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5 Tips for Hiring Freelance Graphic Designers

If you’re starting a business, already have a business, or are a consultant part-time, you may have been thinking about hiring a freelance graphic designer to help get you started with your marketing materials. Here are 5 Tips for Hiring Freelance Graphic Designers.

Tip #1: Identify Your Need When Hiring Freelance Graphic Designers.

For what reason are you hiring freelance graphic designers? For example, if you’re a start up business, a short term need might be your company’s logo. A long term need might be a print advertising campaign. And, you might want a website somewhere in between. Defining your needs (and how much money you can spend on those needs) will help narrow your search for a freelance graphic designer.



Tip #2: Before Hiring Freelance Graphic Designers, Research!

Take a look at marketing from businesses similar to yours, including competitors. What type of logo do they have (and why)? What type of content do they use on their website? What type of look do you want to convey? Bookmark some sites so you’ll have some resources to send along to your designer when the time comes. Usually your designer will have more questions about what you want, but the more information the better.




Tip #3: When Hiring Freelance Graphic Designers, What Type Should You Go With?

If you are looking to have a logo designed for example, your first instinct might be to hire someone who specializes in logos. This approach has its pros and cons. You may get a great logo designed, but when it comes time to do your website, brochures or direct mail campaign, your logo designer may not deliver the strongest product.

One alternative is to find a great logo designer, then a great web designer, then a great direct mail marketer. The problem with this approach is that your materials may have a disjointed look and feel because each designer will probably have differing styles and sensibilities. Not to mention it requires more work on your part.

Another alternative is to seek a well-balanced designer who has had experience in many different areas. There’s a better chance of maintaining a consistent look and feel across all of your marketing materials. Even better if they have an overall focus on brand development.

So which method is best for you? Well, it depends on your business. What will be the most important aspects of your marketing plan? Is brand most important? Will your website be most important? Is your print advertising campaign most important? Weigh all aspects of your business out to determine which type of designer or designers are best for you.

Tip #4: Where to Look for a Freelance Graphic Designer

You’ve decided what type of designer you want. Now, here are some places to look:

  • Check with your associates, friends and family to see if they know someone they could recommend who fits your criteria.
  • There are thousands of freelance graphic designers online. If locale is not an issue for you (meaning the designer can reside anywhere), you can do a general Google search for “freelance graphic designer.” If you want someone in your area, search for “freelance graphic designer +yourarea”
  • Also check with your local Chamber of Commerce, your local Craigslist site, and various freelance graphic design directories online.




Tip #5: You’ve found someone, how do you know if it’s the right freelance graphic designer?

There is no certification for graphic designers (at least in the United States – other countries such as Canada, may). Judging their work is subjective. So if you’ve narrowed your choice down to a designer, here are some things to check for:

  • Their portfolio. This is one of the most, if not the most, important thing to measure a designer’s skills and sensibilities by. Do you like their work? Do the pieces communicate successfully? Or are they too busy or too dated? (e.g., “swooshes” in logos are products of 1990’s – beware!)
  • Do they have experience? Ask for a resume, and see what type of companies they’ve worked for, at what capacity (e.g, designer, art director, intern, etc) and for how long. The obvious resume flags are in play.
  • Do they have references or testimonials? Check their online profiles, reviews, and their own website for testimonials or press.
  • What’s their education like? If they’ve followed our advice on graphic design educational choices, many will have degrees from art and design colleges and four-year universities versus vocational/technical schools. Use your judgment. Remember you want someone who can think creatively, not just someone who can use software. Graphic design is more about communicating ideas than being able to create something gaudy with Photoshop. Also, don’t be discouraged if your candidate doesn’t have a degree at all. It’s all about the work.
  • What is their creative process like? If the designer was referred, ask the referrer about the designer’s process. How does he or she work? How do they bill revisions? How are they with deadlines? There are many questions to ask. If you found the designer on your own, same questions apply. Have the designer walk you through the process so expectations on both sides are set correctly from the start.
  • Rate is certainly an issue, especially if you’re a new business looking to keep costs low. This will vary depending on both the designer and how much you have budgeted. It may also depend on your region. Hourly rates can range anywhere from $25/hr for students and interns to $200/hr for seasoned art directors. Do they provide a flat fee or an hourly rate? Will they give you a discount in exchange for hiring them for multiple projects? All good questions to ask when talking about rates.
  • Time is important. If you’re like most clients of graphic designers, you wanted that logo done last week. Obviously, that’s unreasonable, so be sure to start your search early enough to give your designer time to research, organize, and be creative while still making your deadline. The project timeline is a matter between you and your designer, so make sure to discuss when each phase of the project is due when.

So, you’ve got a project, you’re done hiring freelance graphic designers and are happy with the rates and timelines. What next? GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING! Also, be prepared to pay 50% of the estimated cost up front. This is standard industry practice. If the timeline has been agreed on, there’s no need to hound your designer every 4 hours asking if he’s got something to show you. Remember to be patient, and let that creativity breathe. Your project deserves it!

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