Here’s a question – have you ever come across situations where you’ve lost out on a project simply because of your location? Here’s another – does location matter?

Something happened to me recently that I questioned how important location is when searching for work. I sent off an application, and here’s a summary of the response I got back.

Firstly, a concern about how I would ‘fit’, being from somewhere that wasn’t London.

Then, while they liked my work, there was a ‘lack of names’ to relate to.

OK, so there are really two separate issues there, and I have to say that while I was perhaps a little surprised that he’d highlighted those specific issues, it isn’t anything new to me – in fact, I’ve come across this problem a few times over the years.

You see, when you’re based outside of a city location, like I am, it can be very hard to be taken seriously beyond the locality of where you are. Sure, a lot of the projects I take on tend to be from businesses within the confines of Shrewsbury, Shropshire, and the Midlands. It’s no coincidence – I’m willing to bet that a large proportion of people who hire me are searching for local designers. Those types of businesses prioritise designers who know the local market and can deal with their projects on a personal level.

While some familiar brands are in Shropshire and the Midlands, many are headed up by corporate offices in London or European cities. This means that when (and if) they hire design agencies, they source them from those areas – they’re not going to consider us here in rural Shropshire. That does mean that there are naturally a limited number of ‘big brands’ that I could work for.

Is that fair, though? How is it affecting our bottom line? Are designers like us missing out on the big fish because of where we live?

Again, does location matter?

There’s a tendency to assume that graphic designers only work for local businesses and that they’re well placed to do that because they know the local market, they’re familiar with the area and the people who live and work there.

Of course, there are definite benefits of hiring a local designer – it’s always nice to meet up face-to-face, speak on a personal level, blah, blah… but hang on. We live in a digital world, where (as the whole covid situation showed us) we can use online tools like zoom to speak to each other very easily.

We can share files and documents at the click of a mouse, and we can even go ‘old school’ and pick up the telephone.

So what’s up with all this ‘hire local’ stuff? Is it really so important?

In my view, no. The work I do for my clients is not really affected by where they are in the world. Sure, there are some differences, but none of them is detrimental to the project’s outcome. Yes, it’s nice to meet clients in person, but there are ways around it, as I mentioned above. And in the end, as long as I am able and willing to communicate well with my clients, then any kind of problem can be worked through very easily.

Working remotely – pros and cons

Many designers are happy to stay within their communities when they’re looking for work – and that’s not a bad thing. As a designer, it’s great to connect with local businesses and work on branding and website design projects – it’s where the majority of my bread-and-butter work comes from.

There’s a big world out there, so many unique brands and organisations that could be a match made in heaven for the type of design you offer. But sometimes, you might crave more than that. So, what are the benefits of seeking out projects from further afield? And how can you approach those businesses who doubt your ability to deliver because of your location?

Benefits of being a local designer

  • Meeting in person develops a mutual working relationship more quickly
  • Knowledge of the local market can help understand the required outcomes of the project
  • Ability to work with smaller, bespoke businesses and see the benefits of your work personally

Benefits of designing for larger companies further afield

  • Less opportunity for scope creep, as there are not so many personal contact points
  • More lucrative projects from companies who have bigger budgets
  • Chances to be involved in more engaging, long-term projects in different industries
  • Additional opportunities to get the kind of projects to enhance your portfolio

Over to you

What are your thoughts on this subject? Are you a designer who has been rejected for projects based on your location or something else? Or do you work within a city where you outsource to designers in more rural areas? What’s your experience?