Monday, 2 April 2012

Research Report: Freelancing vs Employment ( Semester2)


In Semester 2 our task was to finish our research regarding the chosen topic: to interview professionals, to carry out surveys. Furthermore we had to draw our conclusions and had to determine our learning outcomes.

After this phase we had to prepare a Powerpoint presentation about the topic in order to demonstrate that we carried out a detailed research and that we are able to talk about it freely.

Resources for my study

My research about freelancing and being employed was quite diversified.

The primary resource for my study was the internet:
  • Tom Lawton’s website (
  • Anna Debenham’s website (
  • Scrunchup online magazine (
  • Freelancing, The basics of survival blog (
  • Should I continue freelancing or find a full time job? blog (
  • Findings from the A LIST APART Survey, 2008 (

The secondary resource includes the interviews with two professionals:
  • Feridoun Sanjar, web and graphic designer
  • Robert Nagy, internet marketing and web designer

Primary resource

Tom Lawton’s guest lecture was very inspiring. He worked on many projects in order to gain experience, and then he moved on to freelancing. This gave me the idea to research about which one is better and which one would suit me as a graduate.
The research process was diversified. First I just had the idea of Tom Lawton and the interviews.

Then Lisa advised me to check Anna Debenham, because she is a freelancer who helps young people starting out in the industry.

While I was reading her writings I came across a blog about the things you need if you want to become a freelancer. At the end of this piece of writing I noticed a survey called A LIST APART. Anna also mentions this survey in another writing of hers. I found this article on Scrunchup, under Starting out. The title of it is Ageism.

Anna in this article talks about the most difficult thing she had to deal with since she started working in the web design industry: age.

The young front-end developer claims she experiences age discrimination much more than she experiences any form of sex discrimination.

According to her you not only meet this difficulty in your work but you can also when you want to have fun. Her first geek meetup was held in a pub when she was 17. In order to get in she had to bring fake ID.
Anna in her article also writes about how she couldn’t get a job after leaving school because employers don’t like hiring 18 year olds, despite their capabilities. Once, when she was freelancing, she did a pitch to a law firm. They were very satisfied with her ideas, but the MD said he wouldn’t feel comfortable working with someone so young, so she didn’t get the job.

After reading this, I decided to look at the A LIST APART she mentions. Others were carrying out surveys, so I wanted to do one as well, but the fact that I would have needed professionals, freelancers and employees as well, made it limited. I knew even if I asked all my lecturers it wouldn’t be enough to get a good insight.  This was the main reason why I chose instead to include the A LIST APART in my study.

The purpose of this survey is to shed light on precisely who creates websites. It gives answer to where these people live, what kind of work they do, what are their job titles, how well or how poorly are they paid, how satisfied are they.

In 2008, 30,055 readers took part in the A List Apart Survey. Data analysts Alan Brickman and Larry Yu were responsible for analysing the results. They carried out this survey the previous year as well, in 2007.  In 2008 they improved their fact-finding on freelance and part-time web personnel.

The most important questions, which I decided to use in my presentation, were about:
  • Age of respondents
According to the figures the vast majority of respondents are in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.

  • Gender of respondents
The respondents were overwhelmingly male, similar to the previous year.

  • Hours worked per week
The figures show that fewer respondents reported working less than 20 hours, and a greater percentage reported working over 40 hours.

  • Type of organisation respondents work in
According to the figures over half of the respondents do their web work as an employee, and just over a quarter do it as a freelancer.

  • Job title of respondents
The range was similar to 2007, but with a much higher percentage of people indicating “Other”.

  • Number of years freelancing
This was only asked of the freelancers, and was not asked the previous year. The responses seem to be evenly distributed, with the two largest being “2 years” and “10 years (or more)”.

  • Years at current job
This question was only for partners and/or employees. Most of the respondents stated to be working at their current job for less than a year.

  • Years in the field
There were fewer people with three years or less experience, and more people with ten years or more experience.

