How to find and hire a graphic designer
No matter what kind of business you’re running, there’s going to come a time when you need to hire a designer. But unless you moonlight as a recruiter, this is probably one of those tasks you’ve been putting off, thinking “well… where do I find the time? And how do I go about hiring a graphic designer?”
Never fear, here’s everything you need to know to hire a designer that’s right for you, your business and your design aesthetic.
Hiring a freelance graphic designer vs. an in-house graphic designer
Before we really jump into how to hire a graphic designer, let’s talk about what type of graphic designer you want to hire—freelance or in-house.
There are pros and cons for each, so you’ll have to decide what’s right for you. Here are some things to consider:
- Works for your brand only
- Is always available to you
- Knows your brand’s style inside and out
- Needs to be paid even when you don’t have any design needs
- Will have an area of expertise they specialize in
- Has a set capacity if workload gets high
- Paid on a project-to-project basis
- Can be hired for each project according to their specialization
- Can be hired flexibly whenever you have design needs
- Won’t be as familiar with your brand, so you’ll need to brief them well
- Won’t always be available to join meetings or do last-minute tasks
- It takes effort to find and evaluate the right freelancers
- If you decide to hire an in-house designer, you might still want to consider working with additional freelance designers; managing the design for an entire company can be overwhelming, so hiring freelance designers to supplement your in-house designer is a great way to spread out the work and make sure your in-house team isn’t too overwhelmed with
Also remember that design isn’t a one-size-fits-all industry; most designers have an area in which they specialize. So, if you find a designer who’s amazing at creating logos, that doesn’t mean they’re going to be great at designing your website. So keep that in mind when choosing your designer.
Looking for the perfect graphic designer?
Ok, so now that we cleared up the in-house vs. freelance debate, let’s talk about how to hire, shall we?
Set your expectations
The first thing you need to do during the hiring process is get your head in the right place—or, in other words, set some expectations.
What your graphic designer does (and doesn’t do)
First, let’s talk about what a graphic designer does. A graphic designer is responsible for developing the graphic support for your business. Period.
Now, let’s talk about what a graphic designer does NOT do. A graphic designer is not a web developer. So while they can design the look, feel, and layout of your website, they’re not going to code it for you.
A graphic designer is also not necessarily a creative director. Some designers are, so if that’s what you’re looking for, you might be better off hiring someone in-house for an ongoing relationship—and you’ll have to pay them a little more. While graphic designers in general can offer professional input, they’re not responsible for shaping your brand identity or leading the creative strategy—that guidance needs to come from your side.
And again, keep in mind that designers usually have an area of expertise, so don’t assume that an amazing logo designer will automatically be a stellar illustrator too.
Before you start looking for a designer, you should know:
- What you need designed (logo, flyer, poster, etc.)
- The look and feel you’re going for
- The basic elements of your brand identity (color palette, approved fonts, etc.)
If you have a vision in your head you want your designer to bring to life, one of the best things you can do is create an inspiration board. Create a Pinterest board and pin anything you think will help your designer better understand your vision, including other designs (so, for example, if you’re designing a logo, pin other logos that have a similar look and feel of what you’re going for).
Before you hire a designer, you also want to be super clear on who you’re designing for. A graphic designer would create a completely different design if your target demographic is children under the age of five than they would if you were going after seniors, so knowing your audience—and communicating that to your designer—is key.
Back in the day, finding a designer was tough, but now that you’ve got the interwebz, it’s never been easier to find an A+ designer. There are SO many options out there to connect with incredible graphic design talent.
There are plenty of sites out there dedicated to freelance talent, including 99designs. On 99designs, you have the opportunity to browse designer portfolios to find your perfect match or you can run a design contest. With a design contest, designers compete to win your project; you get to view a ton of different designs and choose the one you like best.
There are also other platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer.com where you either have the option of browsing designer’s profiles or posting a job and getting specific responses for your design project. You won’t get a chance to review a variety of work like you do with a design contest, but you can review past work to help make your decision. Similarly, since these sites cater to a wide variety of freelancers, there aren’t as many design-specific tools (to help you find the perfect designer, and to make working with them easier once you’ve found them).
Learn how 99designs compares with Upwork when it comes to hiring a graphic designer.
There are amazing designers on these sites, but when it comes to the level of talent, it’s a mix. Upwork, for example, has over 12 million registered freelancers, and while there are definitely great designers in there, there’s also a lot of not-so-great designers—and sorting through all of them to find the real talent can be a challenge. (Insider tip: on 99designs, you have the option to exclude more junior designers from the talent pool by choosing a “Gold” or “Platinum” level contest!)
One other great thing about freelancing sites is they’re designed to protect both clients and designers: they usually charge up front, then hold the money until the project is complete. This ensures that designers aren’t chasing clients down for months with invoices, and also guarantees that clients are happy with the quality of a final design before payment is released.
Portfolio sites, like Bēhance, allow you to view designer’s portfolios. Working through a portfolio site is a great way to connect with professional designers who don’t work on freelancing websites. Now, a caveat: these sites might highlight designers, but they’re not actually a work platform (like a freelance site). You’ll have to reach out to the designers and negotiate a working relationship on your own. (And you won’t have the financial protections offered by freelancing sites.)
Another option is to seek out independent freelancers in your community. Ask colleagues or friends for local recommendations or search Yelp or a similar listing service.
The right designer for your business entirely depends on their designs. And the way you decide if a designer’s style is right for you and your business is by evaluating their portfolio. A designer’s portfolio will give you insight into who they are as a designer, their aesthetic, the areas where they shine, and the areas they’re potentially not as strong.
But if you’ve never evaluated a portfolio before, it can be hard to know what to look for. Here’s what you’ll want to keep an eye out for when checking out designer’s portfolios: