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  • Larissa Yu

How to: Get the Most Out of Hiring a Designer

By Larissa Yu

As a business owner, hiring a creative can be daunting if you’ve never done it before. As Remedy Content’s Creative Director, I've worked closely with all kinds of businesses and creative teams over the years, both big and small. I’m here to share a few key things to make sure that your process is a smooth one!

Have a clear brief

So know what you need done and how to articulate it clearly. Save yourself time and money by working this out before you reach out and make contact. If you’re working with business partners, stakeholders or other co-founders ensure that you’re all on the same page to start with and that one person is appointed to be the point of contact with your designer. By hashing out your feedback with each other privately before offering feedback to your designer, you’ll streamline the process. That means the work can be done by the designer faster and more efficiently, with less back-and-forth and double-handling.

Find the best designer for you

Some designers charge per project, some have a day rate, and some have an hourly rate. More experienced designers tend to charge per project – they will review the scope of work and provide an upfront cost estimate to complete the whole project, plus they'll often advise on an achievable timeframe. Terms may include 50% of the total paid upfront, 50% upon completion of the project. The advantage of this is that you’ll know upfront if it fits your budget. Other designers, often those from an ad agency background, may charge by the hour or have a half-day/full day rate. This can work well for smaller projects but can get expensive quite quickly if you’re indecisive or if your designer is less experienced. If this is your first time working with a new designer, my advice would be to book them for a smaller, lower-cost project first to see their work style/speed and whether it’s a good fit for your needs.

Budget for changes and additions

If the original scope of work quoted for changes, additional fees will apply. Often clients forget what has been agreed to upfront and add on extra bits to the original project. To a non-designer, these may seem to be small “quick and easy” additions, but extra tasks take time to execute well. Your designer may need to either re-quote the project, or the extra bits will be charged at an additional hourly rate on top of your original quote. You then have the option of accepting the new fees or revising down your scope of work and/or expectations to fit your budget. Most designers will be happy to work with you to ensure you’re comfortable with your commitment and that they are fairly compensated for work done.

Understand the work required

Always clarify with your designer what is included in their quote. For example, image research using photo agencies is a separate task and its own unique skillset. Not all designers will offer this service. Some will expect that you provide all the high-resolution images needed for your project yourself. High-end photo retouching may also not be something that your designer does – some choose to offer it as a service if they have the skills, others may outsource it and bill you for it, and some may refer you on to a retoucher who you can engage separately. Copywriting is the same – not many designers will offer this, but you may come across some creative unicorns who are good with both visuals and words, and willing to offer both for an additional fee.

Check how the files will be delivered

As a client, you’re paying for a professional end-service/result, and most designers will retain the original working files. Unlike an employee who works for you, your independent freelance designer owns (intellectual property, copyright) the work that they produce for you. This includes the native working files or raw image files (created with design software like Adobe). Most designers will supply you the finished product only, such as an uneditable print-ready layout PDF, flattened photo jpg, font-outlined logo files for a branding project (eps, jpg, png, svg formats), or a finished website or brand deck. The best way to explain this is with an analogy: when you go to a restaurant, you pay to enjoy a professionally-cooked quality meal executed by a trained and experienced chef (a professional in their field). You’re paying for the finished meal – not the recipe. Every designer works differently and has their own unique toolkit of closely guarded trade secrets, built up over years of experience and training. That is their recipe, their special sauce, their unique selling point.

As with most things in life, with design you get what you pay for – cheap can be a false economy in the short-term as work may need to be re-done or sometimes is can even be unusable. Good professional design is an investment in the growth and success of your business – and best of all, it's tax-deductible!


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