If you’ve ever had a bad experience with a freelance designer, you know it can be frustrating enough to turn you off from the idea of ever using one again. If you’ve had bad experiences with two, or three, or even more graphic designers … well, maybe it’s you.
I don’t mean that in the sense that you’re a bad customer (although a little self-evaluation never hurts). But there’s a very common yet hardly-ever-talked-about problem when it comes to hiring a freelance designer: people not in the industry simply don’t know what to look for.
You’re certainly not the first person to have frustrations with freelance help. As we move deeper and deeper in to what is called a “gig economy,” however, using a freelancer is rapidly becoming the norm–so it pays to know ahead of time the qualities you can–and should–demand from the right freelancer.
Communication – Nobody is perfect, we know. And life gets a kick out of throwing us curveballs. But there are few things more ingratiating than not knowing what is going on with your project. Design is as much an art as a science, and there are many things can derail a project. You have the right to demand regular communication; without it, you’re going to have issues.
Dependability – Again, there are many things that can affect meeting deadlines–new ideas, changed parameters, etc.–but at the end of the day, you need a designer you can depend on to do what he or she says. Pay attention: you can usually spot dependability issues before they affect your project. Someone who is late for the first meetings is probably going to be late further down the line, as well.
Experience - We’re not just talking about design experience here: a great design is useless in the wrong production format: a jpg, for example, won’t help much if you’re trying to get a sign made or embroidery done … and bit-mapped images won’t work for a high-end glossy brochure. Be upfront about what you need, and ask for specifics on how it will be delivered.
References – Would you hire a full-time employee without checking references? It’s really no different with freelancers. Many designers have flashy portfolios or have worked with big brands, but that doesn’t automatically mean they’re great to work with. Sadly, it doesn’t even mean they’ve done the work they’re showing you. Do your research: talk to former clients.
Professionalism – Most artists have at least a small Bohemian streak, but that is no excuse for showing up to an interview an hour late. In flip-flops. You’re in business: you don’t need a freelancer who doesn’t understand that concept. Here’s a tip: don’t just listen when they answer your questions; pay attention to what questions they ASK, as well. It can be very revealing, in terms of attitude.
Hiring a great freelance graphic designer doesn’t need to be a headache. If you’ve done your research, met with your favorites, and checked references, you’ve got a good chance of finding the perfect designer to bring your design project to life.