  • Region
In order to get a clearer result the categories were changed in 2008. North and Central America and Europe account for almost 90% of the responses. Within North and Central America, 88% of respondents are from the United States.

  • Top responding countries
There were responses from 157 countries in total.

While reading Anna’s writings, I also came across On that website I found a blog which was written by Allan Branch in 2012. 
Allan comments on should someone continue freelancing or find a full time job.  The posts to this were very useful for me. I could see how professionals felt about both freelancing and being employed. Also in this blog I found the possible solution which incorporates both. If someone wants to be freelancer it is a huge amount of work and responsibility for one person, but there is the option to set up a small company with a partner.

Secondary resource

As mentioned in my previous research report, I interviewed Feri Sanjar and Robert Nagy.

I emailed them the 30 questions beforehand, so that they had time to prepare to answer me. They were so nice that they wrote the responses on the questionnaires and emailed them to me. I am attaching these responses to this report.

  1. My first question to them was how they started their carriers. Both men responded that they studied general computer programming and decided to be a web designer only years later.

  1. The second question was related to whether they studied digital media at university. Both designers said they haven’t. Feri also told me he used to teach digital media in London.

  1. The third was what persuaded them to choose this profession. To this they gave different answers. Feri, as an architect student loved designing, so this was his main reason. Robert took up this profession only after starting his business.

  1. To the question which softwares do they used, both of them gave similar answers: Adobe products, HTML, CSS, Microsoft products.

  1. To the question which one is their fauvorite one they both agreed it is Photoshop.

  1. I also asked them if they are planning to learn new softwares. Both of them gave a positive answer.

  1. The seventh question was about do they believe that one must be always up to date. While saying yes, they agreed it is not so easy.

  1. Next I asked them about software updates. Both professionals said new additions and improvements are not always useful or necessary and it makes a designer’s work difficult to find the tools.

  1. After this I asked about the need of a mentor. Feri and Robert agreed, much can be learned through reading books and using tutorials, but a mentor is essential.

  1. Next I asked about the projects they done. They delivered many websites, small ones and bigger ones; it is a mixture of private and corporate clients.

  1. I then asked about their favourite one. Feri’s was the website of an architectural practice, Robert’s one was for a shop in Winchester.

  1. After this I questioned them about the project they least enjoyed. While Robert said he enjoyed every project; Feri said the large organisational intranet was difficult, because the client always changed his mind.

  1. My next question was related to their success. Here I observed a huge difference. While one of them said the satisfaction is the most important, the other said it is the money.

  1. This question was about difficult clients. Both men agreed that by time you learn how to deal with these kinds of situations.

  1. The answer to my fifteenth question was patience and compromise is needed when solving problems with difficult clients.

  1. When asking them what part of their job they dislike, I found another huge difference between the two of them. Feri said none, Robert replied it is the paperwork.

  1.  To the question what is it like being a freelancer they replied it is challenging due to the constant financial insecurity.

  1. Both men agreed the advantage of being a freelancer is that you are your own boss, you manage your time.

  1. When asking them how it is like being an employee, they gave different answers. While Feri values the experience a job at a company can give, Robert thinks it only means you are limited in all ways.

  1. To the question what is the disadvantage of being employed Feri agreed being limited in time is not so good.

  1. To the question is it better working for a smaller company they found it difficult to reply because each one has its own advantages and disadvantages.

  1. Next I asked them which one do they like better, freelancing or being employed. Both of them agreed that it is freelancing.

  1. When asking them do they like working in teams, Feri said he prefers working alone, Robert announced he likes being the boss.

  1. The response to do they work on more projects simultaneously was yes.

  1. I also found out that Feri works less hours at home than Robert.

  1. To the question is web design a popular profession they said there is certainly a demand for it in the jobs market.

  1. To my next question both men agreed that nowadays companies are looking for people who are a combination of developers and designers.

  1. To my inquiry on do they think is it ever late to start doing web design, they said no but you need a lot of time and patience to learn all that is needed.

