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So You Want to Hire a Graphic Designer

Graphic Designs and Logos

Hiring a graphic designer is a little like dating.  Cheesey, I know, but it’s true.  There are a lot of us out there, but you really want to find the right one that is going to be a good fit for you and your project. There will be bad designers, good designers, great designers, and designers that are good, but just not what you’re really looking for.  Here are some tips for what to look for, what to avoid, and what to expect when hiring a graphic designer.

Avoid “One Low Rate” Firms

One of the biggest obstacles I run into as a designer is competing with some of the “5 logos for one low price” shops, and people thinking that is most graphic designers work.  The first thing anyone hiring a graphic designer should understand is that there is a world of difference between those $5 flat fee designers and a real, professional quality graphic designer.  Sure, you can hire one of the cheap flat-rate designers, but keep in mind the old adage “you get what you pay for.” It really holds true here.  A lot of times the designers at the cheap, flat-rate shops are outsourced overseas designers. They rely on bulk to make their profit, and often the designers, themselves, are making next to nothing, and the company’s are relying on bulk to make a profit, meaning less time and attention to detail will go into your design(s). You also have little to no recourse if you run into an issue where you have a dispute, and no way to track down the actual designer. If the design shop is located overseas, you may also run into language barriers if you try to communicate back and forth with your designer.

While you don’t have to use the designer up the street from you, there are definitely benefits to using designers that are located nearby - you may be able to sit down with them, face to face to communicate your ideas and goals for the project.  At least choose ones that are located in the same country, so that you know what laws protect you in the case of a dispute.

Time is Money

On the “you get what you pay for” theme, when you hire a professional design firm, generally they charge by the hour. Keep in mind that you are paying not just for the final file(s) you receive, but for the time and attention that goes into the entire project. So, for instance, if you go to a designer and have them create several different versions of a logo, you are not just paying for the one you end up picking but for all the time they took designing the various previous drafts, and talking about the project with you. And if you decide to walk away from the project and hire a different designer, you will likely still have to pay for the work you had them do - because you were paying for their time and expertise - not a final file. Think of it as an a la carte design menu, rather than an all you can eat design buffet.

Set a Realistic Budget

Talk about your budget constraints with your designer before beginning work, your expectations and ask for an estimate from your designer, based on clearly communicated goals.  If you are clear and up front about what you’re looking for, your designer should be able to give you a good ballpark estimate, but every project is different. Your final total could be less than the estimate, around the same amount, or far over.  Ultimately, the final cost your project greatly depends on you, and how well you communicate what you are looking for in your design, as well as how many time you change your mind.  If you have a small budget, know beforehand that you may need to keep revisions to a minimum….or revise your budget, but don’t ask for multiple revisions and versions of a design, and then be surprised when your bill is higher than expected.

Check out or Ask to see their Portfolio

A good designer should have examples of their work available online, preferably with a description of each project (not just an image).  Don’t be afraid to do a little digging on the designer.  There are some disreputable people out there who steal other designers’ work, and pass it off as their own, so look around, google their name, ask to learn more about certain projects.  Do they have client testimonials?  Can you at least visit the websites of their previous clients and see those logos still in use? If their images look a little too good to be true, but there’s not a lot of information on their previous clients and projects, it may just be too good to be true.  Similarly, their portfolio of work should give you a good idea of their design aesthetic and how well it matches up with what you’re wanting.  For instance, if you notice their portfolio is mostly of a certain design style, and it’s not really your thing, then you should probably consider another designer whose style is more along the lines of what you’re hoping for in your project.

Insist on a Contract

Having a contract protects you as well as the designer.  The contract should cover estimated budget, any deposits, how payment is to be made, how files will be transferred to you, what constitutes a completed project.  A good contract should clearly define the relationship between client and designer, and outline expectations for both parties.