Can Smaller Companies Afford a Design Agency?

When it comes to creating a brand identity, working with a design agency to create anything from logos to packaging can often mean spending tens of thousands of dollars, which will stretch many small business or non-existent start-up budgets.

When you’ve got a limited budget, every penny counts.  Instead of asking ‘can I afford a design agency?’, you should ask: ‘how do I get the best branding and packaging design for the budget I have?’

Done right, your branding gives customers a valuable snippet of info about you and your product. It should communicate the values that are at the heart of the business – luxury, value, fun…. whatever you stand for.

For some businesses, great packaging design is crucial to their success in the marketing field. After all, it is one of the most significant parts of the brand. Think about the iconic Coca-Cola logo, or the classic Campbell’s soup tin – both are instantly recognisable and have serious on-shelf presence.

So, if you’ve got a relatively small budget, how do you go about getting the branding or packaging design for your business right?


values & image

You need to know your company values and what you want to communicate to your customers. Provide details on the market you’re competing in, your competitors and why your product is unique. What is the image that you want to portray, do you want to be friendly & accessible, or formal & powerful – the choice is yours, but deciding this in advance saves a lot of time & money.

a good briefing

Put together a document that includes the above information as well as details on how you’ll sell and promote your product. Think about all of the situations where you’re likely to need some design work – packaging, exhibitions, website, signage, adverts, vehicle liveries. You might not need this now, but you’ll want a design that can be used consistently across all touch points.

find a freelance designer

If you’ve got the budget, you may want to go to an established design agency, if not, you could try to find a  freelancer that specialises in your product area. Sometimes freelancers can be hard to find, so you could use a platform like where professionals from all over the world compete to work on your project and provide top quality design, without the costs or waiting times associated with an agency. Added bonus: a simple step-by-step foolproof briefing process. 

create an asset library

To ensure brand consistency and save money down the line, you should collect and archive all of the elements and assets of your brand design and how they should be used. Further down the line, this archive will ensure that subsequent design work can be done quickly and consistently, saving you your much needed budget.

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Written by Christiaan

Besides having grown up in the design Industry, Christiaan has advised some of the world's largest companies on their branding & packaging designs. Has been the resident judge for design awards, and has spoken at numerous global design & marketing events. Christiaan founded the London office of the award-winning Cartils agency, and has founded the platform.

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