There are certain questions that you can ask a potential freelancer that every professional designer and artist should be able to answer off the top of their heads. At NOVAK Brand Design, we take pride in knowing that there is almost no design question a potential client can ask that we cannot answer!
Here are ten questions you need to ask any freelance designer that you are considering hiring for your project:
Regardless of your design project, you will need your freelance designer to possess a specific skill set tailored around your project. Remember, not all designers are the same, as there are widely different design skills and tools depending if you need web vs. print design or a logo vs. photo retouching. Find a designer that focuses on the specific type of design you are looking for.
Common freelance graphic design specializations include developing corporate identities, branding, logo design, website design/development, multimedia, printed materials, newsprint ads, magazine ads, illustrations, 3D renderings, animation, product photography and marketing.
HINT: If you’re not a designer yourself, don’t worry if the technical part goes over your head. Your designer is the one that needs to know how to use it, not you. However, he or she should be able to describe WHY they want to use a particular piece of software and give you the pros and cons of each for your project. At NOVAK Brand Design, we will take you through the process of your project and make the most cost-effective suggestions for you based on your budget and scope of the work.
Experienced designers should have links to their work that clearly demonstrates their abilities, creativity, and quality of work. Also, if the designer has done work with recognizable brands and established businesses, that goes a long way to establishing his or her credibility.
Even new designers that are just starting out should have examples of what they can do readily available for you to see. QUICK TIP: It is helpful to include a requirement for a designer to have a portfolio for review in your task description to weed out unqualified people responding to your task request.
Worthy candidates should provide contact information for current and past clients without hesitation. Depending on your time constraints and the complexity of your project, you may or may not feel the need to actually contact the referrals you are given. However, if you have the time, it makes good business sense to speak directly with people a freelance candidate has worked for. If you just need some simple layout or photo work done, their portfolio should be sufficient. But if your project is larger, make a couple of phone calls.
This is one of those sneaky questions where the answer reveals the designer’s sense of branding, user interaction and more. It also tends to get him or her excited to talk about their craft and offers insight into their passion for the craft. Like most things in life and business, if you work with someone that loves what they do, things usually go much easier for everyone involved. If you ask this question and you get either an awkward silence over the phone or a blank stare, you might want to consider moving on to another candidate.
While most freelance designers are also businesspeople themselves, there are some out there that consider themselves artists first and foremost, which can sometimes lead to messy clashes with their clients.
Make sure your freelancer understands that you have specific deadlines and timelines that must be met and you cannot afford for them to get caught up in the creative side and lose sight of the business side.
Having a thorough knowledge of search engine optimization (SEO) tools and techniques is a must for designers these days. Ask your prospective designer which strategies and methods they will use to boost your site’s rankings with all the major search engines. They should also be experienced with Google Analytics and user behavior statistics to track your site’s traffic and gauge the effectiveness of SEO campaigns.
The days of a simple static site for most businesses are dead and gone because customers across the board demand extra features like responsive websites, content management systems, videos, blogs, social media feeds, slideshow headers and banner ads. Make sure your designer has the skills to provide them. If they can’t add contact forms, blogs, Flash animation, Facebook and Twitter feeds to your site, look for someone that can.
In most work-for-hire agreements the client owns the final files and the designer owns the source files (unless otherwise stated in a signed contract). What are source files? Anything that the designer used in creating the finished piece. Examples can include Photoshop layered files, creative concepting pieces, templates and "live" working files). These files can often be provided by the designer at the client's request for an additional fee.
Original work is copyrighted from the moment of creation as long as it has been documented in an observable way (displayed on a web page, saved on a computer, written on paper, captured on a recording device). So technically you don't even need the notice of copyright at the bottom of your website. Should you ever need to file an infringement suit it's recommended to register a copyright which provides a public record of ownership.
Depending on skill level, age and experience of the designer, a design fee could range anywhere from $25/hr for a design student to $200+/hr for highly-successful freelancers. Not to be too blunt, but like most things in life, you get what you pay for.
Most freelancers work on a per-project basis providing a price for the entire project, start-to-finish. Many require one-third to one-half of the agreed-upon fee up front before work is done. Sometimes they will work on an hourly, per-day, or per-week basis.
Always inquire about the payment terms and scheduling because freelancers are usually sole proprietors and don’t have the resources to extend credit to new clients. Any freelance designer worth a dime will gladly give you a written estimate showing the final amounts payable at each stage of the project and what happens if or when problems occur that can effect deadlines.
HINT: One important thing that is important not to forget when discussing the cost of your project is to clarify if the designer is using royalty free stock art, custom art or making their own elements. Do not get stuck with an unexpected invoice for custom illustrations or purchased artwork that you thought was part of the design fees. Find out and identify any additional cost and be clear who is responsible for those costs and how they will be paid.