  1. One of my final questions was what advice would they give to someone starting web design? Feri stressed the importance of a portfolio, persistence and constant learning. Robert suggested building my own niche market.

  1. Finally, I asked them are they satisfied with the choice they made. They replied they are very happy, the only thing Robert regrets is he hasn’t started sooner.

Alterations I made

After finishing my research, I realised I have too much information and that I have to review it from the beginning and set up a hierarchy of what is important and what is ancillary. I decided not to mention Tom Lawton in the end; I had plenty of material even so.

 The survey, the interviews I found significant, because it helps to understand better the whole topic.


I think I now have a better understanding of how things work in the industry. Working for an agency helps to gain experience, to learn to work in a team, to deliver on time and also it is good for ones CV. You can only start freelancing if you are sure of yourself.


  • Anna Debenham, Paul Randall et all. (2009) Scrunchup [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: 10 December 2011)


From Feri Sanjar – Web and graphic designer                 08.12.2011

1.        Could you tell me how you started your career?
I studied computer programming and then went on to study architecture. While studying architecture I fell in love with photography and design and on leaving my course, set-up as a photographer and graphic designer. Many years later I decided to tap into my computing and with the rise of the internet, combined the various aspects of my creativity to include web design.

2.        Have you studied Digital Media at university or was it something you loved doing?
I never studied digital media at university. I taught myself how to use most of the software and also went on to teach.

3.        What persuaded you to be a developer/designer?
As I originally studied architecture, where all aspects of design are very seriously considered, I had (and still have) a great appreciation of good design and the move into that area was a very natural one to me.

4.        Which softwares do you use?
Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Flash, HTML as well as all the Microsoft products. I also used to use QuarkXpress and Illustrator/Freehand, but I am not using these at the moment.

5.        Which is your favourite one and why?
I like all the above, but if I had to choose only one, it would have to be Photoshop. It is the most versatile for my usage.

6.    Are you planning to expand your knowledge and learn new softwares or markup languges?
The process of learning never stops for me and I take every new opportunity to learn new things. However, this is not always easy with a busy work and home life.

7.    Do you believe that a designer/developer has to always be up-to-date?
I think one must always try and be aware of trends and advances in technology. This isn’t always easy in a busy life! If the question is about software, then the answer is no, it is not necessary to always have the most up-to-date software.

8.    What is your opinion; are new versions of the softwares better than the older ones?
Not always! Certain improvements speed up some processes, but usually the newer versions require more processing power and memory from your computer, which may effectively slow your work down.
Also, not all the new additions and ‘imporvements’ are actually useful or necessary. I would always try and assess the additional functionality an upgrade brings to the software, and whether it could improve my work before considering the additional expenditure.

9.    Do you think people can learn Digital Media by reading books and tutorials or do they need mentors?
Much can be learned through reading books and using tutorials; but it is hands-on practice that is the best teacher. A good mentor can greatly speed-up the process of learning and open up greater possibilities and vision of what can be achieved, based on their own experiences.

10.  Could you tell me what projects you have done so far?
I have worked on a number of projects of different complexities; from a large organisational intranet to website projects for an architectural practice, a surgeon, a charitable organisation, to name but a few.

11.  Which was the one you enjoyed doing the most?
Possibly the one for the architectural practice was in the end the most enjoyable. It was more of a challenge as it was for another designer, so I felt it had to be just right for their image and to fit in with their overall aesthetic.

12.  Which was the one you least enjoyed?
The large organisational intranet took a long time to plan and a very short time to execute. It put a great deal of stress and pressure on all those involved. The end result, however, was very satisfactory. The least enjoyable projects are those where the content is not ready in time and the client keeps changing his mind and wants something different at every meeting. It makes the job of the designer much more difficult.

13.  Which one was your biggest success?
Success means different things to different people! Any project that is completed to the complete satisfaction of my client (and mine) is a big success to me.

