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Selecting the Right Freelance Designer for Your Project

Posted by Anne Holub on 6/15/17 12:05 PM

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Is your company's design not connecting? Getting nowhere, even with a rusty copy of Photoshop and a bunch of stock photography? You need a real designer…and fast! Here are some things to keep in mind when you're trying to find the right designer for your project.

  1. Where to Look

When you need a freelance designer, there are a lot of resources out there that can make finding the perfect one a lot easier. You can go with a personal recommendation (network, network, network!), try a professional association that offers job listings such as AIGA or even co-working spaces that offer job networking (like 1871 in Chicago or The Productive in NYC), or use a creative staffing firm who can tailor your search.

  1. What to Ask About Their Past

When you've made a connection with a designer, you'll want to get to know them a bit, even if you're only looking to hire someone for a quick one-time job. Here are some quick ways to get to know them:

  • When you get their resume, make sure you also see a portfolio of their work. Most designers have a digital portfolio so you can see samples in a matter of minutes. If they've done website design work, visit those sites and click through to examine interactions and flow.
  • When you're talking to them, ask them about their specific roles on projects in their portfolio. Were they given free reign to design from scratch, or was there a creative brief and a strict design plan provided? Did they have to create or find their own images, or did they get a group of stock photos? You'll want to get a feel for how much direction they need and expect on your job.
  • When you look at the roles they've held and projects they've completed, what do you see? Are they mostly working in a digital space and you're looking for a print designer? Do they only have a few school "spec" projects, and you're looking for a seasoned professional? A resume doesn't always tell the whole story about someone's capabilities, so it's always a good idea to talk to them before dismissing anyone for lack of experience with your exact project or field.
  1. What to Ask About How They Work

Designers are at heart, artists, and if you're not one too, you may not realize that they can work in ways different from the normal 9 to 5. A true freelance designer might not ever step foot in your door, so you'll want to talk about how they work best. Do they like to come in for a kickoff meeting before each project, or will a quick email suffice? Do they need to work off-hours like nights and weekends? How much lead time will they need to complete your project? Freelancers are often juggling a lot of different clients, so if you expect yours to have 40+ hours to dedicate to your job, you might be out of luck. Better to get honest answers about their availability early, than be stuck later with an unfinished or delayed deliverable.

  1. What to Pay

Do not, repeat, DO NOT under bid your designers. There's nothing worse than being told that a difficult, high-quality freelance design project can be lowballed or done for free in exchange for "exposure." In fact, there's plenty of evidence online that it's the worst possible way to treat a freelance employee. Freelance isn't free (in fact, there are new laws in place to keep freelancers from being unpaid for work), and nobody pays rent with "exposure." Look at typical market rates for the role you're trying to fill on sites like PayScale and Salary.com. Keep in mind that freelancer rates are often higher per hour because they're shouldering the burden of their own workspace, equipment, and health care (among other expenses).

  1. What to Keep in Mind for the Future

Maybe you just needed a designer for a one-time project, like a brochure or a logo design. But there's so much more designers can offer. They can provide insight on website usability and user flow, making it easier to capture customers and keep them engaged on your website. They can help with designing interesting photos and illustrations for social media posts, going way past that cool filter you've been using on Instagram. They can even help you with creating video content for your website, social streams, or emails. Design isn't just about making something "pretty," it's also about making it more interesting and engaging. Colors that play well together, images that resonate with viewers, print products that look as they should (not a pixelated mess) are all benefits of having someone with design training and an understanding of your brand.

  1. How to Keep Them Around

Nobody likes a dead-end job. If you're thinking of adding a designer to your team, or even want to keep them on staff on a permanent (even part-time) basis, you'll need to consider their personal growth. What will the designer do next month, or even next year? Will they have a chance to grow creatively? Will they have new challenges and opportunities for learning and expanding their skills? Just like a junior account person who dreams of being in charge one day, designers are have a desire to advance and develop. Hopefully, you can all grow together.

Do you need help taking your brand aesthetic to the next level? WunderLand has cultivated relationships with top design talent. Contact us to see how we can connect you to the creative professionals you need.

Topics: Hiring Tips

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