Hiring a graphic designer?


7 questions to ask when hiring a freelance creative

Finding and hiring an experienced freelance graphic designer for your project doesn’t have to be a scary task. If you are in need of professional creative services, then chances are you aren’t in the design business yourself, so knowing what to ask when requesting proposals and interviewing potential candidates may be beyond your comfort level. Whether you are in need of logo design, website design, brochure design, or any other marketing materials, here’s a list of questions to help ease you into your freelance designer search.

  1. I’d like to see samples of your work that relate to my project.
  2. Who have you worked with?
  3. What is your process?
  4. What is your timeline for my project?
  5. What will you deliver?
  6. How do you estimate jobs?
  7. What do you require to begin a project?

For more details on each question, keep reading.

1. I’d like to see samples of your work that relate to my project.
Asking to see a designer’s portfolio (work they’ve completed in the past) is a no-brainer, but don’t be afraid to take that question a step further. While some designers consider themselves a jack of all trades, many others specialize in a particular media or industry. For instance, you are starting a consulting business, and need a website. Ask the designer what type of experience they’ve had developing websites for consultants, or any other industry that might be relevant to yours. Finding a designer who has the expertise to fit your project will make your experience and the success of the project much greater.

2. Who have you worked with? Can I speak to any of your clients for references?
Just because you aren’t hiring a full-time employee doesn’t mean you can’t ask for references. If a designer is worth hiring, they should be able to give you a list of people they have worked with before who can attest to the fact that they are indeed trustworthy and qualified, and that they do great work.

3. What is your process? How do you typically work with your clients from start to finish?
Starting from the top, you’ll want to know how the designer plans to begin the project. Will they start with a fact-finding meeting with you and/or your colleagues? Will you be asked to fill out a creative brief, or provide informational materials up front? Once design begins, how many design options will you see? How many rounds of edits are built into the cost? Many of these factors will affect the price, or may simply be determined by your budget. This is a good place to negotiate if you have limited funds (ask for 2 design options instead of 3, or reduce the rounds of edits you will give the designer).

4. What is your timeline for my project? How quickly can you turn this around?
You may already have a timeline in mind or a deadline you have to meet. If so, then be sure the designer can meet your requirements. If you aren’t sure how long your project should take, then ask. How long before you see a first draft? When you provide edits, what will the designer’s turnaround time be? How long does the designer anticipate it will take to have a finished product (a final logo, a programmed website, a printed brochure) in hand? Some of this will depend on your response time, so be prepared to also have an idea of how quickly you will be getting back to the designer.

5. What will you deliver?
Knowing up front what the expected deliverables are for a project is key to the designer properly estimating the project. But the reverse is also true. There are many variables, depending on the project, that a designer could plan on providing. Are you having a logo designed? Ask what file types the designer will provide (vector files that can be scaled? Jpegs? Gifs for the web? Different sized files you might need? A specific file type for a promotional product?). Discuss with the designer what your needs are, and they will be able to help you determine what will be required and what it will cost to provide that. Is it a website you are working on? Ask whether the designer will be delivering programmed files, or if they will be providing files for you to pass on to a programmer. Is it a printed piece you are in need of? Ask if the designer will source and liaison with the printer, or if they will hand the files off to you for you to handle printing. Furthermore, do you expect to receive the complete working design files at the end of the project? Be sure to mention that, and discuss both the programs and the platform the designer is working in. If you are expecting to receive your final designed brochure both as a printed piece and as an editable document, your designer should know that ahead of time, and they will be able to figure that into the cost too.

6. How do you estimate jobs? Do you charge by the hour? Will you provide a flat rate?
Some designers will simply give you a per-hour cost (and estimate the hours the project will take). Others will estimate a flat cost for the project. If the project will be estimated as a flat cost, it’s still good to know what the designer charges hourly (so don’t be afraid to ask!). It may help you to compare multiple estimates. And be sure to ask, in either scenario, how the designer will handle changes in the scope of the project once it begins. For example, if you have hired a web designer to create a 5-page website, what happens if down the line, you decide there are 3 more pages you need to add? Or those 2 rounds of edits in the agreed-upon contract turn into 4 rounds? Will your designer alert you ahead of time when there will be extra charges or costs, or will the additional costs just appear on your bill?

7. What do you require to begin a project? Do you need a deposit? Do I have to sign a contract?
Knowing the terms of a project upfront is always good business practice. Generally, there will be a deposit you will have to make before a designer will get to work on your project, and you should know up front what that deposit entails. Also ask what the designer’s terms are. Is there a contract I have to sign? Is there sales tax? Do out-of-pocket expenses need to be paid in advance? Will you own the rights to the work once they are finished? Are any expenses marked up? These questions will help you to anticipate any additional costs that may appear on that final invoice.

These are just a few of the questions that will help you on your way to hiring a freelance designer for your marketing project. Have you had experience hiring a freelance designer? What other questions would you suggest asking? Add to the list by leaving a comment.