The Perfect Designer

posted by Lauren Rauseo on: 12/02/10 in category: working with a freelancer | tags:

Are you looking for a freelancer to design your company’s logo, print collateral or website? Maybe this is the first time you’ve hired for such a job. Do you know what to look for in that person? Here are some questions to ask yourself as you begin the process.

Does she come highly recommended?

If you didn’t find out about this freelancer through a trusted colleague, your mom, or a response to your cry for help on Facebook (and even if you did), it is perfectly reasonable to ask her for references. Make sure the people you call worked with her recently (in the last six months or year) and on a project similar to the one you are planning. Ask the references key questions regarding her turn-around time for drafts, the quality of the end result, and if her final invoice matched the estimate she gave you initially.

Is the price right?

Maybe he has excellent credentials and rave reviews, but if he charges as much as your lawyer or CPA bills per hour, he may be out of your league. Determine your budget for the project (don’t forget to include the cost of printing or hosting where applicable), and if he isn’t able to work within those constraints, ask if he can recommend a colleague whose rate is in your range.

Conversely, if you were planning to spend $3,000 on a project, and the freelancer comes back with an estimate of $600, maybe he isn’t right for you either. The low-rate freelancer may just be starting out on his own and not be comfortable charging what he’s worth, or he may not be worth that much. You have to make the call.

Does her communication style match yours?

You are going to be working with this person for the next few weeks (or months, depending on the project) so you need to be comfortable with her communication style. If her response to an email comes in a fashion as timely as if you sent her a memo delivered by a tortoise, you better have a flexible deadline. If all of her communications seem to be sent during the hours of midnight to 3 a.m., you need to realize you’ll probably never catch her for a phone call. If she returns all of your phone calls via text or Facebook message, you may want to embrace modern technology.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t work with someone who prefers one contact method over another, or with someone who does most of her work while the rest of us sleep; you just need to be prepared and satisfied with her style. Pay attention to the communication back-and-forth you have during the courting phase (i.e. learning about her services and getting a proposal). This can be indicative of what’s to come.

Breadth or depth?

Depending on the project or projects at hand, be sure the designer has the appropriate skills (or connections to other freelancers with them). If you are looking for someone to do an illustrative drawing, ask him about his artistic side. What types of compositions are in his portfolio? If you are seeking a technical drawing and all he can show you are cartoon figures (impressive as they may be), he may not have the exact training you need.

If you need someone to build a website, ask your prospective freelancer what languages or programs he uses in his work (HTML tables = bad; W3C standards-compliant XHTML and CSS = good!). If you don’t have a good handle on the latest technology for websites (and why would you? That’s why you’re hiring someone!), don’t feel bad asking him to explain his choices to you. Why do you use ___ to build sites? Is that the latest and greatest available? Is that going to be compatible across different browsers? On iPads?

And if you need someone to work with you on a variety of projects from logos to HTML emails, business cards to posters, you have to decide if you want to work with several different designers who specialize in each of these areas (there are certainly designers who focus solely on logos or websites or print material), or if you’d rather work with someone who brings a broad skillset to the table. You may also consider working with one freelancer who serves as the project manager/designer for a spectrum of projects. In this case, he may work on one or more of the projects himself and use other freelancers or colleagues for the assignments where he is less comfortable, but he would be your only or main contact throughout the process.

About the Author

Lauren Rauseo is your one-stop shop for print design, websites, HTML email, and more. When she's not busy working on client projects, Lauren enjoys running, doing yoga, drinking a soy white mocha, and having a dance party in the living room with her kids. Shake it off, people, just shake it off.

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