Tips for Hiring and Working with a Professional Designer

You Get What You Pay For

Usually, a designer’s price is based on two things: experience and skill set.

If you decide to hire a less expensive designer, chances are your project will take longer and the designer’s skills may be more limited.

They might excel at logo design, but you’ll have to hire another professional to design your business cards. Or, they might be a stellar web designer, but they fall short when it comes to managing your project.

There is nothing wrong with hiring an up-and-coming designer with less experience. Just keep your expectations for that person in check. Realize that they may sometimes be learning as they go, and cut them some slack, because you are getting a deal on price.

Don’t expect high-level expert design for little-to-nothing.

It’s Not a Used Car Lot

Designers are professionals. Their industry is fast-paced. They have to constantly be learning to keep up with all the latest software and programming languages, as well as stay on top of trends and best practices. If they work in specialized industries, they learn that industry inside and out.

If a designer quotes you a price, that is the price. It’s not an invitation to haggle. Do not offer them a trade of any kind. They have bills to pay. Please be respectful. What they do may look like fun, but it’s hard work, and they take it seriously.

Portfolios Don’t Tell The Whole Story

The best way to judge a designer’s work is by their portfolio. But don’t toss a designer aside just because there isn’t anything in their samples that looks exactly like what you want.

Designers are agile and they LIKE pushing the limits and designing new and varied things. They would likely enjoy working on something different.

Just ask. Chances are, the designer would love to design something that YOU love. Just like their other pieces were loved by past clients. Because remember, all of their work has been influenced by the client. The final pieces are the result of a collaboration — they do not show the full breadth of what a designer can do.

What you ARE looking for is good clean design — did they do a good job with what they were given to work with? Do you like their overall aesthetic?

Ask Someone Who Knows

Client referrals and testimonials are one of the best ways to find a designer. Chances are, if they were able to make someone else happy, they will be able to make you happy too — especially if your needs are similar.

Check Your Working Style

Even if you find a designer with a beautiful portfolio and a million five-star reviews, you need to take the time to make sure your working styles will gel. Some people are phone people. Some people are email people. Some people like to run projects one-on-one, and some work best with input from a larger group.

Figure this out upfront. Talk to your potential designer and find out how they prefer to work.

No matter how talented a designer is, if you don’t have the same working style, the project is going to turn into a headache for both sides.

Never Ever Ever Skip the Contract

A good contract will spell out the project and protect you and the designer if things go awry.

What happens if you decide you don’t like the work and want to fire the designer mid-project? What happens if the scope of the project changes? How many rounds of revisions are included? What does the payment plan look like?

A solid agreement up front will keep the project under control and will ensure a fair working relationship between you and your designer.

Create a Timeline

It’s not always possible to stick to timelines. But, you should never start a project without one.

Why? Because it sets expectations and keeps everyone on track.

Both sides should be in agreement on:

  • who is responsible for what
  • what the main deliverables are
  • when those deliverables are due
  • what the turnaround time is for revisions/comments

The more you and your designer are on the same page, the easier the project is going to be. A detailed timeline will push the project forward and keep everyone on course.

Check In

Once the project is underway, don’t be scared to check in with your designer. Ask how things are coming along and make sure they don’t have questions.

And, if anything comes up on your end that might throw the project off — a change in scope, a reduced budget, or a personal crisis that will affect the timeline — definitely let your designer know right away.

If you need to put a project on the back-burner for any reason, be upfront and let your designer know what is going on. They juggle a lot of clients and projects, so if they’ve set time aside for your project, and your project needs to be put on hold, they need to know right away so they can schedule another client in your spot.

Likewise, the designer needs to let you know if they have any issues that come up that will throw off the timeline on their side.

An open line of communication is one of the biggest factors for success in a design project.

Try To Be Objective

It’s difficult explaining your vision to someone else. It’s hard entrusting someone else with creating a website, brochure, or trade show booth that will represent your company or product.

As much as you know your own company or product, your designer knows their profession.

A good web designer will be able to tell you where your star product should be placed on your homepage so the most people click to buy. A good email designer will be able to help you edit your email to close the most sales. A good social media expert will know how to help you reach a large and relevant audience.

If your designer pushes back, or makes a recommendation, try to take a step back and at least consider it. They are probably coming from a place where they have great knowledge. Try not to take in personally — it is their business to make your business a success.

Enjoy the Process!!

Whether it be a website or a logo, you’re creating something! You’re making something new from nothing! You’re taking steps to gain more customers, promote your business, and grow your company. This is the fun part — enjoy it!

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