How to Find the Right Designer for Your Needs

How to Find the Right Designer for Your Needs

Now that you have defined your business and tarket market, it’s time to find the right design partner.

I use the term “design partner”, because there is a distinction between a design partner vs. a service provider. A design partner understands the goals for your business and is there to help you get there with collaboration and exchange of ideas and strategy. A service provider will just do what you ask them to without looking at the broader picture.

How to Find the Right Designer for Your Needs

Where Should I Look?

There are so many designers and design studios out there, that finding the right person can be a little daunting. Sometimes having too many options makes things harder. Here’s my recommendation on how to find a great design partner:

Word of Mouth / Referral
If you have a friend or colleague whose business logo/website/printed materials you like, ask them who did the work. Make sure to ask about their experience working with that person. Having someone you trust to vouch for a designer is always helpful.

Design Portfolio Websites
There are many websites that showcase designer’s work. Some of these offer ratings that will help you see who’s popular and what past clients are saying about their work. There are general design portfolio sites and others cater to a niche market (either by service or industry). Some examples include:

Web Search
If you can’t secure a referral and you can’t find a portfolio site that has what you need, you can do a search online. If you’re going to go this route, try being as specific as possible with your wording, since a search will return many (many) results. Don’t just look for “graphic designer”, try adding the specific service you need (brochure, logo, etc.) and you can even add a city or state if you’re looking to work with someone local.

Job Boards
I personally don’t recommend job boards as a way to find a designer. In my experience, many of these job boards are filled with clients who just want a cheap project and don’t care about getting high-quality work. Therefore, good designers tend not to waste their time here, as they generally already have a good project flow. That said, you can get lucky now and again.

How Do I Narrow Down My Options?

Now that you know WHERE to look, let’s consider WHO to look for. Here are some important things to consider when making a final selection:

Is this what I want my project to look like?
Make sure the designers you’re looking at have a portfolio you can browse through. Does their design style match your vision?

Have they done this type of work?
Don’t solely pick a designer based on their portfolio. Make sure they offer the services that you’re in need of. A designer can have beautiful logo designs, but not offer sales collateral, for example. Most designers have a “Services” or “Work with Me” page that outlines what they offer. If you are truly impressed with their portfolio but don’t see a service listed, you can always ask if it’s something they have experience in.

Testimonials / Referrals
It’s always a big plus when a designer has testimonials on their site. It will give you an idea of what clients think of their experience working with them.

What Information Should I Provide?

You’ve narrowed down a few designers whose work you like and offer the services you’re looking for… let’s look at what will help them provide you with the most accurate pricing and timing estimate.

Have a clear project brief
Be as detailed as you can when contacting a designer. I often get prospective clients that email me asking “how much do you charge for a website?”, without providing any information on how many pages the website will have, what features they need (contact form, image gallery, blog, etc.), what their deadline is like or if they also need their logo designed. Of course, I’ll circle back and pose these questions, but getting this information upfront is helpful and will expedite the quote process.

What is your deadline?
Is there a timeframe you need your project completed by? Is it within a month? 3 months? 6 months?

What is your budget?
Many clients are apprehensive about providing a budget. They seem to think this is a designer’s way of milking them for all they’ve got, but with good designers this is far from the case. By providing a budget, a designer can help prioritize the strongest features you need that fit within your budget.

Use the designer’s request form where available
Many designers have an estimate request or “hire me” form on their site. If they do, I would strongly recommend filling that out vs. just sending an email. These forms tend to have specific questions that the designer needs answered to get a quote together. It also helps you think of key details that you may not have already.

Go With Your Gut

My final thoughts are, listen to yourself in the end. You may have gotten a referral, but it doesn’t quite feel like a right fit. You may have found a designer that doesn’t have a ton of testimonials, but you really like their work. Is your potential design partner someone you can easily communicate with or do you find them arrogant or unprofessional?

In the end, you’re looking to build a relationship with your designer, so it has to feel right. Have a conversation about the project and make sure you’re both on the same page!

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