Bit of a spin off of this question...

Do you tell the client if you are sub-contracting their work? Morally is it an obligation, or do you pass it off as your own?

When choosing collaborators, do you work with people who have a similar design style as you, or someone who produces a completely different feel? How does this effect how you present that work to clients?

Do you position your business as an individual designer or a studio/agency ('I' vs 'We')? If 'We', do you use collaborated work in your portfolio? Where do you draw the line between an agency/studio reel and falsely taking credit for someone else's work?

2 Answers 2


There are a couple different scenarios in your question.

  • If I sub-contract, the subcontractor remains hidden and I am responsible to the client for all work. When sub-contracting designs must meet my standards and general style. Sub-contracting is an extension of my design sense, not new design sense. I rarely sub-contract. I'd rather say no than deal with projects requiring me to mangage others. Contrary to popular belief, saying "no" to a client isn't a deal-breaker for client relations. It actually builds trust more as long as you don't say it too often.

  • If I collaborate, then all collaborators are known to the client and each responsible for their part. With collaboration, multiple design directions are the goal in general. So each collaborator gets credit where credit is due.

I position myself as an individual designer with "connections". Meaning my clients know if I can't complete something, I'll probably be able to recommend someone who can. I tried the "we" thing for a while, it just didn't work for me. The personalized touch my clients get is a contributing factor to their returning to me. And that whole talking in the third person (or third pronoun) just made me feel as if I were being pompous. I try and remain as transparent as possible. It's just too much work to try and maintain a facade.

  • As an 'I' do you find that clients are willing to pay less than if you positioned yourself as a 'we'? Does the personal touch outweigh the perceived confidence of an agency/studio for clients? (This was going to be my next question)
    – John
    Commented May 24, 2013 at 14:35
  • 1
    Actually as an "I" clients are willing to pay a bit more. They know it's ME working on it, not some nameless intern. The only issue I've heard clients voice concern over is unforeseen disasters - like if I were to get hit by a car and die tomorrow, what would happen to their files. I've assured them I have measures in place to attend to that if it were to happen. So it's not confidence, it's reliability. As as long as I'm reliable I don't hear many concerns at all.
    – Scott
    Commented May 24, 2013 at 14:43
  • In all fairness, I get my clients solely by word of mouth. And my reputation is very good. As long as I am always dependable, reliable, and efficient, the fact that I'm an "I" rather than a "We" has never seemed to be a factor.
    – Scott
    Commented May 24, 2013 at 14:48
  • thanks, I appreciate your insight. What do you set as your turnaround times? Do you find yourself slotting work in "a week from Tuesday"? Do you have to turn work down during sudden influxes?
    – John
    Commented May 24, 2013 at 14:51
  • Should probably go to chat for this....
    – Scott
    Commented May 24, 2013 at 15:06

I would hope all work you are performing you require a contract to be signed. In my contract I have a clause that states some work may be sub-contracted out to meet deadline. Also, some clients don't care as long as they get:

  1. Quality work
  2. quick turnaround

If you do sub-contract to someone, require that they sign a non-compete.

As stated it would depend if you are a sole-proprietor or if you are a company entity. Some people may look at it differently if they are coming to you individually for work. I wouldn't address it unless it is brought up when reviewing the contract.

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