What to Look For When You Hire a Freelance Graphic Designer

Hiring a Freelance Graphic Designer

When you look into hiring a designer for a freelance project you may feel overwhelmed by the abundance of options available. It can be really tempting for a business to jump on sites like Upwork, find the most reasonable price, and hit go with a designer, but I strongly urge business owners to slow down and take a few simple steps to ensure they are hiring the best designer for the job.

Graphic Designers cover a large range of tasks and while a designer may have experience in multiple areas of the field, that does not necessarily make them right for any and every project a client presents to them. In my experience many professional graphic designers specialize in a particular area of the graphic design field because it’s the work they are best at and enjoy the most. Now that’s not to say you can’t find a great generalist, however, as a professional, you should do you best to hire a designer who will communicate your brand, vision, and project properly and with excellence.

Designers you might consider hiring are:

Brand Identity Designers (Hello!)

Web Designers

Motion Graphic Designers

UX Designers


Product Packaging Designers

Ad Designers

3D Graphic Designers

The list goes on. Now, you may want a really cool illustrative package design or promotional piece and hire an illustrator, or you may get a website design as part of a brand identity package. Like I said, there is overlap. I specialize in brand development and styling, but also design websites, packaging, and promotional pieces as part of my services. That said, you won’t find me going after freelance jobs where someone just wants a website or brochure on its own, because I do full service branding, it’s what I love, and what I’m good at. In fact, I prefer to not take logo-only projects, because even though logo design is a specialty of mine, I prefer to develop brands as a whole. You can learn why your brand is more than your logo here!

So, all this to bring me to my first point:

1.      Consider the project scope.

a.      What do you need designed? For what purpose do you need it designed? What are the specific details for elements you envision for the project? What would the ideal designer have as a specialty? What would the ideal designer’s portfolio contain? What is your timeline?

b.      Try to answer these questions briefly to help you get a really clear picture of what your project is and the type of designer that would be best suited for it. For example: Say you need a brochure for your property management company, you may answer the above questions like this – “I need a brochure designed for my property management company, to display the great benefits real estate agents get when they refer owner clients to us. I want it to incorporate my brand’s colors. I want it to be friendly and not too corporate because we are a fun, but professional company. I like icons as opposed to cheesy pictures. I think the ideal designer would have experience in real estate specific design, flyers, trifold brochures, and similar pieces. I would like to see these in their portfolio with an ability to be a little more warm than corporate. I would like to have this done in the next month.”

2.       Consider the designers workflow.

a.      Different designers may have different processes. It’s important to know what you are getting into. At the very basic level you should hire someone who actually has a design process and can clearly explain it to you. Your designer should be able to tell you when the project can start, approximately how long the project will take, the steps in the design process – like mood board/draft1/draft2/final – or whatever, number of revisions included in their quote, how they plan to communicate with you during the project – do they have a project management tool or is it all email? You want to pick someone who has a workflow that will be organized and make things easy for you. You should be able to easily communicate and review the project at key intervals and have clear, reasonable project timelines.

3.      Consider the designers experience and look at their portfolio.

a.      We sort of covered this with number one, but you want to pick someone who has relevant experience, is interested in the project, and has a portfolio that you like/has the style you’re looking for. If you find someone who has the experience, but say you’re a clean, traditional corporate business ad their portfolio is very edgy and not a style match, they may not be the best fit. I’m not saying they couldn’t do an awesome job, but you may be better off working with someone that has more relevant style experience for your specific need.

4.      Look for a designer that has a contract and professional estimate/invoice.

a.      Don’t get into business with someone who isn’t prepared with the right materials. A clear contract and invoice protect both you and the designer. It is extremely important to have a written agreement on what you get, what/how you’d be charged extra, and the price given there is no need for additional charges. You will better be able to hold the designer accountable for all of the work you are paying for and keep yourself accountable on the number of revisions and what you are asking of the designer as well!

All in all, when you are looking to hire a designer it’s best to look for the right person for your company and brand. You want to look for a professional who has the skillset, style, and experience to complete your vison and create awesome work for your company. You can find an awesome specialist or a really talented generalist, but the graphic design field is extremely broad and there will be an abundance of choices when you are beginning your search. Taking a few moments to stop and define your wants and needs will help you immensely when you start your search for the right designer for a project.

What is your experience with hiring freelancers and what do you typically look for when hiring a graphic designer? Do feel like working with a specialist or generalist is preferable to the other? I’d love to hear from you!

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