14.  Have you ever been in a situation where you had to handle difficult clients?
Fortunately, not very often! The key to handling difficult clients is to try and understand their requirements clearly. What is expected, what can be delivered, when and for how much!

15.  How did you manage to overcome the problem?
As a designer one must realise that the project is about delivering the client’s vision in the best way possible. You don't try to impose your vision on the client, but one can persuade and convince that the ideas put forward will be more suitable and beneficial to them.
As a designer you are always looking for the happy compromise where the client is on-board with your ideas and excited by them.

16.  Is there any part of your job you don’t like?
Not really; I like most of the process in designing anything. The early stages of any project are difficult. Coming up with a concept that suits the client’s requirements as well as my vision of the brief is a delicate balancing act. Building the working site from that concept and vision can be a slow process, but very rewarding when it is achieved.

17.  Could you tell me what it is like being a freelancer?
It is very exciting and scary at the same time. Every job can potentially be your last one!
Freelancing does not suit all people as the financial rewards are not regular. But in return every job is different and you have very little chance of getting bored.

18.  What’s you opinion, what are its advantages and disadvantages?
Every job is different and you get to meet a great number of people. There is more day-to-day freedom as the timetable is more flexible between commissions.
The main disadvantage is the financial insecurity and having to be constantly alert to work opportunities.

19.  Could you tell me what it is like being an employee at a company?
It can be a good experience when you are starting out. It gives you opportunities to understand and learn what it means to be a professional designer, both in terms of designing for a client, working in a team, pricing a job and budgeting, as well as learning how to deliver to a deadline to the satisfaction of the client. It teaches about discipline of working!

20.  What do you think are the benefits of it and what is the pitfall of it?
It is the opposite of the freelance situation. There is greater financial stability, but greater restrictions on time (if one is working full-time). The main pitfall is if one becomes too comfortable and complacent in a role and stops learning.

21.  Is it better working for a smaller company (in Winchester for example) or do you think bigger companies are better (in London)?
Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages. In a smaller company you are more likely to be involved at every level and learn more quickly, on the other hand you may not have a big range of clients. In a larger company, where you may be part of a much bigger team, you may only be working on a small project within a much larger project, with less idea of the whole picture. However, you may get to work on (or see) a much larger range of different projects.

22.  Which one did you enjoy doing better, freelancing or working for a company and why?
I enjoy freelancing more because of the freedom to work according to the needs of the project and the greater flexibility it gives me.

23.  Do you like working in teams?
My personal preference is for working alone. However, with the right mix of people and complementary skill, a team can achieve very different results. So the answer is Yes - I like working in a team of like-minded and creative people who have the same attitudes to work as well as skills I can respect.

24.  Do you work on more projects simultaneously?
Yes, I almost always have more than one project going on at the same time.

25.  Do you work at home as well, if so how many hours?
As well as my full-time job (37.5 hours per week), I probably spend an average of eight hours per week working at home on other projects.

26.  What do you think; is web design a popular profession and is there a demand for it on the market?
There is certainly a demand for web designers in the jobs market. The bigger projects go to design companies which have bigger teams and a variety of skills. But there are many individuals and smaller businesses which require web designers who can provide a good professional service at less cost.

27.  Do you know what the current trends employers expect from applicants are?
The thing I have noticed most is that more and more there is a requirement towards web designer/developer combination of skills, whereas in the past these roles may have been carried out by two different professionals. This could be because companies wish to reduce their outgoings during these difficult financial times.

28.  Do you think it is ever late to start doing web design?
No, I don’t believe it is ever too late to start doing anything! However, one must be aware of expectations (own and clients’). Gaining useful, practical experience takes time and is very necessary in building confidence and the skills to tackle projects. So anyone entering the field now must be aware of the amount of learning they have to do and be patient and focussed.

29.  What advice would you give to someone starting this profession?
You must create work for your portfolio, even if it is not for a client. Every project teaches you something new. Look at the work of other designers; understand why some work is considered to be good and others not so good. Don’t give up too easily and never stop learning!

