Too often the only questions people who look to hire a designer ask are, "How much?" and "How fast?" And sometimes those with a little more savvy may even ask, "How good are they?" This last question tends to be subjective, because it is based on liking a particular designer's style. Actually, that is okay, only if it is appropriate to the message that they are trying to convey.
But, first here are some recommendations to consider before looking online for a designer.
Start with the end in mind.Rather than approaching the search for a designer as a crap-shoot, think about what you are trying to do. Don't get too focused on the project itself. It's better to ask yourself why you are doing this project in the first place, and what do you want this project to achieve. This will help you narrow your search to those designers who are most able to fulfill your objectives.
For instance, let's say you want to design a new website to advertise a new product. You can use the information to begin narrowing your search for web designers. Now in this case it is very unlikely you will need a lot of back-end programming other than the ability to take orders and fulfill them, or pointing them to another website. So, you need to consider getting a web designer who has strong visual design sense, rather than a designer who is more of a web developer (code jockey). Of course, everything will depend on what you want to do with the website, but you get the idea.
Pay attention to the designer's style.The other thing to consider is the visual style of a designer. Yes, it is okay if the designer's style appeals to you. But what is more important is the consistency of style, and how that style may match your message. There is no hard and fast rule for this, because many designers can adopt their style to your message. But if they have a very distinctively styled portfolio, you will get a hint of what type of work they really would like to produce. And it may or may not fit your agenda.
Following, also be aware of what you may want to do in the future. In the example of the web design project, you may want to produce accompanying collateral to advertise the product or announce the website. You may even want to produce an email newsletter or announcement. Does this designer offer that? In all likelihood you will want to stick with the same designer on all the accompanying materials to keep a consistent look and feel.
Consider each of your personalities.Last, you will want to consider the personality of the designer. And the designer will want to consider your personality as well. Can you work together? This is not an easy thing to evaluate without knowing one-another. But there are some general hints you can follow. For instance, does your business or goals match the interest of a particular designer, or run totally counter to their beliefs or practices? Does a designer's niche or experience match your area of interest? Do you like to work face-to-face or by email? These are just a few examples to consider.
Well, that's all I can think of right now. I am sure I am leaving something out. But hope your next project will be a joy to work on.