The ultimate guide to working with a designer Part 1: Hiring the right graphic designer

I don’t know about you, but working with someone that is an expert in their field is intimidating and can make me feel a little… well… not so smart. The unknown can be scary. Plus there’s that issue of: you don’t know what you don’t know, right?!?

If I don’t know what I need, how do I go about hiring a graphic designer to help me with my new logo or website? How much does it cost to design a logo? Will it be worth it? You may be worried about hiring someone who doesn’t understand your vision, or perhaps you’ve had a bad experience with a designer in the past and you’re scared to invest your hard earned dollars again. I want to help alleviate those fears!

I’m going to walk you through the process of hiring a designer and give you some tips that will help make your working relationship go more smoothly. Because I know you want a brand identity that you are proud to share, represents your business story and most importantly, attracts those dream customers! Many designers offer branding as well as web design, but some focus only on one area or the other. Either way the basic process of what to look for when hiring a graphic designer or a web designer is the same.

The ultimate guide to working with a graphic designer part 1: hiring the right designer. 6 Steps to hiring the perfect designer for your project

6 steps to hiring the perfect graphic designer for your project

1. What deliverables do you want/need?

Do you need branding/logo, website, social media graphics, photos, supporting graphics, posters, brochures...etc.? Do you need branding strategy? Help with nailing down your mission/purpose/why?  If you are just starting your business and not exactly sure what you need, many designers will offer a package that includes some basic social media graphics in addition to their branding and logo packages. Also, don’t worry if you are working with the designer and you realize you need something else, as long as you add it to the scope of work the designer will usually be able to accomodate additions for an additional fee. If you think you’ll need continual support from a designer be sure to mention that as well because some designers may not offer retainer services, but can refer you to a designer that does.

2. Ask for referrals

Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals. Investigate brands you love and see who designed their logo or website and then go look at that designer’s portfolio. Want to work with someone local? Look beyond Google and search Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Search hashtags for someone in your area on Instagram, like for instance I live in Montgomery AL, so I might search #montgomerydesigner or #alabamagraphicdesign. I could also search for other nearby cities/towns. Another place to search and get referrals is in Facebook Groups. Word of caution about asking in FB groups: be very specific in your request because if you’re in a really big group you may get an overwhelming response. I’ve seen hundreds of responses to people looking for graphic designers or web designers and my guess is that you probably don’t want to weed through hundreds of suggestions.

3. What is really important to you?

You may think that it’s all about the designer, but you really need to be honest with yourself and  decide what is most important to you for this working relationship. Do you want someone who will hold your hand and give constant updates throughout the process or do you want someone to go off on their own and then deliver the goods? Are you super laid back and can’t handle people constantly hounding you for information? Or are you more structured? Are you super detail oriented or more big picture? You’ll can learn a lot about a designer just based on how they respond when you first reach out to them and the vibe of their proposal. How does this initial communication feel? Can you see yourself working with this designer?

4. Is there chemistry?

I know, I know… you’re not dating this person, but you are working on something together that is majorly important to you, so you’d better have some good chemistry. You’ll know from interacting with them if it’s there or not. I highly recommend that in the inquiry phase you have at least one phone call or video chat with them. Don’t do all the communication just via email. Do they seem excited about your project too? Or are they distracted and seem uninterested? Does their portfolio style match the style you’re looking for? If you feel like they get you and are in your head, you have chemistry and that’s going to make this working relationship go much smoother.

5. Value vs Price?

Hiring a designer is definitely an investment. And many people understandably don’t feel that they can afford it in the beginning of their business. However, I will tell you that you can. If you are CLEAR on the foundation and the why of your brand then you are ready to invest in a designer to really bring your story to life. Because ultimately they are creating the consistency across your business with the branding that is going to help you bring in more customers. Now, I’m not saying that as soon as you plop that new logo on your site or front door that customers are going to flock on day one, but I am saying that by presenting a professional and consistent presence you will build trust among potential customers which will help to nudge them from being potential to actual customers.

You shouldn’t judge a designer based just on price alone. What they offer in value of their services can easily be worth the higher price point. Different designers offer different deliverables, some that aren’t even tangible. Some blend business strategy with visual identities which can give you a more complete and well rounded brand identity. For instance, I work a lot with new businesses and I love to help them launch their new venture, as well as giving them some social media strategy guidance along with the designs I provide. It’s these un-written bits of communication and education that add value to what you are getting. Make sure you truly understand what each designer is giving you, what deliverables are you getting in the end? Just a logo? A logo and submark and colors and typography? I love to give potential new clients the contact info of some of my recent clients so that they can ask what it’s like to work with me. I find it really helps the potential client understand the value that I offer, beyond just my price tag. Don’t be afraid to ask a designer if you can talk to past clients. If they say no right off the bat, that might be a red flag that you aren’t a good match.

6. Go with your gut

Are you a good match? What is your gut telling you? Remember, both you and the designer will be trying to determine if you are a good fit during the initial emails and phone calls. This is why I HIGHLY recommend doing phone calls or even skype/facetime. You can learn so much more about a person when you can interact with them and see them vs just relying on emails.

Go with your gut. Do you get the sense that the designer “gets” you and can deliver what you want? 99.9999% of the time your gut is right.

What happens if you go through this process and the designer decides that your project isn’t a good fit for them? If they don’t provide recommendations of other designers right away, ask them to recommend another designer that they think might be a good fit for your project.

6 steps to hiring the perfect graphic designer for your project

To Recap, or if you just skipped to the bottom, here are the 6 steps to hiring the perfect graphic designer for your project:

  1. Know what you want/need

  2. Ask for referrals

  3. Identify what working style is really important to you

  4. Is there chemistry?

  5. Value doesn’t always equal price

  6. Go with your gut

Next in part 2 of The Ultimate Guide to Working with a Designer I'll discuss the design process. You'll learn the typical process of what it's like working with a designer on your logo or branding project.

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