30.  Looking back, was it a good decision to become a designer/ developer? If you could start over would you do something different?
I am very happy about the path I have followed. I now have the range of skills and experience that I always wanted and feel I can tackle most projects with confidence.

Sites:  which is still "under construction"

Robert Nagy – Internet marketing, Web designer           10.01.2012

1.      Could you tell me how you started your career?
Well, I have always had an urge for IT, so have studied computers at the university back home. Back then, it wasn’t about design and internet, it was all about zeros and ones. IT seemed to be more about computers, more like hardware as such.

2.    Have you studied Digital Media at university or was it something you loved doing?
No. I haven’t studied Digital Media. This was something I met first time when my dad asked me to design some Power Point presentations for his business seminars. That’s when I discovered that I love design, and started to look into it more.

3.      What persuaded you to be a developer/designer?
Firstly, I’m specialized in internet marketing and SEO (more about that later), programming and designing was something I’ve looked into much later. It was after we have put together our first computer business in Hampshire.

4.      Which software do you use?
For designing layers and picture banners I usually work with Photoshop; and editing HTML codes I’m using ACE HTML. For uploading I use various FTP software like, ACE FTP, and others. CSS editor is one of my favourite to edit CSS files.

5.      Which is your favourite one and why?
For me, most favourite is Photoshop I think as it’s the base of all designs. Working with layers is an exciting way putting together, a smart and sharp design from scratch.

6.      Are you planning to expand your knowledge and learn new software or markup languges?
IT is an industry which keeps changing. You must embrace change, learn and develop your skills. Without personal development, it would hard to keep up with the change. This is same with design and internet.

If we go back in time how websites looked 4-5 years ago, today’s technology makes you think about smart, structured layouts, shopping carts and smartphone apps. It will be probably a different scenario in another 5 years on from today.

7.      Do you believe that a designer/ developer have to always be up to date?
Oh, defiantly yes! Without a constant learning curve, success is not guaranteed!

8.      What is your opinion, are new versions of the softwares better than the older ones?
To be honest, I haven’t updated my Photoshop software since I bought it – so I like to keep my work tools as they are; as I know where everything is. Look at Microsoft Word, when they smart it all up – no one could find anything – with that grouping system, users were struggling to find basic File SAVE AS functionality.

9.      Do you think people can learn Digital Media by reading books and tutorials or do they need mentors?
In today’s digital world, there are an awful lot of free videos, affordable e-books and online learning sites. It is much easier to learn about something you love and have passion about then in the early days. Of course, a mentor will always be able to show you the insights of the ‘story’ – so having one would make a huge difference!

10.  Could you tell me what projects you done so far?
I have designed many projects, delivered many websites, small ones and bigger ones. It is a mixture of private and corporate clients who would find me and ask for help.

11.  Which was the one you enjoyed doing the most?
I’ve got a shop actually in Winchester, and the owner came to me approximately 2 years ago and asked me to help boosting his internet sales. It was one of the most interesting projects I’ve done so far, as it was my first retail business I helped with SEO. Since then we embraced paid advertising, a fresh new website facelift amongst with the organic search optimization work I do as one of my boldest services. We’ve been through a lot of changes, so it’s probably why I picked this one. I can’t give you a name, for obvious reasons, but I can promise you that they do really well on Google.

12.  Which was you least enjoyed?
I can honestly say that I love every bit of work I get through. This is my hobby and I enjoy my hobby. Throughout the years I’ve turned this into a business, so I’m a lucky man.

13.  Which one was your biggest success?
It is always interesting to work through challenging times. I think the biggest success is to survive since the 2008 Laimen brother’s collapse. After 4 years, I’m still here and still in business. In my opinion that is a great achievement, and success.

14.  Have you ever been in a situation where you had to handle difficult clients?
Of course, I work with people. Working with people it is difficult and challenging at times, but you learn how to resolve problems and you learn how to handle difficult clients.

