First off, congratulations to you on doing your own thing - be it starting or growing your business! One lesson you will quickly learn (if you haven’t already) is that you cannot do everything yourself. Most entrepreneurs quickly grow accustomed to the Jill-of-all-Trades syndrome but let’s face it, you simply cannot be good at everything. There are a few things you can attempt to do on your own, but others should be left to those that specialize in those areas, graphic design being one of them.
There are a lot of misconceptions about design these days--particularly that it’s easy and anyone can do it, which is just not the case. Graphic design is a communications tool used to build awareness and influence people to do or buy things and it includes a mix of research and discovery, problem-solving and creativity. Thus, good design can add an enormous amount of value to your business.
But how do you go about finding a graphic designer to meet your needs? And where do you find one? It will take some work, yes, but breathe easy, it’s not as hard as you think.
1. Start with yourself
In order to figure out where you’re going, you need to know where you are. Give some thought to who your customers are and how you want to communicate to them. If you are your business (as many solopreneurs are), think about your style and how you want to present yourself to the world. Be able to articulate what your business goals are and what you want to achieve as these are questions you'll be asked (or at least should be asked!) by any designer you contact.
You also need to establish a budget. Graphic design is not an exact science and you will find that prices can vary drastically. So while you may have to interview several designers in order to find one that can stick to your budget, knowing what you have to spend will help you in the process. Bring it up early on in the discussion to avoid wasting anyone’s time. Keep this simple concept in mind when evaluating prices: good work ain’t cheap; cheap work ain’t good. Rudimentary yes, but you get what you pay for.
2. Get referrals
Start with the people you know and trust- ask them if they have or know a designer they would recommend. Is there a place you frequent- like your salon, a local coffee shop or even your neighborhood bar- whose design you admire? Ask the staff who did it. Word of mouth is still the one of the strongest marketing tools around. Many websites list the web designer in the footer of the site, so scroll to the bottom to see if a link or name has been included, then email the site owner to see if they would recommend the designer.
3. Be a social butterfly
With all its outlets, social media is like the world’s largest bulletin board, available 24/7 to people all over the world. Start with the platform you know, use and are most comfortable with.
- Facebook: Broadcast your search for a designer to your connections or use the Facebook search function. Try searching for terms like “design” or “designer.”
- Twitter is another great option that a lot of creatives use. Again, broadcast your needs to your network and ask for recommendations. Using hashtags like #freelance, #graphicdesign or #designjobs will allow your message to potentially travel farther and be seen by those you’re seeking. You can also do a hashtag search using those terms to find someone yourself.
- Meetup is another resource for finding a designer who is local to your area. Search for graphic design groups and email the organizers. Ask them to post your contact information in their member area or discussion board. Keep in mind, however, that with this route you are opening yourself up to a lot of people. So if want to keep it more intimate, I’d start with the methods above.
There are a number of websites you can search in lieu of getting a personal recommendation. Remember, you are starting from scratch here, so it can be a bit more work. If you decide to go this route, I’d start with AIGA, Creative Hotlist, Coroflot, or Freelance Switch.
4. See for yourself
Once you’ve collected a few names, check them out for yourself. Basically, GTS (Google that shit). Take a look at their portfolios--do you like what you see? Is their work in a style you could see for yourself and your business? Like people with their clothes, designers also have a style- make sure it’s something you like.
Read the designer’s about page to get a feel for their personality and communication style. Read their services page and get an idea of their process, how they work and what they offer. Go through the various pages on their site and see if it jives with you. From here, make a shortlist of people you actually want to contact.
5. Hear it from the horse's mouth
Now’s the time to contact the people on your shortlist. While it may be old school to pick up the phone, being able to hear and/or see someone is the best way to really get a feel for if you’re going to mesh well. You can hear their voice, understand how they communicate (are they speaking a language you don’t understand?), and even see them (thanks, Skype).
While it has to work for you, it’s got to work for them as well. It’s really an interview that goes both ways. You should find a designer who is willing to invest in you the way that you are willing to invest in your clients; a designer who is as passionate about creating something for your business as you are about providing your products or services.
I like to think of the relationships I have with my clients like that of making a new friend or even like dating. There’s a getting-to-know-you phase where you find out what each person likes, dislikes, their tastes, their communication style and generally whether you mesh well. Find a designer that you would be friends with, one who you trust and feel connected to and is willing to dive head first into your project.
6. Be Realistic
Chances are, if you’ve found a designer whose name came up repeatedly and is quite popular, they are going to be hard pressed to get you in immediately. Be realistic with your budget and timeline (clearly communicate both) and be willing to make some adjustments if necessary, whether that means saving a little more money or waiting a little longer to begin your project.
This is by no means a comprehensive list or the end-all-be-all to finding a designer, but it should at the very least give you a frame of reference to start your search. Hiring a designer is an investment and doing the work to find one you can build a relationship with will benefit your business and your brand. If you’ve done your homework then you can make a decision based on both knowledge and instincts!
P.S. A shameless plug from One Woman Shop- be sure to look through our Designer Profiles if you're in need of great graphic design. Morgan will be featured soon!