Whether for a full time position or for a freelance project basis, hiring a graphic designer can be a critical step. But it often can be time-consuming and full of uncertainties. How do you know when you are getting a good designer, or a hack? When is a good designer not really necessary? How much will it cost?
I've created this checklist to help make the process a little easier. Let me know if it is helpful.
Have a planIf you have a marketing plan, it should help guide your marketing collateral needs. Make sure your plan is what drives your need for a designer. Following, being able to define your needs in your marketing plan will help narrow your graphic designer search.
Know your styleIt's lot easier to find a designer when you have an established brand. But what if you don't have a brand, or you want a designer to help create your brand for you? It's a good idea to sit down and figure out your style before looking for a designer. Force yourself to come up with one word that describes your style: dominate, subtle, friendly, austere, suit-wearing, jeans-wearing, etc. And put it in a sentence. For example, "We are a jeans-wearing, organization that always looks on the positive side of things."
Know what you wantAlthough you know you want a brochure, do you know what the brochure should communicate? And to whom? What do you want them to do? How does the brochure fit in your overall marketing or business goals? This is important, because it might influence how you want a designer to convey your brand visually.
Know your competitionWhat is your competition doing? How are they presenting themselves? Being armed with this knowledge helps you define your visual goals. And you can use this to determine where your style fits in your industry landscape.
Start looking for graphic designersFor most design positions, posting the job description on job search websites and newspapers is still the way to go. But freelancers are a bit different. It's a good idea to ask people you know who hire designers: Who would they recommend? Try checking your local Chamber of Commerce or graphic designer directories such as the AIGA directory. And try doing a Google search for graphic designers according to your area or type of expertise.
Look at designer portfolio websitesArmed with the essence of your style, competitive analysis, and marketing plan you can look for designers that exhibit the feel you need to convey. Does the designer's work demonstrate aspects of style that my organization is looking for? Or, does their work convey the potential to be that type of designer?
Review resumes carefullyIt's good to look at designer portfolios. But resumes — and, yes, cover letters — are important too. You want to get an idea of a designer's experience level. Depending on the project or job position, this can be critical. Not all designers can handle certain jobs, types of work, or deal with tight deadlines. Also, check their references. They might look okay on paper, but find out they are poor employees.
Get a quoteWhen hiring a freelance designer, it's a good idea to present the project with as much detail as you can give. And get quotes from one or two designers whose work you admire. This will help you set your budget accordingly. And a word of caution. Don't always go for the cheapest designer. Your project and brand are just too important to go with the cheapest bid. And be prepared to pay up to 50% up front. It's a standard industry practice.
Deal with detailsFrom your project or job description to your company style you want to give a thorough brief to the designer. When dealing with freelancers, make sure you discuss items such as deliverables, file ownership and rights, and timelines. Don't leave anything assumed. Many professional designers will ask you for a lot of these details. Don't get annoyed. Understand that this is for your benefit.
InterviewWhen you interview a designer it is important to understand their process, ask about their experience, and review your vision with them. But it's also important to see if their personality fits well with yours. A good working relationship makes for better work.
Photo courtesy SOMMAI of FreeDigitalPhotos.net