Whether you need a fresh website, new logo, or updated marketing materials, there will come a time when you need to hire a designer. While you could hire in-house or turn to an agency, your best best is probably seeking out a freelancer designer – especially if money is a concern.
Sometimes you may be approached by a designer after they spotted your outdated website. You may have crossed paths with them at a networking event. Or, you may have to do the legwork yourself and research the best possible candidates. Regardless of how you come across them, here the best ways to hire your next freelance designer.
Determine Your Needs
Think about when you purchase a new vehicle. A two-seat convertible may work for a single individual living in southern California. But, that same car wouldn’t be a great idea for a parent residing in Maine. The same is true when searching for a designer. You have to find someone who is going to fulfill your needs.
- Style of the designer. Most freelancers, including designers, specialize in certain niches and styles. For example, there are designers who excel in designing corporate websites and there are others who are known for creating logos for creative bands. You want to look for a designer who fits the style of your brand.
- Designer or developer. As Joel Falconer says on The Next Web, “The rule of thumb is that if you need someone to make some sort of functionality work, you probably want a developer. If you need someone to make things look good and to make a developer’s interface usable by real human beings, you want a designer.”
- Experience. Does the designer have experience with your industry? Remember, you want to hire someone who can understand your goals, purpose, values, style, and customers.
- Goals. Again, what do you want the designer to accomplish? Do you want brochures or a new website? Not only does this help you narrow down possible candidates, it will also give you the opportunity to clearly outline and describe the parameters of the projects when you find the right designer.
- Deadlines. When do you need the project to be completed? Even minimal projects, such as a new logo, will have to meet deadlines like review of the first draft and internal feedback. Most design projects shouldn’t be expected to be completed overnight. Being aware of when you need a project to be completed allows you to know if the designers has the availability.
- Budget. The rate that a freelancer charges depends on variables like experience and scope of the project. If your budget is tight, you may not be able to hire a seasoned designer on a large project. While you may be able to find a more affordable option, you may have to hold off or negotiate if the designer is above your budget.
Where to Find Designers
Once you’ve determined your needs, it’s time to start looking for a designer. But, where can you begin your search?
One of the best places to start is within your current network. Do you know a friend who just had a website designed? Is there a colleague who just debuted a new logo? You want to reach out to the people that you know who have previously worked with a designer. They’ll be able to share with information like the designer’s skill level and work ethic and whether or not they would work with the designer again.
If you don’t know anyone in your inner circle who has worked with a designer, there are more than enough websites and job boards where you can hire freelance designers. Here are several recommendations.
- 99 Designs
- Design Shack
If you go route this route, make sure that you go through the references and reviews thoroughly. As Lee Erickson, former CEO and Creative Director of Erickson Barnett, states on Business Insider, “One might say “Look! I did this for Nike!” – but Nike gives you clear standards and outlines. Did they have art direction? Who else did they work with? Did they pick the photo or was it given to them? These answers will better tell you how independently they work, and what their creative perspective is.”
Interview Final Candidates
After you’ve found a designer, or even a couple of designers, that match your style and are within your budget, don’t hesitate to send them a message. If you never dealt with freelancers before, just know that very easy to approach. Send them an email or direct message on Twitter and ask if they would be interested in a new gig. Before you get too far ahead of yourself, also inquire if they’re available and if they have the time to discuss your project. If they bite, you’ll want to interview them to make sure that they’re a good fit.
When interviewing designers, you’ll want to ask questions like:
- Are there samples that you can share?
- Do you have any references?
- What’s your experience in my industry?
- What is your design process like?
- Is the timeline manageable?
- What are your payment terms and methods?
When you do interview a designer, one of the most important things to remember is that you need to trust your gut. The designer may be extremely talented and knows your industry from back-to-front. But, they don’t gel with your personality. If you don’t think that this is someone who you can’t work with, then go with your instincts and move on to the next candidate.
Agree on Terms
If everything lines up perfectly, and you want to hire the designer, it’s time to negotiate and agree on terms like:
- Deadlines and milestones.
- Payment terms, such as when and how the designer will be paid.
- Scope of the project.
- Ownership of the final product – you should have ownership of the final product so that you edit anything if needed.
After the terms have been agreed on, it’s time to allow the designer to do their best. Remember, the designer is the expert here. If you’ve clearly defined your objectives, the designer should be able to take the ball and roll with it. They’re the expert and they’re more than capable of handling the project. Treat them with respect. In fact, the designer is your partner in crime on this project and they deserve to be treated as so.
If you’re too difficult to work with, don’t be surprised when the designer fires you, instead of having a fruitful and long-lasting relationship.