What to look for when hiring a freelance web designer or freelance graphic designer.
The definition of a freelance designer.
A freelance web designer or a freelance graphic designer is a design trained and skilled person who works for themselves and can be hired on their own to work directly for you. This means that they work for many different client's instead of for one company or agency who in turn works for many different clients. In that respect they are like a small one man business, or sole trader. Some freelancers may work in a team of freelancers making sure they cover a far reaching set of skills.
The money side
Freelance designers can quote you a fixed price job based on the brief you provide.
Or freelance designers can work ad hoc, charging you their hourly rate for smaller jobs or ongoing updates and artworking.
Freelancers can also work on a contract basis, hired for a set amount of days to solely work on and fulfil that project.
A freelance worker may also be available to work on a routine set amount of days or hours each week or month.
Hourly rates vary considerably based on a wide ranging of factors such as location, experience, skill and type of work. I would estimate a freelance hourly rate or salary is in the realm of £30-£40/hour.
What to look for in a freelance designer
There comes a time when we all need outside design work as a small business. And the most cost effective is to use a freelancer. To find a freelance designer I would probably recommend word of mouth as a first option but there is also searching online for freelancers in your area or via a portal - websites advertising the services of freelancers such as
From personal experience I would say if you want to have an ongoing relationship with a freelancer it is easier to find one locally who you can go and see, it's easy to meet and discuss your work or present the designs.
First think about what it is you need
Write a job description: Are you looking for a logo or full brand, do you just need some business cards and a flyer, may this move into a website or packaging for your product?
Designers may be branding specialists, graphic designers or artworkers or their strengths may be in website and digital design and so on. Taking the long view of what you may need will make sure that you find someone who fills the space correctly. Do you want a specialist who can focus on a fantastic exhibition stand - or someone who can turn their hand to all aspects of your design. Do you already have an in house developer so you need user experience design and visual design layouts or are you looking for a designer that can build your whole website. Perhaps you have an in house Marketer who needs graphics and artworking for their campaigns, small quick turn around work. As you can see it is worth thinking about your design strategy when thinking about who to hire.
How do you go about this
Start a conversation online asking the questions you need to know. What is their hourly rate, could they give a quote and some links to work that may be of relevance to you. If you like their previous work and the hourly rate fits I would arrange a meeting as soon as possible to see if the chemistry is right - as this (after ability and budget) is possibly the most important aspect.
Meet & Greet
When in that first meeting just see how the conversation flows. Are you on the same wavelength, does the freelance designer grasp your vision, and do they buy into it. Is it something they would like to work on.
Ask the freelancer to talk through case studies of other clients - which went well, which they are particularly proud of and why and even any that didn't go well and what they did to resolve it.
Ask the freelance graphic or web designer to describe their working process to make sure it fits with yours.
Talk about your working practice: Do you like to receive everything via email or would you rather an online presentation tool. Are you better face to face. Are you very hands on and will need lots of revisions. Or will you sit back and let the designer lead. Are you the sole decision maker or will the designer be dealing with a committee. What type of work are you looking for.
This freelancer may well become like one of your team, during a project or if you work involves ongoing updates so you will need to feel ‘comfortable’ working with them. Feeling conformable means you like them and feel you can work with them, respect their views and trust them to do a great job at a fair rate each time.
Relationships can go sour if this ‘comfort’ disintegrates. There are always two sides to a relationship and I hope that if you hire a designer for their ‘experience and skill’, or ‘off the wall creativity’, or ‘attention to detail and diligence’ or whatever it is that made you choose them - and remember it is you who does the choosing - that you try not to overrule them at every turn or put your stamp on it. I’m not saying don’t give feedback or ask for amends - definitely do! But I am saying, they know their business as well as you know yours so listening, collaborating and taking guidance, on both sides, will give you a better outcome. A designer worth their salt will understand the holistic approach to brand or user experience giving you a solution that has been carefully thought through to appeal to your customers externally as well as you internally.
That other destroyer of comfort
If your budget is finite, or small, as lets face it it probably is if you are a small business looking for the services of a freelancer as opposed to a larger agency. That’s ok, don't hide this fact, make sure you are completely comfortable with how you are being billed - an upfront cost, or hourly rate.
And make sure that your freelancer keeps you informed. Briefs change, requirements change, but as long as they keep communicating you can see where the changes are and why this might incur further cost and then have the facts to make the decision to go off on that tangent or not.
On the whole designers are nice caring creatures who just want to do a great job that you and they are proud of. They are not in it to rip you off, design takes time - infact they are much more likely to not charge you for some hours than ever over charge you. And while the gloves are off.... the biggest buster of budgets is generally repeated revisions to content once a final layout has been provided for proofing, something so simple to avoid, that and new features of change of direction of course, something not so simple to avoid. So now you know!.
Don’t let money sour your relationship.
However, if the chemistry is gone, and it feels like mini battles each time you communicate. Check first that your designer is not digging their heals in for a very valid reason, and if not then perhaps it's time to go your separate ways.
It happens! For good and bad reasons, but there are very few times I have come across when freelancers have been unwilling to give you all your artwork to allow another designer to carry on from where they left off. However it is always reassuring to know that you can get access to these. I add this to my contract for piece of mind for my clients, and some freelancers share a client Dropbox where all the files live.
The Pros & Cons of hiring a freelance designer
Pros of hiring a freelance graphic or website designer
The main pro about hiring a freelance designer is cost. They are on the whole cheaper than a web design, graphic design or branding agency.
Freelancers are more flexible as to where they work so if you need someone in your office this would work well.
Freelance designers or developers usually have a quicker turn around time as to when they can start and finish your project.
You can hire freelance designers on a routine or contract basis ie; 1 day each week for example or full time for 6 weeks. During this time they are working solely on your project, often in your office.
Cons of hiring a freelance graphic or website designer
- The main con about using a freelancer is that they are just one person. They do not have the backing of a team of skilled workers, a project manager or systems administrator.
- Even people who freelance need a holiday once in a while. And that means there is no one to hold the fort - or more importantly deal with your support.
My suggestion again is communication again, understand how your hosting and maintenance will be handled and by who. Ask what the back up for holiday is. Ask what skills and services the freelancer does cover and if you think there are any additional areas you may need then discuss how this may be fulfilled.
alternately.....you could give me a try ;)
I am a freelance Website Designer, Logo Designer and Graphic Designer based in Woodbridge, Suffolk. Contact me for more information.