Choosing the right brand designer to create visuals that represent your brand is VITAL. Let me say that again (but it’s worth repeating about 50 times), choosing the right designer is VITAL. You need a designer that's going to jump on the same page as you—someone who understands your vision, your audience, and your vibe.
I'll admit, the process of finding the right designer can be difficult. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to get in front of my niche, my ideal clients, and those that I know I’d love to work with and who would love to work with me. But I watch the Facebook group posts that go out “In need of a designer!” and 50+ designers respond. It can be CONFUSING! You don’t know how to make the right decision—or even know where to start when it comes to considering designers.
There's a lot of pressure choosing a designer to represent you and your business. But I think there can be a good place to start. I believe there's a way you can set yourself up for success by asking important questions and knowing what to look for to ensure you choose the right brand designer.
Just to clarify before I dive in: am I always the “right brand designer?” Nope. Not at all. The right brand designer is dependent on you, your brand, and what you want. That's why it's important to find the designer right for YOU (because there's no one designer that's right for everyone). Here are some questions to ask yourself when the time comes to start looking:
1. What do I want?
Before you go to your Facebook groups, start perusing Twitter, or pull out your referrals, figure out what it is you want (and need) from your brand designer. What is it you’re hoping to gain from your time working with your designer?
Think about your budget and the stage your business is in currently. This will definitely give you direction when it comes to what you can invest in, what your “bare basics” are, and if you have room to go "all out."
What are your expectations? Every designer has a different process and handles working with clients differently. What are your expectations of their response time? What are your expectations of the type of designs they present you with (illustrative, hand-lettered, standard fonts, etc.)? In the end, what is it that they should deliver?
The greatest disservice you can give your designer is not being clear on what you want from the process. Let them know your expectations, and if you have some firm thoughts on final designs, deliverables, and timelines. Know what you want, stand firm, and find the designer that fits into your plan.
2. Does the designer’s portfolio fit my preferences?
This can be folded into “What do I want?” but thought it was important enough to touch on independently. Each designer has certain processes, and just like any artist—has a style. You know your brand better than anyone else. While your designer can recommend various designs for your intended audience, the market you’re in, and marketing best practices—only YOU can determine if it feels like “you” and represents your business.
Look at a designer’s portfolio, and closely observe the type of designs they produce. Their portfolio should be the best representation of the type of work that they do. Make sure you LOVE their work (be a fan!), that the aesthetics resonate with you and the direction of your business, and that the designs look professional and unique.
3. What are other people saying about the designer?
A designer can tell you all day how wonderful they are (as a design student I was pretty guilty of that), but what are OTHERS saying? If their website isn’t peppered with positive reviews and client praises, ask around. Follow the trail between their portfolio to their clients, and shoot their past clients an email asking them for their honest review on process, responsiveness, professionalism, and satisfaction.
I always ask my clients for a testimonial when we’ve finished working on a branding project together. I ask for 100% honesty- because I’m not just looking for something to use on my webpage, but ways to improve myself and processes. Then I can utilize their feedback as evidence to the work I do as a designer.
4. Does the designer’s prices reflect the services they’re offering?
I am a firm believer in getting what you pay for. If the designer’s portfolio is beautiful, but their prices don’t reflect it—what’s missing? Be fully aware of those red flags when reviewing proposals.
When I was an in-house designer, we'd sometimes have to contract work out to freelancers. We NEVER accepted the lowest bid, especially since the lowest typically came in MUCH lower than all the other bids. This showed inexperience in the field, and typically also reflected the quality of their work. That being said, every designer has to start somewhere. If they're new to the design field, and you'd like to help them build their portfolio while also getting a great deal—then go for it! My point is just to be aware of the situation and know up front what you'll be receiving for the price you're paying.
Also make sure that the designer details exactly what you’ll receive in the quote they’re giving you. There should be no hidden costs, no surprise fees, no questions running through your mind. Revisit your wants, figure out the number that's a comfortable investment for you, and make sure you’re more excited over the money leaving your account than you are worried over it. Your designer should go to great lengths to make you feel comfortable, confident, and inspired.
5. Do I like their on-boarding process?
Before you sign anything to make it official, or make any sort of deposit to lock you in—you'll get to go through an on-boarding process. PAY ATTENTION TO THIS PROCESS. It reveals a lot about the designer, and is your chance to catch a glimpse of what it'll be like working with them before you actually start working with them.
In their initial email, did they refer to your specific business needs and address you and your business personally? Where they professional but also friendly? Does their personality and the way they type/speak click with you? (You're about to spend a lot of time with this person, so you need to make sure you mesh!) Do they seem knowledgeable about their industry AND yours? Are you left feeling excited and 100% clear about what happens next?
At the end of the day, LISTEN TO YOUR GUT. Did you know in this past year, I've never worked with a difficult client or not been paid? It's because I won't work with someone I don't feel is right. I pay attention to their heartspeak, the reasons why they reached out to me, their needs, their desires, their direction... and then I listen to my gut. If I crinkle my nose at an email, or get this sinking feeling in my stomach when I go to schedule a consult—I notice. Then I try to trace my tracks and figure out WHY I feel the way that I do. And if at the end of the day, things still aren't feeling right, I gracefully refer the project to another designer that I feel would be a better fit. Just like your designer should be listening to their gut, you should be also listening to yours.
There's no magic formula for finding the PERFECT designer, but hopefully these questions will help guide you to the one that's right for you.
Feel like you can't afford a designer right now? Here's a post on things you CAN do now as you prepare to hire a designer in the future.
Are you ready for a beautifully designed brand this year and feel like we might be the good fit, that I could be the right brand designer for you? Pop on over to my Work With Me page to find out more!
Best wishes to you as you seek out the right brand designer for you!