5 quick steps on hiring a freelance designer for your business

I have been on both sides of the fence: a business owner looking for someone to design my app, and designer working with the client on their brain baby. Most important thing to bear in mind: while looking for a designer, don’t look for a machine that will just do what you tell them to do. Sorry to break this, but you are not going to get a design which you love this way. Instead, look for a professional who will listen to you, understand your business goals, who will ask questions about your product, who has a tried and tested approach, who will work together with you to produce the design you (and your customers) will fall in love with.

If you can find someone specialising in your industry – even better. Don’t just focus on the type of design. Of course, no point of working with a packaging designer if all you need is a website, but if you find someone who has extensive experience in your industry – that’s the goal. They will have understanding of industry practices, “what’s hot and what not”, and also steer clear from generic stuff of your competitors, too.

1. Ask offline first

When they realise they need a designer, people often start considering platforms (Upwork, or worse, Fiverr), but the catch is, top designers get work through direct referrals, and although you may find their work on sites like Upwork or Behance, the best stuff is found offline, especially if you’re looking to find someone you can go back to again and again as your business (and design needs) grow.

Instead, post in two places:

  1. reach out to your friends and friends of friends (make sure the post is public, so your friends can tag their designer friends!) and
  2. post in relevant Facebook groups (e.g. London Startups) asking for a reference for a designer and see the offers come in. Make sure to check your “Other folder” on Messenger!

2. Look through portfolios

Once you have those recommendations in, briefly explain designers what the project is (e.g. a website, a logo etc) and ask for their portfolio. They will either send a link to their website, or email a PDF file – either is good. The reason behind explaining the task, is so that designers can include links to relevant work. For example, if you are looking to design a website, their work on packaging wouldn’t show you their web-design skills. And vice versa.

3. Do an interview

Choose a few designers based on their portfolios, then schedule an interview – whether face-to-face or Skype. Don’t get put off by the designers working remotely and who only can access you via Skype. A number of my projects I did with clients I never met face-to-face before, but keeping our conversations via Skype actually kept me and my clients incredibly focused.

Talk to them about your brief. I will cover how to give a clear brief in the next blog post. But for now, be as specific as you can, tell them about your business, your goals, especially the goals you are looking for to achieve with the design, your budget and the date you want or need the design to be ready.

During the interview, ask them to talk through their development process of one or two projects in their portfolio that you liked. By doing this, you will have better understanding of their creative process (and their character as they talk more!).

4. Money talk

Some may be able to give you a rough price and timeline estimate during an interview, however most often, they would need to take away what you told them and assess amount of effort and time they will need to put into your brief. By now, you would probably have 2-4 designers getting back to you with the quote, and only about half of them you feel that you actually “clicked” with, so bear that in mind, trust your gut feeling and don’t let the price be the only factor you consider.

When you receive the quote and timeline back, if the price is within your budget – that’s great! However if it isn’t – ask the designer if they’d be able to offer you a lower price. Some designers might be able to lower the price somewhat. Some of them might not: they might have already included the consideration that you’re a small business in the quote they’ve given you.

At this point, I would say something outrageous. Go with those designers who actually stand their ground with regards to price. Consideration is simple. If the designer has the ability to say “No” to a potential client, chances are – they don’t have a problem getting new clients who are willing to pay the price they are quoting. This should be a good indicator of a good, in-demand designer. They also gave you a non-inflated price, which means they know the value of their work – another pointer of an experienced designer. Someone who you should probably work with.

5. Spec (free) work

Don’t. Just – don’t. If this is someone who came recommended to you, someone portfolio you actually liked and whose interview you enjoyed – don’t ask them to work for free to “try them out”! Majority of self-respecting designers wouldn’t agree to that anyway. But also, would you ask an accountant to do your taxes for a year “To test the waters?”, would you ask your solicitor to file a patent on your behalf “To see how we get on?”. No. Designers are professionals and are no different.

If you are worried about giving them a multi-stage contract all at once, agree on a smaller piece of work to be delivered first and see if this is the right fit. If it isn’t – cut your losses and start the process again if needs be.

Hopefully though, by using the process described above, you’d be able to select a good designer to begin with, who will deliver the design of your dreams.

What is your advice on finding a designer? Share your tips below.