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What should you look for in a Designer?

What should you look for in a designer?

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 even exactly what 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 what 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 (ha! Still gotta add mine), they should be able to send you several examples of their work. 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 ball park 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 (possibly) 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 quite happy to do so and still produce good work – these are not my favourite types of businesses to work with. My best work is definitely for women solopreneurs, who are creating businesses with their core zone of genius and their soul. That energy shows.

 

What’s it like to work with them?
What are their testimonials like? If they’ve consistently got 5 stars, then that says something – but also READ THE REVIEWS. What do people actually say about them? 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 I think it’s 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 and what they are about that you should be able to decide whether to go the next steps with them. 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.

 

good fast AND cheap is rarer than unicorns

 

If you’re aiming for excellence, stay away from places like Fiverr. You may be 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 mediocre is NOT excellent.

Alternatively, a good designer may charge anything between $40- $150 per hour or more, depending on the complexity of the job and their level of expertise; 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 deadine?
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 really relies on YOU getting feedback to them in a timely manner. If you don’t get back to them for a month, you can’t 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. This is especially important if it’s a substantial job, eg. a full brand makeover, or a website build.

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.

 

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 not just about liking someone’s style. It ALL has to fit!

I’d love to know – what’s been your best experience as a client, with any business?

 

 

Julie Gibbons - brand strategy and design

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