15.  How did you manage to overcome the problem?
Well, there was a client who I agreed some work with, and we were meant to start on it in the next month or so. This was back in 2011 January, and nothing happened until just recently. This is an example how difficult clients could be. I needed the patient and the drive to answer so many phone calls, and answer emails throughout 1 year, until finally just a few days earlier before this interview I’ve got the go-ahead. So handling this client in the right way, it has paid off for me.

16.  Is there any part of your job you don’t like?
Yes, I don’t like the paperwork. I hate papers, and trying to keep everything digital. But I realize some parts of the accountancy is not possible to keep digital, and that’s when I would call my accountant! I don’t like this part of the business.

17.  Could you tell me what it is like being a freelancer?
Being a freelancer is challenging! Sometimes you’ve got work, other times you don’t! You have to balance out very well what’s your spending before you make a decision to be a freelancer. Good news is that you don’t’ have a boss and you make your own schedule and plan of week. You can even plan how much you earn, so yes there are many good parts of being a freelancer, but in most cases it will last if you’re a realistic. Be honest with yourself and I’m sure you will make the right decision.

18.  What’s you opinion, what are its advantages and disadvantages?
Just pointed that out ealier.

19.  Could you tell me what it is like being an employee at a company?
Surely! Being an employee means that you’re limited. Limited to what knowledge you can embrace and share, limited to the money you can earn and limited to the time you can spend with your family. It is the right option for you if you like safety. Being employee should give you security of your salary, however I’m not too sure if that’s the case today in this economic climate.

Again, you putting risk / safety and earnings in a balance, and then
you make a decision. If you’re inspiring for higher earnings you need to risk it and be a freelancer!

20.  What do you think are the benefits of it and what is the pitfall of it?
Just explained earlier.

21.  Is it better working for a smaller company (in Winchester for example) or do you think bigger companies are better (in London)?
That is a tricky question. Working in London would raise a whole lot of other expenses which you wouldn’t have in Winchester. Sometimes the smaller company is safer than the bigger ones, but other times it’s the other way around. Unfortunately I can’t call on this one; it would need to see the specific company to make a decision.

22.  Which one did you enjoy doing better, freelancing or working for yourself and why?
I presume you’re asking whether I like being an employee / or a freelancer better. Well, I can tell you without a doubt in a split second that I enjoy freelancing much more! As I said before I love my hobby and is great that I could make a living out of it.

23.    Do you like working in teams?
Yes I enjoy working in teams, but I also enjoy leading.

24.    Do you work on more projects simultaneously?
Yes, generally speaking there approx, 5-10 projects running simultaneously on a monthly basis.

25.    Do you work at home as well, if so how many hours?
Of course, my freelancer business is based in my own home. I work about 5-7 hours almost every day at home.

26.  What do you think, is web design a popular profession and is there a demand for it on the market?
I would say Yes. It has become a profession, since websites are built and they will be a need for more. I believe there is a strong market in this so called profession, and you’re lucky practising that!

27.  Do you know what the current trends employers expect from applicants are?
 I’m not too sure – they probably would love to pay monthly a web designer for their company but it must be a very big firm to ‘afford’ a designer. I’m saying this only because web designers generally do much better as a freelancer. If they’re employed, once they finish the company website there is nothing else they can do. Unless there are numerous of ongoing web applications to develop, marketing materials and other digital needs, it would make sense the employer to hire a designer full time – but in most cases for the employer it’s easier to pay the invoice for the designed work.

28.  Do you think it is ever late to start doing web design?
Of course not, it is never too late!

29.  What advice would you give for someone starting this profession?
Be creative, make up and build your own niche market – be a professional / desired designer in your own niche market. You can always brand yourself quicker and better if you specialize doing one particular market / or region.

30.  Looking back, was it a good decision to become a designer/ developer?
 If you could start over would you do something different?
Oh Yes, I love every minute of it, and I would do the same all over again, except I would start 1995 when the dot-com internet bubble started and boomed for at least 5 years!

Sites:, and many more.

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