As a follow-up to my earlier article, Key Questions to be Prepared to Answer Before Hiring a Web Designer, I thought it would be nice to cover off on some tips that both marketers and business owners should consider before they hire a designer. I will keep this article fairly general so that the tips can be applied to all types of professional designers whether we’re talking about a website designer, graphic designer, interior designer, or any other person working as a design professional. Let’s dig in.
Understand Your Business or Marketing Needs
Benjamin Franklin famously stated that, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Through my experience I have an intimate understanding of just how true Ben’s words are. One of the first, and really the key, steps in any project is to ensure that you have created a solid plan that focuses on your specific business needs and objectives. Before you even think about reaching out to a designer, you should create a plan or overview of the project focusing on what you need to accomplish and how you will get to your desired end state.
Identify the Right Type of Designer to Help You Meet Your Objectives
Now that you’ve identified your needs and have a good understanding of the goals and objectives that you plan to achieve through your project, it is time to find the right designer to assist you in reaching the objectives you’ve set.
Sourcing the right designer can be a challenge. There are so many options that it is hard to know where to start. My recommendation is that you tap your personal and professional networks first. Reach out to people in your network that you believe have experience working with professional designers and ask if they know of someone that they could and would like to recommend. Personal referrals go a long way in helping to ensure you find the right designer with a solid reputation. Make sure that, in your request for referrals, you share the basic set of skills your project will require to ensure that the referrals you get meet your basic requirements.
Another option to source professional designers is to look at freelance marketplace websites such as Elance, Guru, oDesk, and Behance, among others. These sites allow you to view designers portfolios as well as their bio so that you have a good understanding of their capabilities and areas of specialization. This will help you narrow your focus to those who have the experience you desire.
Meet With a Select Few Designers That You Think Would Be the Best Fit
Once you’ve whittled your list down to a respectable size, it is time to meet with your prospective design partner. The designers in your list should meet the requirements necessary to help you reach your goals and objectives for the project. It is important to make sure that the designers in your final list meet your needs from a talent perspective, they are a good fit geographically so that you can meet with them in person if you desire to, and that they have the necessary time to devote full attention to your project as needed.
Set up time with each of the designers on your list. You can meet in person, over Skype, or in any other manner that will meet your needs. Before your scheduled meeting, take the time to prepare the questions you’ll ask each of the designers. It is also very important to give the designer a chance to ask you questions. Often times you can learn more about a designer from the questions they ask you about a project versus your questions of them. Be wary of a designer who doesn’t ask any questions of you. Don’t just focus your questions on the designers skills or past work either. It will be important for you to get a sense of how the designer works day-to-day. What is their preferred process including client communication and feedback? Try to prepare questions that will give you a full picture of the designer.
Document the Details of the Working Relationship
Once you’ve selected the best designer for your project, it is important to take care of some key details up front. Nobody likes paperwork. However, when entering a business relationship, the right level of documentation is very important to help ensure all stakeholders are on the same page.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of proper documentation, but here are some key documents I’d recommend you put together. Please note that it is important that you work with your lawyer or legal advisor to determine the proper level of documentation to support your project and the relationship you have with your chosen designer.
Key Project Documentation
- Creative Project Brief
- Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)
- Services Agreement/Contract
- Work for Hire Agreement
- Request Authorization to Show Work
This is just a short list to give you an idea of key documentation. Again, it is important that you get input from your lawyer to make sure that you cover all of your bases from a legal perspective. Documentation is important and will go a long way in ensuring that the relationship you have with your designer is a positive one with a good foundation for future work.
Understand Your Ability to Take the Necessary Action
Once the documentation is set, it’s time to get to work. There is nothing worse then getting the project moving and then having circumstances hold up the project. If you will be the primary person in your organization to answer questions and approve the designers work and direction, then do your best to ensure you will be available to the designer. The documentation mentioned above will help with this. However, questions will inevitably arise throughout the course of the project. So, it is important to ensure that you’ll be available to the designer. If you can’t guarantee this, then it is important to make sure the designer has someone else to go to as a secondary contact. Be sure the secondary contact has the proper authority to make decisions in your place.
Look to Build a Foundation for a Long Lasting Partnership
Last, but definitely not least, keep in mind that you are trying to build a partnership with your designer. This will benefit both you and the designer. Having a solid relationship with your designer will ensure less of a learning curve for future projects which will reward you by having your future projects run more efficiently. As your designer gains an understanding of your business over time, they will also be able to provide you with valuable feedback and input. Getting feedback from a third party can be a huge benefit.
As mentioned, a partnership is mutually beneficial. The designer will also benefit from such a relationship. By having a steady stream of work from selected clients, designers are able to focus more on the work that they do (and love) and less on the prospecting and selling of their services to prospective clients. Trust me, your designer will appreciate this very much!
What Do You Think? Have I Missed Any Key Tips? Share Your Thoughts & Tips for Others
I am sure that I missed some key elements that marketers and business owners should consider when hiring a designer. What are your thoughts? Are there important tips that you’d like to share? I value your feedback. Please share your thoughts in the comments area below.