What should you look for in a designer when you’re rebranding?
Choosing a designer can be tricky. I do NOT recommend going into your favourite Facebook group of 10K+ people and sticking up a #helpanyday post. Because although you might get some genuinely good leads to follow up, you’ll also get a million comments from everyone recommending their BFF/neighbour/cousin, as well as anyone who’s spent five minutes playing in Canva and think they can “design” now.
It’s not a useful way to filter who’s going to be a good fit for YOU.
Like any field of creativity (or even any service generally!) there is a vast range of quality, and prices. The variations come from the amount of experience the designer has, their talent and track record of producing excellence, and of course, exactly what services and results they offer.
Here’s your first filter. Do they suit you?
Do some initial research.
What do YOU like?
Have you made a pinterest board (keep it secret if you like) and made a collection of images that fit with what you want you brand to feel and look like? If not, DO IT NOW. Don’t censor yourself, or think “my customers won’t like that!” because at this stage, it’s about YOU. So pin whatever you like the look of. Because the purpose of this is to find out what YOU like, what’s your personality – and when you’re clear on YOU, then you can filter that to suit your customers later.
When you’ve pinned 50 or so images, you may have a much clearer idea of what you like. And if you don’t – it’s still an EXCELLENT source document for your designer. A good designer will absolutely be able to discern the threads through whatever you’ve picked; whether it’s colour, shapes, textures, lighting, and more.
Does your prospective designer’s style fit with the “brand feel” you’re aiming for?
Check through their portfolio. Even if they don’t have a portfolio page on their site, they should be able to send you several examples of their work (or stalk them on their Facebook page). If you’ve done the exercise above, and even if you’re still not a 100% on your own ‘style’, you should still be able to pick straight away whether they’re in the same ballpark as you.
What types of businesses do THEY prefer to work with?
Again, you should be able to tell this by looking through their portfolio. Why this can be important is because it can influence their style – and also I know from experience that the jobs I do my best work in are the ones that I enjoy the most. And the reason I enjoy them the most is because I like the people I work with, what they do, and I want to see them shine!
So, while I’ve worked with engineers and city councils and accountants, and am happy to do so and still produce excellent work – my best work is absolutely with women in holistic businesses, who are working with their heart and their core zone of genius, and creating big changes in people’s lives. That energy shows.
What’s it like to work with that designer?
What are their testimonials like? If they’ve consistently got 5 stars (check their Facebook page or their Google reviews), then that says something – but also READ THE ACTUAL REVIEWS. What do people say about them, and what words do they use to describe the experience? You can usually read between the lines and get a good feel for how your prospective designer treats their clients, and what it’s like to work with them.
Can you have a chat with them 1:1?
If you’re about to spend a substantial amount of money, then it’s always an excellent idea to have an actual talk to them. A video call for 15-30 minutes will give you enough of a feel for who they are and what they’re about that you should be able to decide whether to go the next steps with them. As humans, we can tell SO much about a person from not only the words they use, but the way they speak them, the way they dress, what’s in the background on the call, and more.
Trust your gut on this, and try to separate out the feelings of natural nervousness from whether you like them or not. If your intuition is saying “NO”, then trust it and keep looking for a new designer. Doesn’t matter how many pretty words they say, or how popular they are, you’ll get a MUCH better result when you resonate with the right person.
The second thing you need to figure out is the practicalities.
What’s their pricing like?
Generally speaking, you get what you pay for. Keep in mind the Venn diagram of Cheap / Fast / Good – you can usually only get two of those at the same time.
If you’re aiming for excellence, stay away from places like Fiverr. You may be extremely lucky and get someone to create the perfect thing for you, but much more often than not, you will end up disappointed. Fiverr does cheap and fast on the Venn diagram (and sometimes it’s even only ONE of those).
And mediocre is NOT excellent.
Alternatively, a good designer may charge anything between $500-$2500AUD or more for a branding package, depending on their level of expertise and exactly what they include; if you need a rush job on something, then they may charge you a premium as well.
Do they have a timeframe? Or do you have a deadline?
A good designer should give you an estimate on when they think they’ll get the job finished for you. Keep in mind that although they can provide an estimate based on their experience and knowledge of how they work, this timeframe actually relies on YOU getting feedback to them in a timely manner. If you don’t get back to them for a month or two, you cannot expect that you’ll be top of their priorities when you do. If you delay, then it’s fairly reasonable to expect the same in return.
The quoting process
The designer may have given you a ballpark figure for the job and that’s great; but it’s important that you obtain a proper written quote from them, along with their terms and conditions.
Besides ensuring that their terms and conditions are fair and reasonable to you, those T&Cs should also give you a super clear idea on what things are included (and what’s not), the order in which things will be done, how they’ll be in contact with you, their refund policy, and more.
When you accept these terms and conditions, it becomes a CONTRACT – and this is to make sure everyone is clear on expectations, and to make sure everyone sticks to their responsibilities. So, always read things carefully (I know it’s tempting to gloss over these – but seriously, it’s there to protect YOU as well, so make sure you’re happy with what’s written there) before you accept. And don’t be afraid to ask for clarification about bits you don’t understand, or ask to negotiate on the bits you don’t like.
What’s their working process like?
Do you know what the steps are in working through a package with them? Do they take the time to understand you, your business, and your target market? Do they actually talk to you? (for instance, I have a 60-minute interview with you when we start a branding package – and there’s plenty of room for feedback from you at every stage of the branding)
…or is it just a brief intake form that takes you 10 minutes to complete, and then they just do their thing?
Because branding is never just about the surface. It’s not a logo, and it’s not a bunch of pretty pictures. And it’s hard to create excellence when you don’t have enough information.
Excellence in branding is built on strong foundations, on understanding your audience. This is how it draws the exact right clients to you – those who you can help leap forward, those you do your best work with, those who light you up.
And the wrong people, those that are not a good fit for you, those energetic mismatches – they self-weed and go elsewhere, saving you the time and the hassle of even dealing with them.
When you decide to work with someone, YOU have responsibilities in all of this too.
If everything else fits for you, and it all gets to the stage when it’s time to invest the money – then be a good client.
Most good designers these days expect a deposit before they’ll start work (around 50%), or payment in full. Communicate with them clearly, and in appropriate time – I’ve lost count of the emails I’ve sent out to tardy clients who haven’t got back to me for weeks (or even months) when I’ve sent them work for approval. It’s SUCH a waste of my time (and pretty darn annoying when I know they’ve opened my message on FB or seen my text or email and haven’t even had the decency to even send a quick reply).
So, now I have that aspect covered in my T&Cs – and if you work with me and don’t get back to me for 6 months, don’t expect me to finish your job! (- well I will, but the terms on which I complete your work are then up to me.)
There are many other specific things I have listed in my T&Cs; however, pretty much all of them come down to this:
Be a decent, considerate, and communicative human being, and all will be well.
I think most of us at some stage have had bad experiences in our business dealings – whether as the business owner, or as the client. And I also think that most of those are a result of having misplaced expectations in the first place.
As William Shakespeare said, “Expectation is the root of all heartache”.
So, choosing the right designer for you is never just about liking someone’s style, or choosing the one that’s cheapest. You need to do your research to choose the right person for you, to make sure you’re both clear on exactly what’s involved, so you get the very best results for you and YOUR audience.
Make it a win-win – for everyone.