So you want to hire a graphic designer?
It can be an intimidating decision for anyone to make. Especially when you are a small business working within the confines of a limited budget, hiring a graphic designer can represent a considerable expense with uncertain return on investment. As a company owner, you have to ask yourself just how valuable is having an excellent website? Is that worth the risk of working with a freelancer? Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to concerns like this, and often miss out on the benefits and advantages of good graphic design because they are hesitant or unwilling to take risks.
Most small businesses do not have in-house graphic designers on their payroll, so outsourcing graphic design is necessary if you do not want to spend tons of time learning a new trade or risk looking like an amateur.
Without good design, even the most sophisticated and competent operation can come out looking more like a child’s lemonade stand than a professional’s livelihood.
However, whether it is with an agency or a freelancer, hiring a designer can be a risky and complicated decision. It is a bit scary to imagine that you might spend a lot of money and not get much in return. Never fear. We’ve assembled some dos and don’t for small businesses to keep in mind when deciding to work with a graphic designer. These should help you make sure all your bases are covered and minimize the chance of making an expensive mistake.
Do: Ask for work samples, references, and a portfolio
It is important to be able to see some evidence of competence. This goes double in the world of web design, where standards and trends are always changing and constantly being revised and upgraded.
Check out the graphic designer’s site, check to see if it complies with mobile and other standards and make sure. Ask for references, call them up and talk to them about working demeanor and ease of communication. We do not want to bad-mouth freelancers, but sometimes, there’s a reason that someone does not operate in a regular office (and you might wish to avoid working with those people).
Don’t: Be all about the budget
When working with a budget, it is important to leave room for flexibility.
Often small businesses decide how much they want to spend, and then find a graphic designer who fits the lowest number. This is backward. For one, as we have seen, most projects go over budget. So, instead of doing that, you should find some graphic designers that you like, describe the project you want, and ask for quotes. These might be surprising for you. If they are surprising in a bad way, you might have to revise your expectations or your budget.
Just remember: it is as true with graphic design as anything else: you get what you pay for.
Another thing to keep in mind is that it is the norm for projects to go over budget. That is right—some estimates put the total almost unbelievably high, determining that 85% of projects eventually exceed their original budget forecasts. So it is doubly important for you to remember that those estimates are just that, estimates, and as such are subject to change.
Take this information and hold onto it – if you are lucky enough to have your project fall into that 15% of projects that don’t go over budget, it is the best way to be wrong. Isn’t it? In that case, the worst thing that can happen is that you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Do: Study their style
Work samples are one thing, but the most important demonstration of a freelance graphic designer’s abilities is his or her personal website. It is their creation; it is how they promote themselves and the best estimation of what they consider to be an excellent design. All the other things on their portfolio are products of jobs, and, let’s not kid ourselves, most of those clients probably didn’t read this article.
Looking at a designer’s website allows you to see what their taste is. If you like how it looks, well, they might be a good match for you.
Once you make the decision to hire a graphic designer, respect their professionalism. You chose them, right? You chose them because they are a great graphic designer, and you love what they do—so let them do it.
This does not mean that you should not insist on getting what you want, but more that you need to let them work their magic and trust in your hiring decision. Plus, if you do not micromanage, they are much more likely to put their heart and soul into the job, resulting in a much better final product.
Do: be open to advice
If you’ve hired a quality graphic designer, they are likely to have strong and distinct opinions about matters of graphic design. Listen to them.
Remember that you are not only hiring them for their time, but also their expertise, and if you’ve done your research well, their recommendations are well grounded in years of graphic design experience. Their fresh perspective on your project could be the breath of air that it needs to be truly successful. Make sure that you do not have any ego about your project, you’ve already conceded your authority to them by hiring them, so make sure they can make the best use of it as possible.
Don’t abandon your ideas, but allow them to be called into question. Every design can be improved.
Small businesses need outside help
Though it can be intimidating and scary to hire an outsider to put their hands all over your family business, sometimes it is the only way to run a professional looking operation. Once you’ve reached this conclusion, it is of vital importance that you stick to it and allow the person you hired to do the job you hired them to do, free of interference. With persistence and a little luck, you should be able to build a lasting and productive business relationship with a fellow professional.
Nick Rojas is a business consultant and writer who lives in Los Angeles and Chicago. He has consulted small and medium-sized enterprises for over twenty years. He has contributed articles to Visual.ly, Entrepreneur, and TechCrunch. You can follow him on Twitter @NickARojas, or you can reach him at [email protected]