right? Whilst your freelancer might provide you with, say, a beautiful design, one that even catches the eye of the consumer on shelf, but lets say it doesn’t sell through to your audience. Or, maybe lets say they create a design that catches your audience’s attention, but you are dissatisfied with the design, maybe it doesn’t do as well as you thought it would. You watch as you lose sales and wonder what happened. Scenarios like this can occur often if you don’t pick the right freelancer with the right skills and experience.

The Responsibility of Lower Costs

One of the great points with hiring a freelancer is you can save costs… or, will you? If you are looking to save “costs”, this can also impact your end result or final product…unless you strike it lucky!

Imagine the difference between pulling your own teeth out vs going to a professional dentist. The dentist will have specially designed tools to remove your plaque and stains, and can numb any pain with a local anesthesia. They also make sure you feel comfortable and it’s done efficiently. Doing it yourself on the other hand… it’ll get quite messy.

Here’s something to remember about the real cost of using a freelancer, “the less you pay for a freelancer, the more uncertain the results you’ll receive”. It’s your responsibility to find the right freelancer with the right experience and skills, and if you hire a cheap freelancer, you also add the responsibility of having to rework your design to get it to deliver.

At Jam we have a saying: One should never underestimate the task of captivating a target customer. We must move them emotionally and intellectually, so they see and pick our product off a shelf of competitors.” This core philosophy has helped us create amazing product packs and brands.

Will the Freelancer Understand Your Vision to Get You Results?

With varying experiences and costs, you also run into the issue of “Will your package design work?”. If you change your product packaging too much, you face problems:

  • Will your customers share your design with their family and friends on Facebook or Instagram?
  • What if they are a regular customer and you completely change the look and feel of your product, will they see your product on the shelf?
  • Does your freelancer understand what you want to achieve?

Sometimes, they won’t get your vision the first time, and you will have to wait another few days or weeks to receive the second design. You might find out that after multiple tries, you don’t get what you wanted and you have to hire a new freelancer and start back at square one.

Make sure you know what you want to achieve as the end result. If you lose focus because your freelancer said a certain colour is currently trending right now, it’s your responsibility to handle any problems that will arise.

When you should hire a Package Design Company or Agency

What is the aim of Package Design companies or agencies? At Jam&Co we believe there are 3 main reasons:

1- To create a “surprise and delight” and make your product stand out in a sea of products. Your agency should be there to help you get the results you want, and help you achieve your vision. The right agency will also guide you through the packaging design process ensuring you achieve the vision you are looking for. (If you are interested, here is Jam&Co’s The 7 step Packaging Design Process.

2- Create a pack that is personalised and lines up with your target audience.

3- Create a pack that is shareable. One that your customers will be willing to take photo’s of and post them on their social media platforms.

The Right Skills and the Right Experience

Package design companies will have a team of experienced and skilled designers from all walks of life. Their goal is to do one thing: Make your product stand out and get you more sales, revenue, and profit.

One of the biggest benefits, of using a reputable design agency is the designer’s ability to see and forecast design trends. No matter what industry you are in, there will always be trends happening. Whether you ride the trend wave and cash in on the success or not, is up to you and your design team. 

Here’s the trouble with trends… you have to know which ones to follow and which ones not to follow. Some trends might be at the end of the cycle, while other trends are starting to catch on. Some trends never make it here, while others skyrocket out of nowhere.

The only way to be able to see which trends you should follow (or not), depends on your team. With a team of experienced package designers, they will help you find and recommend what trends to follow and what to avoid.

Insurance against Risk

There’s another reason hiring a packaging design company is safer than hiring a freelancer — you have insurance against risk. In a full package design process, designers want to ensure to reduce as much risk as possible, and increase the success of your product. Their business reputation is at stake.

This might involve:

  • Finding and researching your target consumers.
  • Where you will be selling your product – supermarket, boutique shop, online, etc.
  • Finding out who your competitors are, and how to stand out from them.
  • Matching and expressing your brand values through your package design.
  • Matching and appreciating your consumers values.
  • Following the compliance of governing bodies.
  • And much more.

There’s a lot of work that goes into designing a product package that grabs your customer’s attention and delighting them when they bring it home. Hiring a package design company insures you against these risks.

In-depth Understanding of Your Vision

People often forget this: “Your Packaging should be working like a salesperson.” Your package design should be the “silent salesman/woman” , breaking habitual buying patterns and convincing your target customer to pick up your product, smile, and putting it in their shopping basket or trolley.

Package design companies will often explore and study your vision and brand values to make sure it will appear on your product. Your packaging must be the salesperson that attracts interest, closes the sale, and brings back repeat customers — whether on the shelf at the supermarket, online, or at your customer’s home.

This is where your product vision plays a crucial part in your design. That’s why package design companies will interview you and your product to evolve it to the next level.

Researching and Testing to Get You Results

Will your freelancer research your product design to ensure you get the results you want? Maybe. Will a Package Design company do it ? They must — your success is their success. 

Part of the design process is to figure out your market through research and testing. It’s your insurance. If this isn’t done, you are leaving a huge gap in your potential sales and profit. This is what’s great about packaging design companies, they do rigorous research and testing. 

Combine rigorous research and testing with experienced designers, and you will get successful product design, increases in sales, revenue, and profit – and if you are a brand manager, you become a legend in your company and industry.

The Challenge with Hiring a Package Design Company

There is one challenge with hiring a Package Design Company: costs.

If you are small business or startup, and you have the capital to hire a good package design company, you will increase the success of product. If you don’t have the capital, it’s best to hire a freelancer for now, until you have more capital, unless of course you cant afford to fail.

If you are medium, large, or global company, and have the finances to get a package design company — then, this is a no-brainer. You want to make sure you increase the company value, revenue, and turning your brand into an icon; you’ll need extra help.

Judge for yourself

Hopefully, this article gives you some insight and helps you to make an informed decision on whether to Hire a Freelancer or a Package Design company. If you are a small startup or a small business, and if the risks of not achieving your ideal outcome is not great, then you might not need the expertise of a package design company until you are a larger company. If you have a large company and don’t want to take the risks with hiring a freelancer, then a package design company is for you. 

As a bonus, you can also take our new 10-min Quiz to see how much your package design will cost. 

If you are interested in learn more about what we do at Jam&Co, feel free to message us here.