How to choose a designer
You’ve decided it’s time to stop DIY'ing everything in your business. You have realized that sometimes it's best to get pros to help get you to the next level faster and more effectively. Which means you know it's time to hire a designer to help you create a brand identity that actually means something to you.
You also know that picking the right designer for your project is a key to success. Which actually makes it all feel a bit daunting!
The worse thing you can do is to pick someone simply because you already know them or met them at a networking event or because they happen to work in your local area. Actually even worse than that is picking someone just because you feel obligated to call them (because you exchanged business cards and see each other all the time). Or because your friend has recommended an agency they have worked with but whose style is not really your thing.
You are looking for someone who has the same level of integrity about their work as you do. You are also looking for someone whose work you admire. Hopefully at least one thing they've said or done (way before you've gotten to the proposal stage) gives you the sense that working with them is going to be an exciting process.
Branding and designing a website for your business should be a rewarding and energizing experience.
Here is a roadmap to help you navigate the process of finding that person who 'gets' you and your brand and can deliver what it needs.
1. know what you’re looking for
Get focused on what you want to communicate before you begin any design process. Be very clear on what makes your business different to your competitors. What's special about your approach to helping your clients?
Once you know the exact message you want your brand and website to communicate, your designer will know if they are a good fit for you and you will be 100% clear on what you need your designer to do! The clearer you are at communicating your needs, the better your designer will be able to deliver what you want.
Finding the right brand designer for you depends on your designer having a connection with what your brand and business stands for. That's why no one designer will be perfect for everyone. That connection is the key to a successful design process and cannot be forced.
That's also why it's so important for you to be able to convey your brand values when you start these conversations with potential designers.
ACTION STEP ➳ Start by brainstorming and writing down some keywords that you will use in your emails/meetings with your designer.
2. KNOW WHERE TO LOOK
If you have friends who have websites you love, ask them if they can give you a referral to their designer. This is the quickest and best way to find someone! This includes asking for recommendations in any social media groups you belong to.
If you don't have anyone to ask for recommendations, then do some research. Scroll down to the very bottom of websites that you really like and find the link to the designer's website at the bottom.
Next, do some Pinterest searches. Look at website designs you like there and link through to the designer's website to see if their portfolio is a good match for your visual taste.
Remember to only approach designers whose work you really like! That might sound like obvious advice, but amazingly, I have spoken to many people who are unhappy with their websites and/or branding only to discover that they found a designer on a cheap freelance site or picked a designer without thinking about their style.
Remember, designers tend to care a lot about producing work you love! No one wants to waste their time making something their client hates. Which means the client (you!) also have a responsibility in this process and that starts by picking a designer whose style is a good match for your brand.
ACTION STEP ➳ Do your research and draw up a list of 5 designers whose work you really, really like.
3. MAKE SURE THEY OFFER WHAT YOU WANT
One important thing to realize is that there's a huge range of what designers offer! Chance are, if you are looking for a designer you are looking for very different (but related) skills.
Some are pure branding specialists, others just focus on developing websites. Web designers and web developers often have different skills, design vs. coding. Different designers and agencies also offer different ways to package their services.
For example at Brightworks offers more than web design. I realized a while back that just building beautiful sites for people who didn't know how to use them to grow their business was NOT working for me. Websites are meant to be fresh and relevant; they should not be like a glossy brochure that sits on a shelf gathering dust. I want my clients to get excited about what I deliver and I want them to feel ready, willing and excited to use their website as a platform for growing a thriving business.
This is why my design packages have been carefully polished to ensure we hit all the important business milestones before we launch so that you are primed for success. I also teach my clients how to update their sites so they can keep their site current and relevant. And after we design that gorgeous site, I am also here to help build campaigns that really turn your website into a profit generating machine.
You might not want someone who can work this deeply with you and want to work with two or three specialists instead. For example, if you love a designer but they don’t develop sites, it is possible to find a separate developer to work with them.
ACTION STEP ➳ Make a list of what you need (branding/web design/marketing campaigns). Go back to your list of designers and agencies and see if they offer what you are looking for and if not, start making a list of other specialists you will need to contact.
4. KNOW YOUR WORK STYLE
Your project will involve collaboration and you’re going to be working with this designer or agency for a while. Good design always takes longer than you imagine because so many pieces go into it! So you’ll want to make sure you find a designer you click with and feel you will enjoy their working style.
Do you like their approach? Their tone? It is SO important that you feel good about working with them as a person!
ACTION STEP ➳ Be clear on how you like to work. Do you need lots of time and a flexible project schedule? Or do you need structure and fixed deadlines? Think about this on your initial call with your designer. How does it feel after you talk to them? Could you work with this person's timelines and expectations?
5. Look for butterflies
Once you have a couple of designers that you want to know more about, contact them to set up a quick chat with them. Most designers offer free consultations to see if they are a good fit for you and vice versa. On the call you'll find out about their process, their timelines, their work style. You'll be able to ask questions and also share your own hopes and dreams - and anxieties!- about your business and this design project.
It’s important for you to be as honest and open as you can about your expectations for your project in this call to make sure you set a strong foundation.
You want to feel that excited, butterfly in your stomach feeling about getting started with them. Go with your gut feelings here.
ACTION STEP ➳ After you talk to them and do you get a sense that the designer is as excited about this project as you are? Maybe even more?! Do they convey a clear sense of direction, especially if you feel a bit anxious? Can you imagine them really rooting for you?
6. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
You should be clear on your budget before you start interviewing designers. You need to feel good about what you are investing in.
If you feel like you're spending too much, you will never feel good about what you've bought. And if you get something very cheaply it's not likely to be something you will value.
So how much does a website cost? Well, how much does a car cost? Do you want something serviceable for a few hundred dollars that might break down in a few months' time? Or do you want a reliable, steady new car that costs a lot more? Or, do you want the dream convertible car with the all the gadgets able to hit those top speeds in seconds? You'd pay quite a range for those 3 options right? The same goes for design. There’s quite a range.
Designers charge based on things like experience, how many hours they plan on putting in, the depth of their design process, and the quality of the end product.
Hiring the right designer can save you time (oh so much!), deliver something you enjoy using, get you ahead faster and should leave you really proud of the end result.
ACTION STEP ➳ Look at value as well as price. Carefully look at what each designer on your list is offering for your investment. What will they deliver? What process will they walk you through? Does the investment feel right for your stage of business?
7. KNOW WHAT TO ASK
It’s usually best to be clear what to ask before you get on the phone with your prospective designer although they should really be the ones to take the lead on this:
- When do I need to have my content ready?
- What is your timeline like for this type of project?
- Can you help me with sourcing photos or writing web copy?
- Will I be working with you exclusively?
- Do you offer any kind of support with website updates and maintenance?
- Can you train me on how to use site once it is complete?
- What will you need from me to make sure the process goes smoothly?
ACTION STEP ➳ Ask for a proposal. After your discussion with your preferred designer and looking through their portfolio, you should have a good idea at this stage whether they are a good fit for you. Ask them to provide you with a proposal for your project, which should include details of costs and timeline. Make sure the contract is very clear before any work starts.
8. HOLD ON TO YOUR TALENT!
If you love your design project, think of your designer a part of your team and plan to check in with them at regular intervals.
If you find a great designer, don't lose them! Giving them regular design projects when possible will keep them involved in your business and more able to provide you with personalized, relevant recommendations on how to update your marketing campaigns, as well as give you ideas for new site functions and features down the road.
This can really give you an advantage!