As a small business owner you know all there is to know about your business: what your niche is, who your ideal customers are, and what big projects you want to take on next. But maybe you are finding that isn’t enough. You know who your ideal customers are but they aren't buying from you. You know what your niche is but not how to stand out.
These are problems that all business owners face, and they also happen to be problems that graphic designers are experts at solving! A good graphic designer can be one of the most important contributors to your businesses success and I am going to tell you exactly how to find the right graphic designer for your small business.
When to hire a designer
Ideally you want to work with a designer when you have just started your business, or when you are ready to explore new things and take your business to the next level. However, hiring a designer for small, specific projects is great too.
Before you start looking
The most important thing to do before hiring a designer is to determine what your immediate business goals are. Many people think that a graphic designer just “makes things pretty” but actually a designers role is to solve problems using design. For some business owners their problem might be that they are not attracting their ideal customers. Other business owners may have a product idea but need help bringing it to life.
The next thing to figure out is what a solution to your problem is worth to you. Take some time to research what graphic design services cost and what a realistic budget is before you contact designers. In my experience, most professional graphic design work boils down to between $50 and $100 per hour. When designers, like myself, charge based on the project and not hourly, the total project cost is still based on an hourly rate. What I do is take the number of hours that I think a project will take and multiply that by my hourly rate (which is in the $50-$100/hr range). For many business owners, the cost of hiring a professional designer may seem excessive but good design is not an expense; it is an investment. As a business owner I cannot afford to let my ideal clients be pushed away by a bad website or cheap looking logo. Good design makes you money and hiring a professional designer gives you time to focus on other aspects of your business. Once you have determined what problem you need solved and what the solution is worth to you, you can start looking for designers.
Where to find Designers
Sometimes the hardest aspect of hiring a designer is finding a designer to hire! I promise you there are lots of designers out there and they all tend to hang out in the same places. A good strategy is to use social media or professional networks to find designers and then go to their websites to learn more about them and what they do.
Portfolio Websites. Many designers use sites like Dribbble and Behance to showcase their work. These sites are easily searchable, just type in the kind of design work that you need (e.g. “Logo Design” “Package Design” “Book Cover Design”) and peruse the results. You can also use their “Designers for hire” directory and filter based on skills or location.
Social Media. Because graphic design is inherently visual, look for designers on image heavy social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest.
Professional Organizations. Some designers may be members of local or professional organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce in your city or the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA). Many of these organizations have searchable member directories.
Once you have found some designers that you think would a good fit, go to their website to learn more about them. When you are on their website, look for portfolio pieces or blog posts that show their experience and areas of expertise. If you are looking for a designer to help you with product design, a portfolio full of logo designs is a sign that they are not the right designer for you. Also, look to see if they list their design rates and if it falls into your budget. Please do not assume that a designer will discount their services. I work hard to charge exactly what my services are worth; no more, no less. When a potential clients asks for a discount I know they are not the right client for me because they already don’t value my work.
Where NOT to find designers
A good designer will make you money, a bad designer will take your money. Just like there are places filled with good designers, there are places filled with bad ones. Do not be tempted to use sites like Fiver, Upwork, 99 Designs, or so many others. To be honest it boggles my mind that people think $5 or $50 is a reasonable price to pay for design work. If I charged $5 to design the logo that I am working on right now, I would be making less than $.25 per hour. This means that some designer is making $40 a month so that you can have a cheap logo or, more likely, someone is cranking out hundreds of the same logo and peddling them all over the web. Either way, you end up with something that isn’t creating value for your business.
You know what you need, you’ve checked out a designers website and they seem like a good fit, now what? Send the designer a quick email telling them about your business and the type of work that you need done. Be as open and upfront as possible about your needs, timeline, and budget. Getting everything out in the open will make the process of hiring a designer quick and easy for both of you.
Within a few days of reaching out to them, the designer will get back to you with one of two things: they are not available to take on new clients or that they are interested in working with you and want to schedule a consultation.
The consultation will give both of you the chance to talk about your design needs, what the design process will be like, talk through any hesitations that you may have before hiring them, and more. Don’t worry about using “design speak,” just talk openly with them about your ideas. I never expect my clients to talk in terms of nitty-gritty design details, they hired me to handle those things! After this talk if both of you are excited about working together, you will put down a deposit and get started!
I hope you are feeling more confident about hiring a graphic designer! If you have questions about how to hire a designer or how designers typically work, head over to my About page and shoot me an email. I am more than happy to chat about design or business with you!