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How to: Hire a Graphic Designer

by Candice Walsh Apr 20, 2011
Consider these tips before hiring a graphic designer, lest you find yourself lost, cold, and all alone. Or without good graphics.

A few weeks ago I casually tweeted: “I need a graphic designer to design my business logo. If you know of anyone who might be interested, please DM me.”

My inbox went wild. There are a lot of artists looking for work out there… who knew? I was swamped by messages and emails, and it took me hours to get through them all and narrow down my options. The talent, for the most part, was amazing.

But I’ve had some trouble with designers in the past who never met deadlines, asked for more pay than was originally requested, or basically ignored my emails for weeks. Here are some simple tips for picking the best designer for you.

Ask a friend for suggestions

Rather than advertising for a graphic designer like I did, privately go to a few people you follow on Twitter or Facebook and ask if they know of any good designers. People recommend others for a reason.

Always ask for a reference

That being said, if you do come across someone whose work you really admire but have no idea what their credentials are, always ask for a reference from someone who has worked with the designer and has something to show for it.

Hire local

When possible, it’s always best to meet face-to-face. I live my professional life digitally, but whenever there’s an opportunity to meet someone, I take it. When you do so there’s just an understanding that neither you nor the designer is a crazy person, and that little element of mutual respect does wonders for a good job.

Don’t hire a friend

I’m breaking my own rule here by hiring Kelsey Freeman to design my latest website, but in general, it’s not always the best idea. Oftentimes, friends expect more leniency and understanding for work that is half-assed or incomplete.

Spend time browsing portfolios

True, everyone deserves a chance to prove they’re good, but if you’re shelling out a lot of money, there’s no sense hiring someone with minimal experience. On the other hand:

If you’re on a tight budget, hire a N00b

New grads from design programs often need to develop that portfolio, and will do so for considerably less money than well-established designers. Some design students will even do it for free as part of their training. If you feel like you’re taking advantage, offer to spread the word about a job well done. You’d be surprised how well that works.

Have a clear idea what you need

They’re talented, but designers ain’t mind readers. Even if it’s just a general concept, have some idea of how you’d like your product to look. Color schemes, logo design, and slogans are all worth considering beforehand. Also prepare to answer loads of questions so the designer can flesh out some creative ideas.

Negotiate pricing beforehand

Good designers will tell you how much they charge per hour and how many hours a project is expected to take. Make sure you discuss how much you’re willing/able to afford before you set the hours, otherwise you might find yourself paying much more than you intended. Discuss budget and everything you need designed beforehand so the designer can give you a quote.

Stay updated throughout the process

Ask for sketches/images of incomplete work as the design is being made to ensure your overall look and feel is being captured.

Get the original files

I cannot stress the importance of this enough: make sure you acquire all original files in case you need to make future edits, and make sure you discuss this up front. Some designers don’t like doing this, but if you’re launching a business, you really have to be prepared for anything…including copyright lawsuits.

A final option

Finally, you can give 99Designs a try: a website where you put out requests for specific graphics (such as business logos), and designers come back to you with their work and a final price. You pay the requested amount for the graphic you want, sorta like how works. Many designers despise this process, however, as it means many people are working for no pay. On the other hand, it really does help develop a portfolio if you’re fortunate enough to sell your design.

Community Connection

Got anything to add? How about a word from the graphic designers? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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