White Point Creative’s owner and lead designer, Lizzy, currently works out of Fredericksburg but grew up surfing in Charleston, SC. Married to the love of her life, Joe, they live for time outdoors and finding the best brunch spots with their pup Folly.
Just as a quick reminder, you can find all of our past Friday lives on my Instagram as well as my Facebook page. There will also be a whole blog post written giving you the chance to read over the material if that’s your thing. If there is ever a topic you’d like me to cover feel free to drop me a direct message on Instagram! Same with any questions you might have at the end of this live.
Today we are going to bust three of the most common white-label myths. To kick this exploration off, I first want to get our definitions straight.
Freelancing is when you are presenting yourself as either yourself (just a designer) or your own entity via your own business. And you’re working for different clients, on a project-by-project basis.
Depending on your goals and vision you can simply freelance under your name or use a DBA or LLC.
White-labeling is a type of freelancing. When you white-label, you are adopting the identity of your contractor’s brand while you fulfill a project for one of their clients. For that project, you are part of the contractor’s team, you do not complete the work under your own business.
I know this is a little confusing by think of it as the square and rectangle concept in geometry. Not all freelancing jobs are white-label but all white -abel jobs are a type of freelancing.
Many creatives hesitate to “white-label” for different fears ranging from lack of recognition to feelings of dishonesty. I am not here to say that your fears should be discounted or ignored. My hope today is to break down these common myths. Then give you a second opinion from someone who has white-labeled for years with positive experiences.
I would say this is the most common white-label myth from both young and seasoned professionals. We all agree that our creative portfolio is a critical aspect of our application to any type of job and business we own. Because of this, I think we have become a little over-protective of our portfolios. So when we hear that white-label jobs don’t allow us to use those projects in our portfolio, we automatically turn our backs.
I am here to tell you that this is a myth! White-labeling does not mean that you lose the opportunity to add projects or aspects of projects to your portfolio. Yes, it’s true that some white-label jobs have you sign an NDA and/or ask you to not use this project in your portfolio. However, there are a number of ways to work within these limitations.
Out of all my white-label jobs, I would say only 30% have asked that I not list the client and/or publish the project on my portfolio. And I knew this going into the job because every time I interview for a project, I ask what kind of limitations there will be down the road in regards to publishing assets in my portfolio.
The vast majority of my white-label jobs have actually encouraged me to add these projects to my portfolio as long as I mention that it was in collaboration with their studio.
This white-label myth is a doozy. It’s the white-labeling myth that says clients can’t know you exist is just that. Let me be first in line to say there is no law saying a business has to disclose its subcontracts to a client. This decision is left to the hiring party and does vary from job to job. This does not make them dishonest or sneaky.
For some of you, zero client interaction might actually sound like a perk! But client interaction does range and it’s always a good idea to ask how much client contact you will have. I know quite a few freelancers who seek out jobs where they are completely cut off from clients because they prefer it. They love swooping in, solving a problem and becoming loved for their highly-valued skills, and swooping out.
In my experience, larger agencies or businesses simply onboard you like any full-time employee. They sometimes go as far as to set you up with an internal email. While smaller agencies work with you through email or slack and when the contract is up, cut you loose.
As my years of white-labeling grew, I started to recognize a pattern in regards to client interaction. I noticed that the longer my contract was with a particular agency or business, the greater the chance I would interact with the client. For example, whenever I am brought as a brand designer there is a very high chance of me e-mailing, chatting on slack, or virtually presenting to the client. Whereas, in my white-labeling youth, when I was a production designer. I had very little client interaction because the original design phase of the project had ended, therefore the client’s role was no longer needed during my phase.
If you are a creative who loves working in the background but wants to step into a leadership role, own a business, or take on bigger and bigger contracts. I would suggest embracing jobs that require you to interface with the client. Client-interacting jobs give you the opportunity to practice pitching, presenting, and dialoguing with clients. I understand this can be a very nerve-racking aspect of the job. But realize that white-label jobs are the perfect opportunity! You get exposure with clients on a limited basis which allows you to dip your toes into an unfamiliar practice with other experienced professionals at your side to provide feedback and advice.
A number of freelancers feel that white-labeling is dishonest and feel it’s unethical to represent a business when they are not actually an employee. Personally, I do not believe that there is anything unethical or inappropriate about white-labeling for an agency or business. Boosting staff for a specific period of time or on a project basis is not uncommon or frowned upon in the business world.
When I white-labeled for Keds, the shoe company, I was hired on a quarterly basis to bolster their in-house designers when large trade shows occurred or major sales were running. The design requests doubled during these seasons and their in-house team needed an extra set of hands. For me, this felt completely above-board and normal. Especially considering I was not the only department temporarily hiring on help during these seasons.
Now I do draw the line at blatant lies about my role. If a co-worker or client asks me point-blank about my role in their project, I will tell them that I am a contractor hired by x company or agency. This type of lie wouldn’t survive long anyway, considering that a quick Google search would reveal my true profile.
For those of you who want extra clarity surrounding your role. You can request that the client is made known of your position when interviewing. Know that not every studio manager or owner will approve of this and in some situations, like my example about Keds, it’s just not necessary due to the scale of the business. But it is worth a shot!
I do hope that I have clarified these three common white-label myths and given you the confidence to go out and apply to white-label jobs. As you can see, there are so many positives to these jobs and I encourage all freelancers to take on at least one white-label job in their career.
Remember that you can always negotiate the ability to post these projects in your portfolio and that most agencies will actually welcome the boost to their SEO by linking their studio in the description.
Though not every white-label job includes client interaction, it’s okay if they don’t. And if they do, welcome the chance to practice valuable skills such as presenting and pitching. These are highly advantageous skills that you can walk away with to jobs in any creative and non-creative industry.
I also hope that I’ve given you the confidence to comfortably apply for white-label jobs knowing that these jobs provide a boost to your resume, portfolio, skillset, and personal growth and development.
In the coming weeks, we will be going over pay negotiation strategies, interview protocols, portfolio frameworks, and so much more. If there is a topic you would like to hear about don’t be afraid to send me a DM on Instagram.