Freelance graphic designers are a dime a dozen these days. But despite our ubiquity, no two graphic designers are the same. This can make it difficult to choose the right graphic designer for your brand. On the other hand, you can rest assured knowing that there is the perfect designer for you out there somewhere; in fact, there are likely many designers who’d be a great match for you. So how do you choose the right graphic designer?
As a graphic designer, I’ve encountered clients from a wide range of backgrounds, industries, and preferences. Some were a great match for me, and others, I eventually discovered, weren’t. As I’ve gained more experience, I’ve become a lot better at determining upfront whether a client will be a good fit for my services based on certain cues. Below I’ll share with you what you need to look out for in order to choose the right graphic designer for your project.
1. Ask around
My first tip for choosing the right graphic designer is for those of you who just don’t know where to start looking. Graphic designers are all over Instagram, Pinterest, Dribbble, Behance, and other visual platforms. However, if you don’t know what to search for, scouring these platforms for hours on end could leave you feeling a tad overwhelmed. You’ll also find a huge range of price points, styles, and geographic locations. Therefore, if you have any friends or family members who are business owners or who may have worked with graphic designers in the past, I recommend that you reach out to them first to see if they have any referrals. This is especially ideal if you’re working with a graphic designer for the first time because your acquaintance can help you understand what to expect.
2. Review the designer’s portfolio
My second tip for choosing the right graphic designer might seem intuitive. However, there are a few things to look out for in a designer’s portfolio apart from aesthetics. The caliber of a designer’s work should be fairly obvious at first glance. But apart from looking good, is the design effective? Does he have experience in your niche or industry? If the designer’s portfolio includes case studies, that’s a good sign. Take some time to read through them in order to get a better understanding of the thought process that went into the design. This is especially important for branding and website designers. Also, most designers have a unique style, which should be reflected throughout their different projects. If you vibe with their style, the designers are likely a good match; if you’re uncertain, move on to the next step.
3. Read client testimonials
Client testimonials serve as validation for graphic designers. If a designer you’re interested in doesn’t have any testimonials on their website, don’t be afraid to ask for some before you decide to hire them. Testimonials can give you insight into what it’s like to work with the designer, what the designer’s strengths are, and perhaps most importantly, what kind of results they’re capable of producing for your brand. For instance, did the project result in increased web traffic, social media engagement, or sales? That’s powerful stuff. On the flip side, don’t immediately discount a designer who doesn’t have a plethora of rave reviews; testimonials are important, but they’re not the only factor in choosing the right graphic designer.
4. Ask about the designer’s process
What sets apart a good designer from a great designer? Her process. This is just my opinion of course, but I’m not the only one who stands by it. Take it from seasoned designers like Jamie Starcevich from Spruce Rd. and Nesha Woolery, who found so much success after implementing a streamlined, red carpet experience for their clients that they went on to successfully sell courses on their design process to other designers. Side note: I’m currently enrolled in Jamie’s Share-worthy Design course for this exact reason. Gaining clarity around your graphic designer’s process will help you determine whether you’re a good match. The more organized and efficient they are, the better your experience. Apart from efficiency though, it’s also important to understand things like timelines, communication methods and frequency, contracts, invoicing, and project management. Do you prefer to be hands-on or to step back and let the designer do their magic? Make sure you and your designer are on the same page regarding process in order to prevent unpleasant misunderstandings down the line.
5. Get them on the phone
So you’ve reviewed their portfolio, read case studies and testimonials, and familiarized yourself with their process. So far so good. There’s just one last step I recommend to help you choose the right graphic designer for your brand, and that is to actually speak with them. There are some exceptions to this, for instance if you’re just hiring someone for a small project with a quick turnaround. But chances are, you’ll want to develop a solid working relationship with your designer for consistent, ongoing work. The best way to start things off on the right foot is to have a chat with them. Not only does this give you an opportunity to ask each other questions about the project that require more explanation than a simple email can provide, but you’ll also get a sense of whether you vibe with each other on a personal level. Personally, if I don’t vibe with potential clients, meaning they’re rude, flaky or have unreasonable expectations, I won’t work with them. It goes both ways. Fortunately, a lot of designers, myself included, offer a free consultation for this very reason. Take advantage of it.