Guest: How to Hire a Graphic Designer

Entrepreneurs don't ask for much. A working computer. An iPad. An IV drip that administers caffeine round the clock. And, most importantly, we expect a stunning, engaging, state-of-the-art website at a discounted price. We demand cheap and brilliant graphic design for any and all marketing materials. But our insistence on low prices often ends up costing a lot more over the long-term. 

When you're presenting yourself to the world, you need to find yourself a brilliant web designer. Such designers are the entrepreneur's Holy Grail.  They are few and far between -- and there are a lot of bad eggs who will charge you an arm and leg, promise you the moon and stars, and deliver a website that is barely even earthbound.

Good graphic designers are The Great Translators:  they turn the essence of your business into a picture that speaks a thousand words. Your thousand words.

So you'd better find a good one. How?

1. Find your favorite websites and check out who designed them.  Contact them directly and ask for a quote.  Simple as that.

2. Contact the organizer of a graphic design group in your area. The organizer will likely provide several recommendations based on what you are looking for.  

3. Can't stand networking to find a referral? Head to sites like where you can post a project and, for a fee that you determine, receive submissions from dozens of designers and choose your favorite.  The site empowers entrepreneurs and small businesses "to leverage a global community of more than 95,000 designers to buy custom logo design, web design, illustrations, and other design services," says the site's founder, Ross Kimbarovsky. "[It also] offers a risk-free way to buy custom design at an affordable price."

4. Know your needs, budget and timeline.  "It sounds a bit obvious, but you'd be surprised by the number of job inquiries I receive that lack this vital information," says Lindsey Obermeier of Creens fame.

5. Realize that graphic designers cannot read your mind.  If you e-mail three sentences about your business to them, designers can't magically conjure up suitable images. The more you describe, the better your working relationship with your chosen designer. Says Obermeier: "Receiving some information is better than nothing. It allows both the client and me to determine if we're a good fit."  

6. Remember: you are in the driver's seat.  You're the one who makes the choices with the help of your designer, not the other way around. Brett Burwell of Static Interactive adds that you "shouldn't be afraid to ask for references. The quality of a designer's working relationships are a vital part of the equation when undertaking a creative project." Kimbarovsky adds: "Test what it will be like working with a designer by giving them a small project they can complete in a few hours or in a single day. You'll see how easy it is to communicate with the designer, how well they take direction, turn-around time, and the quality of their work."

7. While some designers can code your website, others may only design the graphics, and rely on programmers for the technical stuff.  Burwell advises to "ask designers about their level of involvement with the projects they're showing in their portfolio. Were they solely responsible for the designs/projects they're showing you? Did they create the work as part of a team?  Are they accurately representing the quality of their work and level of experience?"  

8. There's no such thing as an "average" price. Entrepreneurs are always trying to figure out what the right price is to pay for a logo, website, brochure, or poster. There isn't one. If you're on a budget, say so.  Like any business interaction, you can negotiate what works for you -- but speak up and don't expect anyone to read your mind.

9. Hire someone with personality.  As Obermeier points out, "You might spot someone that does beautiful work but is as personable as rock when it comes to talking through your ideas and thoughts about a project. Find a designer just as passionate about your work as you and not only will you get the finished product you desire but a great, new working relationship for future design needs." 

Check these sites out, too:  Krop, AIGA Designer Directory, Behance. And there are 99 more graphic design resources right here.

Jill Salzman is currently growing her third entrepreneurial venture, The Founding Moms, the world’s first and only kid-friendly collective of monthly meetups for mom entrepreneurs. Having built two successful companies, she launched The Founding Moms to connect mom entrepreneurs around the globe with one another.In her spare time, Jill enjoys kloofing, traveling to small towns, and erasing her daughters’ crayon artwork from the kitchen walls.

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